On January 26, Vista shareholders past and present gathered to remember the long and fruitful career of Keith Scott, a project manager of over 25 years’ standing who has recently retired.
Keith’s tenure with Vista dates back to the early days when the company was a small “boutique” engineering outfit. He had worked with Don Nygaard, founder Alex Campbell’s original partner, and was looking for a new challenge when, as Alex puts it, “One thing led to another and Keith started working with Vista.”
In the early days Keith was often called upon to cover for Alex when he was away from the office. Keith recalls that, “It never failed – things would be quiet for weeks, and the second Alex left the office a client would call up with a proposal or a problem. So we had to scramble!”
Keith was also one of Vista’s first shareholders. Over the years, he built strong client relationships that grew into important business connections for Vista. For instance, Alex credits him with being instrumental in forging the partnership Vista enjoys with Husky Energy.
Keith offers interesting insights into his sustained success as a project manager, insights that have relevance for today’s engineers and PMs. “I think one factor is that when I started [my career], I was out in the field. I worked in gas plants and refineries for 15 years, involved in operations and maintenance; I was with PetroCanada for 17 years. So I’ve seen this equipment and these systems first-hand. It’s invaluable when you get back to the office and see them on paper. To this day, if you show me a picture of a valve, I can tell you what kind of valve it is, probably the rating, and maybe the flange size. How? Seen ‘em, touched ‘em, handled ‘em.”
Another significant factor Keith points to is that “When I started, at the plant, we were all young engineers, and there was no such thing as ‘disciplines’; we didn’t have enough people to have disciplines! So you did everything, you wore all the hats, you were given a project and you did it. Because of that we became generalists, we never became specialists because you dabbled in everything. So you had to be capable in all disciplines, and that gave you a very broad perspective. When I moved into project management, I could talk to all the engineers because I understood what they did.”
Keith also worked on some interesting international projects. In one memorable assignment, Keith spent time in Albania on a heavy oil project for Anglo-Albanian Petroleum. There he was exposed to an economic and regulatory environment drastically unlike anything he was used to. “It was just the way they had to do things in a very poor country. It was vastly different than how things are done in Canada…. A lot of the technology was Chinese; there were 2,600 wells that I saw, and every one had its own derrick. It looked like Spindletop in Texas. They’d farm in and amongst them; you’d have people out there grazing their cattle. A lot of stuff was built out of concrete; you’d have concrete storage tanks, for instance. Their idea of a 90-degree turn in a pipe was to just bend the pipe! You used what you had! They couldn’t afford materials, so you did what you could. We laugh about it now, but hey – that’s what you had to do.”
The need for improvisation wasn’t limited to Albanian projects. Keith continues: “I look back on my days at the [PetroCanada] plant, we used to do things you’d look at now and say, ‘You can’t do that!’ Yeah, you can – because the mandate was to get the place running. ‘Is it safe?’ Yes. ‘Will it work?’ It’ll work for a while. ‘Do it.’ Production is king. One time I put the wrong metallurgy in. They had been losing $50,000 a day in lost revenue, and after about ten days it was closer to $100,000 a day. The new materials lasted six months until shutdown, and then we had a month to fix it. Was it a good decision?” Keith laughs: “Well, my manager was happy: ‘As long as there’s oil coming out the back end, don’t tell me what you did, I don’t want to know!’”
Of course, no brief article can capture the many rewarding and interesting experiences Keith had in his long career with Vista. However, he was known for keeping immaculate records, and thanks to that trait he is able to share some impressive numbers. In almost 26 years with the company, Keith billed just under 50,000 hours to 40 clients over 236 projects. These are remarkable achievements that speak to the long-term commitment Keith gave to Vista. As Alex said at his retirement lunch, “It has been a great pleasure for me to have worked with Keith for all these years. Keith has been a strong contributor to Vista’s success and I am deeply appreciative for all he has done.”
We congratulate Keith on his well-earned retirement and wish him all the best in his future endeavours.