#TGW: Life's a Gas

Dec. 12, 2014

By Jon Cooper
The Good Word

– No one would blame Kaitlin Kates if she seemed a little distracted as she approached the podium to get her diploma during this weekend’s graduation ceremonies at McCamish Pavilion.

She’d probably have visions of charts and maps and mathematical equations and geological coordinates — almost as if she were charting a shorter, more efficient way to get to the front of the line.

That’s the kind of thing Kates, a four-year outfielder with the Yellow Jackets, did during her summer internship at Regency Energy Partners in Dallas, Texas, the same company with which she’ll be working as an associate engineer and well-connect analyst in less than a month after graduation.

“It’s great knowing that I already have a secure job lined up. It’s rewarding to know that all my hard work over the past 4½ years has paid off,” said Kates, who will graduate with a degree in Mechanical Engineering. “I’m getting to see all the things I had learned in class and things I studied long hours for coming to fruition. I’m actually going to be able to apply those things to a job.”

A native of Morgan City, La., Kates will help in the management and transportation of natural gas for Regency, including connecting new pipelines to existing ones.

“There’s a lot of fluid mechanics involved with flow-rates and pressures. You have to make sure engineering analysis is precise,” she said. “One little mistake and you have the pressure off and that can be really bad news for people in the surrounding area. Basically I’ll be overseeing that as well as assisting the whole engineering department, commercial operations, tying in all of those departments into a process of tying new pipelines into our system. It’s kind of like a broad description right now, but basically I’ll be overseeing our new projects that come into our system.”

While it’s complicated stuff, Kaitlin is pretty familiar with the oil and gas industry, as her father, brother and cousin already are in the industry, with the latter helping open the door for Kaitlin at Regency, where he works, by getting her resume into the right hands.

While her cousin opened the door, Kaitlin, armed with her Georgia Tech education, kicked it in.

“Definitely the Georgia Tech education, with what I’ve learned here, they said I was leaps and bounds ahead of people who had interned there from other universities,” she said. “That was really rewarding to have them acknowledge that.”

She left them with such a final impression that they couldn’t get her back in their employ soon enough.

“At the end of my internship I had to do a 30-minute presentation to all the VPs — the CEO couldn’t be there,” she said. “At the end of it they were very impressed with what I had done and with the success I had while I was there. They were basically throwing offers at me for jobs at the end of that presentation.

“It was kind of cool to see that many people kind of impressed by what I had done and wanting me to be on their team. It was awesome,” she added. “They initially wanted someone for this project starting in the Fall but they said that they wanted me on their team, so they’d be willing to hold it for a few months, until I graduated.”

With the real world on the horizon, Kates is confident she’s ready for this brave, new and growing world. She now has a career in her grasp. That’s a long way from where she started where she had to work simply to speak their language.

“The oil and gas industry is like a whole [different] world,” she recalled. “The first day I got there, they were saying words and using acronyms that I had no idea what they meant. The first week that I was there, virtually every meeting I went into I was writing down words or phrases or acronyms I had no idea what they meant. It was definitely hard to catch on to the language that they used, but once you got it, you understood what they were talking about. You learn about all the processes and things in school but you don’t actually get the real-world applications until you’re thrown into it. So that was definitely an adjustment, but I was well-prepared for it from a technical standpoint. Doing the hands-on work was actually different but I enjoyed it a lot. Once I figured out what they were talking about that made it a lot easier.

“They weren’t expecting anything from me at first. They knew it was going to take a while for me to catch on, but they were actually surprised at how quickly I did catch on,” she added. “They were very understanding, very supportive and any time I needed help with anything they were always there. I was constantly in my mentor’s office just asking millions of questions. I tried to listen to as many conference calls as possible to get as much knowledge as I could or if I didn’t understand something I was constantly looking it up. Sometimes they would give me my own project and be like, `Okay, figure it out on your own,’ to see how far I could get. That was kind of rewarding to know they trusted me to try to figure it out, and then if I had questions, then I could come to them and they would fully explain it to me. But it was a good thing they allowed me to have that responsibility to take on projects on my own and they trusted me to get it done. That was pretty cool.”

It’s going to be pretty cool going to Dallas to be part of Regency — she starts the second week of January — and begins making an impact in this growing field.

Kates, whose primary role was as a pinch-runner in her years with the Jackets, sees a parallel between her softball days and her future with Regency, as she’ll continue to do whatever it takes for her team to achieve success.

“I want to impact the company, I want to impact people around me, however that may be,” she said. “I definitely see as opportunity. I’ve been told that there are great opportunities for me to grow and move up in this company. I don’t know how that may be right now, it’s so early on in the process, but anything that I can do to better myself to ultimately better the company and industry, I’m more than willing to do that. That’s kind of how it’s been in every aspect of life. It’s not so much about me but for the team that I’m working with.”

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