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Salt Lake Community College

Professional Career Interview


Steve Merrill

Luke Jensen
Communications 1010
Raymond Bingham
March 2nd, 2015

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I decided to do my professional career interview on somebody

currently working in the oil industry, at a refinery. I hope to one day work in
the industry, preferably a petroleum engineer. Having a background in
equipment, having a degree in diesel systems technology, and wanting to
pursue engineering, petroleum engineering has always been an interest to
I did my interview on Steve Merrill, who is currently a Process Unit
Operator at Big West Oil in North Salt Lake City, Utah. He works within the oil
refinery, and was a perfect choice for my interview.
Initial Contact
Initial contact with Steve went very well. I had met him by inquiring
with my mother about my career interview project, and asked her if she had
any ideas as to where I should begin my research. She knew that a friend of
hers had a friend who worked in a refinery. This lead me to inquire with my
mothers friend, Melissa, as to where I could find this person. Melissa helped
me to set up an interview with Steve, and meet him for the first time.
I first contacted Steve over the phone, and after introducing myself,
asked him if he would be willing to let me interview him. He agreed without
second thought, and invited me to dinner at his house. I thought this would
be a perfect chance to not only interview him, but to also get to know him.

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Steve was kind enough to invite me over to his house for dinner, and I
definitely wanted to make a good impression. I dressed nicely, but did not
want to look as if I was attending a business meeting. Since he was open
enough to invite me to his house for dinner, I thought it would be best to look
nice, but not awkwardly formal. I wore a button-up shirt, nice jeans, and
dress boots. I made sure to be clean and well groomed as well. I think that I
made a good impression, considering that he made a comment towards me
about how well I was dressed. He was also very open with me, and seemed
to be very comfortable.
My first face-to-face encounter with Steve went very well. I knocked on
the door of his home, and made sure to shake hands with him when he
greeted me. Steve was a very sociable and kind person, and talking with him
was very easy. I was however, slightly uneasy eating dinner with him at his
home, having never met him or his family before. After talking with him for
only a few minutes though, conversing became much easier. After eating
dinner I privately carried out the interview with him in his living room. I was
impressed with his kindness, and that he so quickly invited me to dinner. He
insisted that I refer to him on a first name basis while talking to him, and in
my writings.
Written Preparation for Interview
My preparation for the interview was fairly straight-forward. I had
thought of a list of questions to ask my interviewee before meeting him, and

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had added to and modified my list after speaking with Steve over the phone.
I wrote my list of questions in my class notebook, and reviewed them
multiple times before the interview. I managed to answer all of the questions
that were on my list, but also learned more information than I had originally
planned, just from talking with Steve over the course or about two hours. We
not only had conversations about his career, but also had fun talking about
our hobbies and past.
I prepared a list of 13 primary questions for Steve to answer during our
interview. After asking the primary questions, I would elaborate on them,
asking many smaller questions trying to figure out as much as possible about
his job.
The list of questions that I prepared for Steve was as follows:

What is your job title?

What are your responsibilities within your company?
What is a typical day on the job for you?
What is your education?
How does your education apply to your job?
What is your work experience?
How did you find your job?
What kinds of incidences have happened at your job?
How have you progressed through your company?
What is your work schedule?
What is your aspiration towards your job like?
What kinds of certifications are required for your job?
What are the dangers of your job?

Steve explained to me that he was a Process Unit Operator at Big West

Oil, and that his job included doing a large range of tasks. Steve operates the

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various machines that can be found at Big West Oil, but is mainly responsible
for operating the exchanger. He explained to me that the exchanger is a
large tower which is used to create several different refined oils from the
base product, which is crude oil. He explained to me some of the many
products that can be created from crude oil, including gasoline, diesel,
engine oil, wax, VTBs, crayons, and even lip gloss. While Big West Oil is not
responsible for making all these products, they create the base products that
are used for making them. He is required to do daily visual inspections and
use instrumentation to troubleshoot problems that can occur at a refinery.
While Steves job does not require a college degree, it does require the
8 years of on-the-job training that he has obtained, which he explained as
similar to an education one would receive in a classroom, but also contains
hands-on experience that is required of him on a daily basis. Steve has also
received firefighter training, which is a pro-board certification, and is
equivalent to a municipal firefighters training with an industrial specialization
in oil fires, and refineries. He explained to me that his firefighter training is
specially designed for people working in refineries and around oil. Steve is
also a certified EMT and is responsible for the safety of his fellow workers at
the refinery.
Steve was originally a home builder and contractor, and had learned
about working for refineries while he was pouring a very large cement pad
for one of the refineries many oil tanks to sit on. While pouring the cement

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pads he talked to the refinery workers, as well as his own boss at the time,
who actually told him that he should apply to work at a refinery.
Steve first started working at the Silver Eagle Refinery 8 years ago,
but due to some complications at Silver Eagle he moved to Big West Oil 2
years ago. His first job position at Silver Eagle was loading the many oil
products onto trucks and trains that shipped the products throughout the
country. From what Steve said to me, it was apparent that he is a man with
work ethic. Because of this work ethic he worked his way through the
companies, through many different job titles, to become what he is today.
Despite his hectic work schedule, which requires him to work fourtwelve hour shifts, two during the day and two during the night, he
thoroughly enjoys his job. He spends as much time as he can learning and
improving, and receives as much training as he can to further himself within
the company. Steve was kind enough to show me a manual that he had for
work, which was probably eight inches thick and filled with hundreds of
pages of information and pictures. He had about 20 certification papers that
ranged from firefighter certifications, to maintenance protocols, to the
specialized computer systems that only Big West Oil has.
Although he enjoys his job, Steve explained to me that it can also be
very dangerous. He told me of multiple instances that he had to shut down
sections of the refinery due to fires and explosions, and that he has also
assisted colleagues who were injured at the refinery.

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Process and Results

I think that my interviewing process turned out successful. I had
answered all of the questions that I had prepared, as well as learned a lot of
other information as well. Steve taught me about many things within a
refinery that I had never thought existed. The interviewing experience was
relaxed and fun, and this helped to make things easier for Steve and I. Initial
contact was somewhat awkward, meeting Steve at his house and having
dinner with him and his family, but shortly after arriving it became easy to
talk with him. Steve had several dogs that were in his house, and petting
them did become somewhat distracting during the interview. This was the
only downside that I could find with conducting the interview within his
Interviewing Steve was a fun and educational experience. I had a great
time talking with him, and I would enjoy meeting with him again at some
point. Next time I would like to ask him if he has any suggestions for an
aspiring engineer.