From Oil Rigs to Sustainability

31 May 2024

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Research and innovation in sustainability are paving the way for new growth and opportunities in the energy sector. Join guest Zak Cunningham, an energy system analyst, as he shares his unconventional career journey from the oil and gas industry to sustainable energy development. Learn about the importance of interdisciplinary education in the energy industry’s push for transformational change while gaining insights into the career paths that exist to create more secure, economical and sustainable energy. 

You’ll learn more about the adaptability and resilience in the growing field of sustainable energy on the latest episode of The Best Careers You Never Knew Existed podcast. 


  • Executive Producer and Host: Lora Bucsis 
  • Co-Host: Zachary Novak 
  • Co-Host: Pat Hufnagel-Smith
  • Producer and Creative Director: Terran Anthony Allen 
  • Technical Producer: Jenna Smith 
  • Senior Marketing Strategist: James Boon 
  • Podcast Consultant: Roger Kingkade 
  • Voice Over: Beesley 

Funding Partners

The Province of Alberta is working in partnership with the Government of Canada to provide employment support programs and services. 

Lora Bucsis

Lora has always been a champion for forging one’s own path. A non-traditional, lifelong learner herself, Lora leads the team at SAIT responsible for educational products and learner success in Continuing Education and Professional Studies. Wildly curious about how jobs change over time, Lora believes that learning for 21st-century careers needs to come in several different forms from a number of different avenues. When she’s not binge-listening to podcasts or driving her teenagers around, you’ll find her hiking in Alberta’s backcountry — or falling off her bike.

Zachary Novak

Zachary is the Founder of Careers in Technology and Innovation (CITI), an online community that supports experienced professionals find and grow careers in technology. Through Careers in Technology and Innovation, Zachary has hosted over 150 events and has helped over 120 people land roles in tech.

Zachary is a community professional, also providing community consulting work through FML Studios Inc. Zachary was previously the Director of Community at RevvGo, Director of Product at, and spent seven years in investment banking. Zachary holds degrees in engineering, business administration, and is a software development bootcamp graduate.

Pat Hufnagel-Smith 

Pat Hufnagel-Smith, Managing Partner at Creative Links International Inc. since 2002, expanded the organization's services to include project management and labour market research. With a background in Human Resources, she's passionate about skilled worker transition and using labour market intelligence to develop evidence-based action plans. Pat holds a Masters Certificate in Project Management, a BA in Sociology and a Certificate in Adult Education and Facilitation.   

SAIT Podcast: From Oil Rigs to Sustainability

[00:00:00] ANNCR: The Best Careers You Never Knew Existed Podcast's Energy Series, brought to you by SAIT, the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology. This podcast serves as your guide to careers in Alberta's landscape. In this season, we're focusing on the energy sector. Join us for conversations with experts, leaders, and individuals who have insights into Alberta's evolving energy industry. Together, we'll discover invaluable insights to help you chart a path toward a brand new career.  

[00:00:31] LORA: Hi, I'm Lora from the Continuing Education and Professional Studies department at SAIT.  

[00:00:36] Pat: And I'm Pat. I'm a partner with Creative Links, and my focus is on talent for our evolving energy ecosystem. And  

[00:00:45] LORA: And in this episode, we're thrilled to have Zach Cunningham with us to delve into the world of energy transition. Zach, will you introduce yourself? And I always ask people to tell us a fun fact.  

[00:00:57] Zach: Sure. Thank you. Hi, my name's Zach Cunningham. I'm an energy system analyst with the Transition Accelerator. I'm an avid outdoorsman and a member of the Métis Nation of Alberta. 

[00:01:06] LORA: Thanks so much for joining us. So how would you define your role in sustainable energy development?  

[00:01:13] Zach: I would say my role is really on the front end of sustainable development, really on the bleeding edge of transition, and really more of a high level role in it, looking at systems before decisions are made, analyzing what the energy system is beforehand. 

[00:01:31] Pat: Sounds like you help inform planning around sustainability. Is that fair to say, or what impact does your work have on environmental sustainability?  

[00:01:43] Zach: I would say what impact my particular work has on environmental sustainability is hoping that we can have a more coordinated vision of the energy system. 

[00:01:52] And some of the work looking at it, again, at a systems level perspective, really allows us to play into some of the synergies that exist within the energy system, instead of looking at it in a very siloed approach, which I think historically we have certainly done.  

[00:02:05] Pat: Can you give us an example or a project that you have worked on that kind of explains that systems thinking or systems looking at energy and sustainability? 

[00:02:16] Zach: Yeah, sure. I'm working on a project with Careers in Energy, and they're doing a national labor force model. And my role, a small part in it, is to develop a Canada wide energy system model that we're calling NZEST. And this model really allows us to view the whole energy system within Canada on a national basis or on a more regional basis. 

[00:02:37] And from that, you're able to understand potentially where some strengths or weaknesses lie in the energy system or what changes should be focused on more so than others in terms of, I guess, return on investment for transition.  

[00:02:50] Pat: Interesting. I think that's probably one of the big questions is as we try to transition, become more sustainable. How do we do that? Where's the biggest sort of bang for your buck or biggest opportunity? So, sounds very cool.  

[00:03:05] LORA: And not only that, but what are the economics behind it all? Because I think that's a big question that a lot of folks have is around the economics and how do we move into, uh, sustainable energy that's secure, economical, and works with our, what we have in the country. 

[00:03:23] Zach: Yeah, I agree. And really looking at things in a different manner. We've been very focused on incremental change, right? That's how we do many things. But transformational change is different, right? And that requires a systems level perspective on things and taking time before we actually start projects to look at things and develop things and how can we best do this.  

[00:03:41] Pat: What ever inspired you to pursue a career that brought you to this place and working in this sustainable energy space?  

[00:03:50] Zach: Well, Pat, I would love to say that it was all a master plan in my head and I ended up here exactly when I thought I would, but my career has certainly not been a straight line trajectory. 

[00:03:58] I would say it was very serendipitously that I arrived at where I'm at today. And I guess it was really due to commodity prices why I ended up to where I am today. I first started in the oil and gas industry. I was working as a roughneck on drilling rigs, service rigs, did some oil field services. I worked overseas, working offshore for a while too, and I kept getting laid off. 

[00:04:20] That was ultimately it, working in upstream drilling related services. We were very vulnerable to any sort of crash or a project ending. And eventually I had enough of that. And every time I had a break from employment, I would go to school. So, I kept getting a bit more educated, a bit more educated. And finally, I took the leap and took a program, sustainable energy development at the University of Calgary, which really helped me pivot and learn more about sustainable energy and transition. 

[00:04:45] LORA: And you started out as a NAIT grad.  

[00:04:48] Zach: I did. I did. I have very fond memories of NAIT and I took petroleum engineering technology That would have been in 2012. I took that. I thoroughly enjoyed it and had the opportunity after graduating to go overseas. I went overseas and was working in Malaysia on an offshore project. 

[00:05:03] I moved over there for around seven years. During that time, I was laid off after the 2015 crash. So, I decided to go to school in Malaysia for my bachelor’s degree. Did that in Kuala Lumpur and then found my way back to Canada post COVID.  

[00:05:17] Pat: Some people would, you talk about what you're doing now, very different than where maybe you started after graduating from Polytechnique. What do you think you brought with you following that sort of foundational experience you had as a petroleum engineering technologist? 

[00:05:37] Zach: I would say that NAIT did a great job at really giving a good understanding of hands on, practical, down to earth, how things really work. And then going out after that and practicing in the field and getting a good idea of how big operations, how big projects are executed. 

[00:05:55] Time management, all these different things, working on multidisciplinary, multicultural teams in high pressure situations when there's big money at stake, so those are important skills to have. I think, especially developing your soft skills and being around people and all this stuff. So I think through that, I've certainly taken a different perspective compared to someone who may have just done a bachelor degree and went straight into an engineering office and had never been in a field. I would say it's been a very good path for me.  

[00:06:24] Pat: That oil and gas experience, how has that played a role in terms of bringing you to where you are today?  

[00:06:32] Zach: Yeah, sure. My oil and gas experience, again, a lot to do with project management, big projects, stuff that applies across to different types of energy projects. 

[00:06:43] I would say, of course, being in Alberta, that's really the mainstay of getting involved in it and getting me very interested in energy overall. So, I would say I'm an energyphile. I really enjoy the rich history we have in Alberta for our energy, I certainly can appreciate the beauty of a pump jack in the middle of a canola field in late summer. 

[00:07:01] This is really speaks to Alberta. I think we have a rich history and we have a rich history, a rich future going ahead with the skills and talents we do have in Alberta, the talent pool and the resources we have here.  

[00:07:14] LORA: So aside from the ups and downs that you experienced at the beginning of your career, what made you gravitate to sustainable energy as a career pivot.  

[00:07:23] Zach: I would say when I finished my bachelor’s degree and graduated kind of mid pandemic, oil prices were at a time negative. It didn't really bode well for continuing in oil and gas. I looked at alternatives. I didn't see it being realistic at my age to start a whole another type of career in a whole different industry, a whole different field. 

[00:07:45] I had already invested four years in a bachelor, two years in a polytechnic diploma. So, I wanted to move forward with energy, just a different type. So, I looked up sustainable energy development. It looked like a very interdisciplinary program. So, it was all new to me. So, I thought that was really what I needed, and it really was. 

[00:08:02] LORA: And really relevant right now I think a lot of the conversation is around how do we have secure energy? How do we have sustainable energy? And so, I know Pat and I have talked a lot about this. People need to be part of that solution, especially from the energy industry and from oil and gas, because those are the people that understand how to make the difference. 

[00:08:21] Zach: Certainly, I couldn't agree more. Really, if you want to make a change, you want to reduce emissions, you want to make the world a better place. Well go work for an oil company. That's some of the biggest emissions are coming from that. I would say also the idea of interdisciplinary education. I think that is so critically important, especially when we're talking about planning energy systems working together. 

[00:08:40] We really have to get away from the siloed approach of doing things and working across disciplines. So that's where they, the program SEDV, they had every, every semester was in a different faculty. So that was very interesting to have, to learn stuff I had no idea about, law, policy, into engineering, into all different areas, so I think moving forward, for people getting into the energy world, having an interdisciplinary background will be really an asset.  

[00:09:07] Pat: Really speaks to that systems thinking that, You talked about earlier, and it's such a foundation to your, your career today is it takes all pieces of the puzzle and working together to really accelerate what we're looking for, what we're looking to do in terms of transitioning our energy systems and low carbon economy and all those kinds of things. 

[00:09:30] So, how do you see the market for sustainable energy and career in sustainable energy? How do you maybe see that evolving over the next decade or so? Look at your crystal ball.  

[00:09:42] Zach: Sure. Thanks Pat. Looking at my crystal ball, I would say it's only going to grow. There's only one room or one, one direction it's going to go is up. 

[00:09:49] I would say in terms of opportunities, there's the breadth of careers within sustainable energy is huge. Going from a sustainability to emissions to all sorts of things. Analysts, there's all sorts of different areas you could become involved in under the umbrella of sustainable energy. So, I think moving forward, we have to do things better than we've been doing them before. 

[00:10:11] So that's going to require more professionals in environmental, in monitoring, in all sorts of different areas to do this properly.  

[00:10:19] Pat: And I loved what you said before about you can do that from within the energy industry. I think I like that idea. You don't have to be working outside of the energy industry. 

[00:10:32] You can be the solution by working within the energy industry and taking on some of those roles. I think that's so important that there's that opportunity to help energy companies that say they want to change. Help them change and be a solution from within. It's great.  

[00:10:48] LORA: Where do you see some of the biggest demands for careers or evolving careers in terms of energy sustainability? 

[00:10:55] Like you mentioned a few different areas. If we kind of pile into Pat's crystal ball, someone was going to invest time and energy into skill sets and maybe don't have, doesn't have time to go back to school full time. But wanted to start learning more, wanted to beef up skill sets in areas that would be higher in demand, what advice would you give someone to start? 

[00:11:16] Zach: The first piece of advice I would give somebody is to follow your passions, first of all, more so. I would say there's a lot of information out there, a lot of micro credentials becoming available, different courses you can take to dip your feet into things. I would certainly recommend the path I went, going through a polytechnic first, getting a bit of an idea if I even liked this field at all before pursuing further. 

[00:11:38] I would say that it really depends regionally where you're at as well. In terms of Alberta, we certainly have some very valuable molecules underneath the ground that I believe we're going to continue to use into the future in a variety of different ways, right? And a lot of those careers are very similar to the careers that exist today in terms of, if we're looking at biofuels, we're talking, we still need people working in a refinery, same, similar processes as today. 

[00:12:03] If you're talking about same thing, hydrogen production, it's going to happen in a refinery. You're going to need these type of people. You're going to need people building pipelines. You're going to need people drilling wells, all these different things that are very similar to oil and gas, just the energy carriers are a bit different. 

[00:12:17] So, if that comes to fruition, I would say that a lot of these traditional jobs are going to be very similar. But then, I would also imagine there would be a lot more in new energy technologies. Wind, solar, all these different fields as well. And then, in addition, we're talking about land use, land changes environmental, sustainability, yeah, lots of stuff.  

[00:12:38] LORA: If you were talking to someone who's in the industry, wondering is there a future for me in the energy industry, what would you tell them?  

[00:12:46] Zach: I would tell them now is there's never been a better time to get involved in the energy industry as there is now. I can personally say for myself, being an energy nerd, I would say that I very much enjoy my work and every day I look forward to learning and being curious about the next thing. 

[00:13:01] And I think as everybody knows, it's almost drinking from a fire hose trying to keep up with what's developing in the energy world. And that's part of my job as well, is just keeping abreast of what's happening. And every day there's new things happening, new projects. It's very exciting just to be involved on something that's, there's a lot of change happening. So, I would certainly recommend it, and there's many opportunities available.  

[00:13:23] Pat: So, Zach, you mentioned things are happening quickly, it's evolving, there's new projects coming, or being talked about all the time. So, any advice in terms of how somebody could stay up to date and relevant in this rapidly evolving field? 

[00:13:41] Zach: Sure, I would certainly recommend people to utilize the internet to the full extent. There's a number of websites, I believe, Recharge news, like if you look at some of the reports, most governments have a lot of fairly recent reports. You look at NRCan, Department of Energy for the US, there's a lot of other organizations that are governmental in nature that you can look up if you have a particular topic that you're interested in. 

[00:14:03] I would even go as far as to say, look on applications like Meetup. There's a number of, depending what city you're located in, Calgary is quite good for that. That there's a number of energy transition related meetups of like minded folks. I would certainly suggest that.  

[00:14:18] LORA: And just to plug for the meetup that's happening at SAIT, I believe that we use our space for one of the meetups. So certainly happy to put that in the resources for folks that want to come visit us on campus because we're always happy when that happens.  

[00:14:31] Pat: One of the things that I often suggest to people is to look at the companies that are involved in some of these projects. I'm a bit of an information geek, but even corporate presentations, for the most part, they provide a really good summary of where are companies investing. 

[00:14:48] What kinds of projects are they thinking about. What does their transition plans look like, And of course, at the end of the day, it's about where investors are going to put their money is going to tell you where, what projects are going to come to fruition too. So I often recommend if you hear something that's interesting or an interesting company, go to their website and see what they're saying about what their priorities are and any projects that are on the horizon. 

[00:15:17] There's also a number of industry associations that, whether it's renewables or hydrogen or CCS or your more established oil and gas industry. The industry associations also are good sources of information as well sometimes. So just for our learners, CCS. Carbon capture and storage.  

[00:15:38] Zach: Anyway, and just on, on that note, I would almost recommend if people are interested in a particular topic, a lot of these conventions, they have usually free passes, at least to a portion of the convention. 

[00:15:49] If you look at the hydrogen convention happening in Edmonton, part of the visitor’s pass is free for just going into the main part. So, you can meet real professionals and see what's happening again in person, potentially do some networking as well.  

[00:16:01] LORA: Oh yeah, I think that's an excellent idea. Pat, a shameless plug for the courses that we're working on together, would you mind talking a little bit about some of the stuff that we're doing that supports just people understanding some of the landscape and energy transition.  

[00:16:17] Pat: Absolutely. Zach mentioned micro credentials, as it being an opportunity to kind of learn a little bit or learn a lot about something that might add to the skills or the knowledge that you already have in your domain training or experience. 

[00:16:33] So, one of the micro credentials that I'm very pleased to be involved in part of with SAIT is around carbon capture and storage. The first course is just an intro course for anybody who's just interested in learning more about carbon capture and storage and the role it could potentially play in Energy transition and decarbonizing. 

[00:16:56] And then there's six fairly technical in depth courses that are probably more realistic for somebody who's worked in a, in the energy field in some way, because it does draw on engineering experience or geoscience experience or those kinds of things where people can just add on to those existing experience and knowledge. 

[00:17:19] And then the other one that is soon to come out, probably within the next month and will be free, is on hydrogen. And it really is focused on helping anybody understand how hydrogen could potentially be one of those pathways that Canada undertakes to decarbonize and just getting an understanding of how it might impact Canadians in terms of what it might offer for even, you know, reducing our own emissions, whether that be related to transportation or how we heat our homes or where we might work and how hydrogen may play a role in decarbonizing some of the industries that we work in. I think again, that's another place to just learn a little bit more about some of the things that Canadians or Canada is thinking about on this pathway to net zero.  

[00:18:15] LORA: One more curiosity I have for you. 

[00:18:17] What, what would you say were the highs or the lows, maybe both? of your career journey so far, because you've seen it all. Like you've gone overseas and you've experienced a couple of big downturns, but now you're involved in probably one of the biggest things that's going to affect our generation. So I'm just curious about what were some of the high and low points that you encountered? 

[00:18:40] Zach: In my master's degree, I was able to work on a capstone project, a research project as part of the course. When I worked on a project related to the Northwest Territories, and what was the hydrogen potential in Northwest Territories in terms of end use. So, from working from that, I was able to leverage into the career I'm in today. 

[00:18:58] So I would just say that experience was just wonderful. And it was really a high when I can look at my career progress and just learning some very valuable skills. My low, I would say, I would say it was when I was in Malaysia. So, I was studying at a private university there for petroleum engineering. 

[00:19:15] I was the only Canadian there. And my father passed away, and at that time, I had to come back to Canada, but I ran out of money, so I was halfway through a degree, no money at all, my father just passed away, not a great place to be. After taking care of that part of things, I had to make a decision, do I continue on in an education? 

[00:19:34] Or do I just fall back on my polytechnic, my diploma? So I decided to go to work on the service rigs at the age of, I guess I would have been close to 30, and it's certainly a young man's game. So going to work as a floor hand on the service rigs with some education and background that I was keeping hidden from everyone. 

[00:19:52] So, that was certainly a challenge doing that. I did that for about eight months to save up enough money to be able to finish my degree and come back and finish it. So I would say that was certainly a low, but overcoming that, I think we should all have some challenges in our path that makes us to be better in the end. 

[00:20:07] LORA: Yeah, certainly. Creates a lot of gratitude for when things work out, for sure.  

[00:20:12] Zach: And I guess I would say to that end, speaking about people looking to get into the energy field is, don't get discouraged. It took me a lot of goes at it before I was able to get really a trajectory, a future, I could see a future. 

[00:20:24] And I would say, I think, probably the case in any kind of, It's long career, but certainly if things don't work out for you right away, just keep at it and eventually something will come up. The industry is so broad and there's so many opportunities, it just may take a little while.  

[00:20:37] LORA: From our perspective, we're seeing it's very much of an evolution, but it's not going away. 

[00:20:42] We need, like you mentioned, interdisciplinary skill sets. We need all perspectives, and we need people with the type of background that you have really weighing in on what needs to be done in the space. So, I think it's a great opportunity for folks that really want to make a difference. So, what are, what do you think are the essential skills or qualities that people need to have to succeed in sustainable energy? 

[00:21:06] Zach: Sure. The breadth of the opportunities within sustainable energy are very vast, from biologists to people working on more engineering type projects, problems. So, I would say educationally that would vary very much. I would say from what I've noticed is a lot more of a focus on soft skills. I think that's very important. 

[00:21:24] I think the hard skills are equally important and do play their role. But I think having well rounded again, interdisciplinary people in especially focused on sustainability is quite desired today. I would say certainly curiosity should be a key attribute you should have if you're getting involved in this, and again, really following, yeah, your passion. 

[00:21:44] If there's something you don't know about, you've got the internet, find out a bit about it. Do a little digging, maybe it's not for you, maybe it is for you, and then pursue it.  

[00:21:52] LORA: So, when you say soft skills, what are, what are the types of skills that you actually see benefit people the most? It could be a very broad definition, so I'm curious about specifically, what do you think?  

[00:22:04] Zach: For sure. I would say communication. I would say that's such a key one, especially when we're talking interdisciplinary or we're talking about big teams and you have people with completely different educational backgrounds, completely different life experiences, and you're all trying to accomplish the same goal at the end of the day. 

[00:22:21] So I would say being able to put Being able to communicate fluently and succinctly without overstating, stating it is very important. I would say also writing is important. Being able to write reports, emails, attend meetings, all these kind of things, and the protocols around some of those things, I would say are very important things just as much as knowing the hard skills. 

[00:22:44] Because a lot of the stuff you learn in school, you don't ultimately end up using, so it's very job dependent. But the soft skills, they transfer to any type of career you get into.  

[00:22:53] LORA: Yeah, I think sometimes they're really underrated or undervalued when you're looking at your resume and you don't necessarily equate as much importance to them as sometimes they really are. 

[00:23:05] We hear that quite a bit. Communication skills, even presentation skills, telling a great story. And then to your point, like how do you bridge different perspectives? And listening actually is an underrated communication skill as well, especially when you're working with diverse groups. Which I imagine you do if we're gonna solve this, there are a need for a number of different groups to come together to figure it out. 

[00:23:29] Zach: Certainly. And then when we talk for, talk about future workforce demands from, if this transition, everything comes to fruition as, as many people are thinking it will, we have a tremendous amount of workforce that's gonna be needed. People, and they're not all gonna be from Alberta, they're gonna be from different parts of Canada, different parts of the world. 

[00:23:46] Again, different life experiences, different cultures, everything. So, it makes it, it can be challenging to communicate.  

[00:23:52] Pat: One of the trends I see that's interesting is how you see different groups, academia, government, companies, coming together to try and solve the issues. Some of the climate challenges and look at what might be the most feasible solution. 

[00:24:09] So I find that very interesting that you see companies partnering on projects or initiatives that maybe in other realms, they're competitors, but around some of the climate solutions and some of the sustainability, they come together and collaborate. And so that's really interesting. That whole ability, it just goes back to what you're saying, how do you communicate? How do you present things? How do you build those relationships that really allows that collaborative ecosystem that's needed to solve some of these sustainability challenges?  

[00:24:45] Zach: Couldn't agree more.  

[00:24:47] LORA: Do you want to tell us a little bit more about your role and what is a day in the life? 

[00:24:51] Zach: Sure, I'd be happy to. As I mentioned earlier, I'm an energy system analyst, so my job involves a lot of analytics. I guess I should say, first of all, I'm currently at a work from home position, so I work remotely, so I don't have to travel too far for the commute to the office, which is nice.  

[00:25:10] It's really job dependent or project dependent, so a lot of it can be looking at very large data sets, governmental data sets in terms of energy use, emissions, different type of energy carriers used, different types of technologies used, and looking at that very broadly from a high level, not necessarily getting the Very deep into one specific topic, but looking at everything with sort of an inch or two depth, and that's at the energy system level. 

[00:25:36] And then from that, I would say that I spend a lot of time on Excel. That's a big part of what I do on a daily basis, whether it be visualizing stuff when you're talking on a systems level. It's very hard to show people, here's the data you need to know, read these 10 pages of spreadsheets. It's much easier to visualize things, and that's how I think we can better understand large systems. 

[00:25:58] So a lot of my time will be spent creating figures, compelling figures are the best way to communicate the story we're telling and from that, a lot of report writing, report writing, email writing, presenting where needed. So, yeah, a lot of keyboard time.  

[00:26:15] LORA: Do you work with folks like across the country, in Alberta, worldwide? How big is your network that you're in touch with on a daily basis?  

[00:26:24] Zach: My organization is a pan Canadian organization, so we do have people I believe in almost every province. So that makes it very interesting and exciting because if we look at energy systems, regionality is a huge thing, what may work in one region may not work in another. 

[00:26:41] It's really important to understand both the resources, you know, the climate. There are many things to take into account, so really there is no one size fits all.  

[00:26:50] LORA: How do you see your job evolving over time?  

[00:26:53] Zach: Yeah. As an analyst, I would imagine that you would just take on more responsibility for projects instead of working, assisting, certainly a project manager, you would be more taking on the project yourself and potentially taking on more management role moving forward, because I think analytics is analytics, right? So you do research, you understand the problem and you figure out a solution.  

[00:27:16] LORA: Yeah, it's fascinating that you're using Excel to do that. It's great.  

[00:27:21] Zach: Yeah, I've certainly upped my Excel game in this role. I would say that some of the, when you're looking at an energy system, annualized data from EnerCan or wherever, there's great data available. 

[00:27:32] And that's really one of the wonderful things about living in Canada is we do have great data available to us many other countries don't have data available to them. So, you can do a lot of stuff with it.  

[00:27:42] LORA: And a lot of that data is publicly available, isn't it? So, if someone really wanted to start dipping a toe in, there is opportunity to just grab some of those data sets and start looking at trying to understand them. 

[00:27:54] Zach: Yeah, a hundred percent. Federally, we have federal data. NRCan, you have Comprehensive Energy Database, you have National Inventory Reporting, so emissions, stuff that we've committed to through the United Nations. A lot of data there you can look into. I would say regionally as well, provinces differ in what data they have available, what different region, but provinces do have different data available and open. So if you have a particular region, your region you're interested in maybe, and an area, you can certainly start doing some digging and see what's going on.  

[00:28:25] LORA: You talked about a little bit about the skill set changes that people need for energy transition. 

[00:28:31] What about mindsets? Do you see a need to change the way we look at things or different approaches?  

[00:28:40] Zach: Yeah, certainly. I think when we talk about a change in mindset, I think it's again, a talk about transformational change. It's also a talk about inter wound nature of energy systems of life. Of everything we do, considering the ecosystem in every, in what we do, I think also not getting caught into the politics of things or the polarizing comments of things and taking a deeper look at things, not 140 character tweet or something like that, taking a deeper look and really understanding that everything we do has an impact on the earth, on the ecosystem, and we have to navigate whether we're not able to accept the implications from that. 

[00:29:21] And there really is no free rides. I think that in addition to moving away from the siloed nature, I think of our educational institutions and our mindsets that you get into something and you become an expert at it and you're one of a few people in the world that knows this much, but maybe you don't know anything about anything else because you've been spent your whole life focused on this topic. 

[00:29:40] And those people are certainly needed, I believe, but I think we need to have very well rounded mindsets moving forward.  

[00:29:46] LORA: I like that. That's my whole life. Where can our listeners find more about your work?  

[00:29:53] Zach: Sure. If people want to find more out about the Transition Accelerator, I would encourage them to go to or If you'd like to follow me or connect with me on LinkedIn, you can find me at Zach Cunningham on LinkedIn, and I'd be happy to, to follow you back.  

[00:30:08] Pat: Thank you so much.  

[00:30:09] LORA: It was a good conversation. Learned lots of tidbits and insights to, to take away. 

[00:30:15] Zach: Thank you very much. I enjoyed this.  

[00:30:18] LORA: Pat, I learned a lot from Zach. 

[00:30:20] Pat: Me too. I think one of the things that I really appreciated was it's so often we hear doom and gloom around energy transition and I think with people like Zach helping us learn more and providing data and. I think we'll be able to make some good decisions and, and help others, governments, industry, make some good decisions and they provide some hope. 

[00:30:48] LORA: Yeah, for sure. For me, we, we train a lot of petroleum engineering technologists, we train a lot of folks who are boots on the ground in the industry, and we get a lot of questions around, should I be thinking about a new career? And I think for me, the most interesting thing is just the value of that experience and that time in the field and how important it actually is to the industry, that it's not going away, that there still is a need for it, but there's also an opportunity to expand upon that in a number of different ways to continue contributing to energy in the future. We do get a lot of questions from students. Is this the right career for me? Is this the right path? Is, should I be investing in this? And I think for me, it was just really encouraging to hear how much value that previous experience and that field experience had. 

[00:31:43] Pat: Absolutely. And then you couple it with being curious and learning more about where the industry is headed. And what does that maybe mean for you? And so that you can build that resilience and in terms of your career and taking more control of what you're doing. Over your career, as opposed to just reacting to something that happens. 

[00:32:06] I think the other thing that we learned from Zach is from his perspective, there are lots of opportunities out there. I think it is just having people do that research and stay on top of where the industry is headed, because within that is probably where their passion or their next career journey is.  

[00:32:26] LORA: I think the other thing I took away was Just that an investment in your soft skills, your communication skills, your storytelling skills, and your data skills is not going to be wasted. 

[00:32:39] So, regardless of where you're at, investing in those types of skills, we've known this for a while, that they're broad reaching and they affect many roles, but any sort of investment that you have in those skills is probably time well spent.  

[00:32:50] Pat: Absolutely. 

[00:32:51] ANNCR:  The Best Careers You Never Knew Existed Podcast, powered by SAIT, funded by the government of Alberta.  

[00:33:00] Have a career suggestion or want to appear as a guest? Get in touch. Email careerspodcastsait. ca or reach out directly to Lora Bucsis. On LinkedIn. Rate and review this podcast, and you might find your review read on a future episode. Please subscribe to The Best Careers You Never Knew Existed, wherever fine podcasts are downloaded. 

[00:33:23] The Best Careers You Never Knew Existed podcast, with Lora Bucsis. and Pat Hufnagel-Smith. Produced by Terran Anthony Allen and Jenna Smith. Executive produced by Lora Bucsis. Special thanks to SAIT Radio for their support and the use of their studios. And most of all, thank you for listening! 

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