The structural change to the oil and gas industry and the transition to a digital economy is having a huge impact on people’s livelihoods and their lives. Career paths have been turned upside down and people must learn new skills to find jobs. Sean MacDonald is one of those people. In this series of posts during the 12-week course, Sean chronicles the experience of a mid-career professional balancing family obligations and an intense tech training course offered though OCIF recipient Lighthouse Labs.
On April 7, 2020, everything changed. I got dressed and made my way downstairs to my work-from-home computer set up and waited for a 15-minute video call to start. The crash in oil and gas prices combined with the COVID-19 pandemic had forced my company to make drastic changes.
After five years of surviving gnawing uncertainty and similar white-knuckle situations, and a brief phone call with a senior manager, I was suddenly laid off.
My name is Sean MacDonald, and I have experienced 12 years as a petroleum engineer in the energy sector. I worked for the same company since a co-op experience as a University of Alberta engineering undergrad. It’s been challenging, exciting and constantly evolving.
I'm 35 and working as a petroleum engineer has been omnipresent during a long-distance relationship, which turned into a marriage and a family. I have two little girls and a third girl due in October (Yes, I am outnumbered, but it's awesome!).
I enjoy working in the energy sector and have a deep sense of pride in the work. The last five years have been tough for Canadian energy, but as Albertans, in tough situations you keep going, give it your all and hope you come out the other side. The job cuts that began at my company this time were deep. It is my understanding that my entire unit no longer exists.
The processing of my lay off hit me in waves. There's comfort in the de-personalized nature of such a devastating change, but on the other hand, the end result has a massive personal impact.
Bills don't go away, there's still a pandemic occurring, and the entire energy sector is grinding the best it can in a perfect storm while I and hundreds (thousands?) of other engineers try to maneuver back on board.
The period immediately after getting laid off really gave me a concentrated amount of time to think and come up with my next move. One thing was clear: I wasn't going to sit in my basement hoping for a phone call; I knew I had to press on. Where could I contribute? What would round out my degree and work experience? How could I use this time in the most efficient and effective way possible for my particular circumstances?
I was already enrolled in Mount Royal University's Project Management Professional Extension certificate program and am still working through the online curriculum. I will be done the program mid-August, and will arrange to take my exam in early fall to have the official PMP designation.
I also started speaking to people at Calgary Economic Development and learned more about what their road map was for diversifying the economy of Calgary. I have always been technically inclined and really enjoy working with large data sets (merging, manipulating, analyzing and drawing conclusions) to help with decision making. Through Calgary Economic Development, I discovered Lighthouse Labs, a cutting edge education tech company with a mandate to work with highly motivated individuals to skill up in intensive and immersive bootcamps.
I compared the program to more classic two- and four-year degree options, but felt my available resources of time and money would be best focused in a concentrated educational experience.
With that I decided that I would take on another educational opportunity and I applied for the July 20 cohort of Lighthouse Labs, taking the inaugural Data Science bootcamp. I am sure it will be a difficult 12 weeks, but I think it will also be incredibly rewarding and may give me a chance to pivot my strengths and experience into a new path.
Follow Sean on his 12- week journey from being laid off to diversifying his skill set for the technology sector. You can also connect with him on LinkedIn.