Bolashak Graduates Succeed at TCO

Oct 28, 2010

On October 28, TCO management hosted a luncheon to honor 21 former Bolashak scholars working at Tengizchevroil. TCO employees from across Kazakhstan, put aside their American university football rivalries for a friendly event. Bolashak graduates were welcomed to Tengizchevroil by general director, Tim Miller. They also heard from Mark Langston, RMG manager; Sam Vanzant, Facilities Engineering (FE) manager; Kim Pham Information Technology (IT) manager; Phil Bateman, asset development manager; and Ruslan Kuatov, petroleum engineering manager. They were also greeted by a Chevron visitor, Geroge Alameda, manager of Reservoir Management Organizational Capability for Global Upstream, who was very pleased with TCO's hiring success and attention to developing people. Bolashak graduates are now working in several groups at TCO including RMG, IT and FE as petroleum or process engineers, earth scientists, IT experts and geophysicists. TCO's Bolashak graduates attended universities around the world, such as: Colorado School of Mines; Rochester Institute of Technology; Texas A&M University; Tulsa University; University of Manchester; University of Michigan; University of Minnesota; University of Oklahoma.


Kazakhstan's Bolashak program, which sends many of the best and brightest Kazakhstani students to study abroad, is proving to be a rich recruiting ground for Tengizchevroil. Tengizchevroil recently discovered a veritable pipeline of engineering talent from Kazakhstan's Bolashak Program boosting organizational capability and helping the company maintain a recruiting edge in the highly competitive market of energy professionals.


The Bolashak program (Bolashak means future in the Kazakh language) was instituted in 1993 by Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev to enable talented students to study abroad with a full scholarship from the Kazakhstani government. After graduation, Bolashak scholars are required to return to Kazakhstan to work for five years. The strong benefits of the program became evident to TCO's Reservoir Management Group (RMG) when Mike Sullivan, then a TCO a reservoir surveillance coordinator with RMG, gave a presentation on TCO to a group of Bolashak students at the 2008 Society of Petroleum Engineers Conference and Exhibition in Denver, Colorado Sullivan saw a bright, young technical workforce in the room. With RMG manager Mark Langston's encouragement, he initiated an aggressive program to recruit them for internships. "We actively tracked down and recruited the high-potential students. This was a time-consuming process, but well worth it," Sullivan said.


Internships Test Critical Thinking

The students were recruited for internships, but didn't do just any internship, however. RMG paired Bolashak students with senior mentors at TCO during a 28-day rotation and gave them a project that required original research to solve a problem. For example, one intern developed a way to measure the flow rate through wells at Tengiz when meters are broken. Another intern explored ways to improve the injection performance of the field's wastewater disposal area. "This was a win-win approach, giving the student something meaningful to work on and leaving them with a very positive impression of TCO," Sullivan said. "My internship helped me to apply the theoretical knowledge I obtained in college and expand my understanding and knowledge of petroleum engineering," said Texas A&M graduate Merey Shinikulova, who is now a production engineer with TCO. "During my internship I worked on interesting and challenging projects, and I was impressed that my projects were actually used after I left." At the end of their internships, all students were required to complete a technical presentation on their work to RMG's leadership team. "This gave us the framework to do a meaningful assessment of their performance, evaluate their critical thinking, teamwork, problem-solving, communication and presentation ability," Sullivan said. The internships also helped the students evaluate TCO as a future place of work.


Students Spread the Word

"The word spread quickly about the depth of TCO's internship program and positions became highly sought after. We were successful in attracting nearly every student we offered internships to," Sullivan said. In fact, of RMG's 12 new hires this year, 11 came from the Bolashak program. Of special note, three of them completed master's degrees at the Colorado School of Mines with funding from Chevron's University Partnership Program, which engages key universities globally through scholarships, grants, and departmental gifts of up to $18 million a year. "This program was very beneficial for my education since I was able to take advanced-level classes and deepen my knowledge," said Malika Seitim, who earned a masters degree in Petroleum Engineering from the Colorado School of Mines and is now a production engineer with TCO. "I'm very glad that I am working on this world-class field along with the industry's best professionals." "The Republic's Bolashak Scholarship program is visionary and I think will be a game-changer in terms of helping build a bright, young technical workforce in Kazakhstan," said Langston. As a result, RMG's recruiting efforts are now largely focused on Bolashak program students. TCO's Information Technology Department and Facilities Engineering group have also benefitted by recruiting Bolashak scholars.


"TCO give entrance quizzes to prospective employees as one tool to help select the best candidates, and the Bolashak scholars consistently are the highest scorers," said Samuel Vanzant, manager of the Facilities Engineering group. "Overall we are very enthusiastic about the program and hope to continue to hire as many participants as we are able." Langston noted that the technical language in the oil and gas industry worldwide is English and that "our new hires who have graduated under the Bolashak scholarship program have typically attended English-speaking universities and are ready on day one to begin making meaningful contributions to the business of RMG." Bolashak scholar Yegor Se, who is now a petroleum engineer with RMG, summed up the benefits of the program, "I was fortunate to receive the Bolashak scholarship and get an internationally recognized education. Now I am working on making good on my good fortune to the company, local society and country in general."