Faces of Fuel: Assistant General Foreman AJ M. on Career Development and Fostering Relationships
When AJ M. decided that it was time to move back to Erie, Pennsylvania, he set his sights on two goals: working for National Fuel and furthering his education. Five and a half years later, AJ now holds an MBA and supervises a small team of regulator technicians in his role as assistant general foreman for National Fuel. Read on to learn how AJ exceeded his goals, climbed the ladder, and fostered meaningful friendships along the way.
On his career before National Fuel
I graduated from college with an engineering degree and worked all over the country before coming to National Fuel. My last job was as a private design engineer at a small firm. Despite gaining experience, I hadn’t really found my niche yet, and I started to think about making myself more marketable by going back to school to get an advanced degree.
Why he chose to work for National Fuel:
I was born and raised in Erie, and National Fuel gave me the opportunity to return home, secure better pay and benefits, and work at a company that’s established and growing. When I learned about the tuition reimbursement program, it became obvious that National Fuel was a place where I could have longevity in my career. I started applying to jobs here, knowing that I would eventually get my foot in the door and be able to showcase my skills. When they called me for an interview, I put my best foot forward, and I've been here ever since.
On furthering his education:
I just graduated in May of this year with an MBA. Having an engineering degree and a business degree has been a great combination, because it has given me two different sides of the business and made me much more marketable internally. There are a lot of executives and higher-ranking managers at National Fuel who have both degrees. Through their tuition reimbursement program, National Fuel helped me achieve my goal of an advanced degree.
On the opportunity for career advancement:
I was in the engineering group for three and a half years before I transferred to field operations. The company approached me and explained that they had a developmental opportunity that would allow me to get some field experience. I decided it was a good time to advance my career and get a different perspective, while also becoming a better, more well-rounded engineer.
What his day-to-day responsibilities look like:
I work in the field operations customer service department at the Erie service center, where I assist the department head with scheduling and planning work for the customer service crews. I'm also the local Measurement, Regulation, Corrosion Control foreman, so I supervise two regulator technicians. That entails overseeing all regulator stations and measurement stations to make sure they're operating properly and that they’re in compliance with Federal and Public Utility Commission regulations. I also assist with system planning projects, which includes preparing and reviewing shutdown permits in the construction department. I'm in charge of large meter changes and coordinating new meter set installations, which involves acting as the National Fuel liaison between internal departments and the customer.
The hardest part of his job:
The most challenging part is just getting everything done that you want to do for the day. Some days, you get everything done; some days, you don't. If there's an emergency or something unexpected comes up, it definitely throws your schedule off, but that’s also what makes it exciting. You come in the morning with a plan, and then you try to execute it, but sometimes you have to juggle getting all of your actual work done, adequately supporting your personnel, and taking care of emergencies as they arise.
What he loves about his job:
Right now, I like working as part of a team to get things done. I like being challenged and continually learning this job and the industry. I just like to learn—I'm driven that way. Having the opportunity to learn a completely different skill set, where I'm actually managing people instead of working on my own, has definitely been a positive thing for me.
His proudest accomplishment:
I would say that my proudest accomplishment would be the relationship I’ve developed with my coworkers—not only my fellow foremen and engineers but with our union work group as well. It's a family atmosphere, and we definitely care about each other. To me, that is really important, because a lot of people don't find that in their career. When you're out there, and it's twenty below zero, and you're troubleshooting problems and working with customers, and you're in the thick of it on the worst of the worst days, you have people next to you whom you trust and care about. That’s what keeps us moving forward.
What he does with time to himself:
Normally, I'm going on a trip or I'm just relaxing, decompressing at home, or hanging out with my friends or the guys from work. That's the one nice thing about working here: we're pretty much all friends. I also like to read and cook. I have a big Italian family, and I stole the family cookbook. I’ve been trying to recreate the old recipes that my grandparents and my great grandparents made.