Be prepared to do any job, ATCO CEO advises students

Business students should look for employment opportunities outside of the energy sector as the industry recovers, says ATCO’s president and chief executive officer, Nancy Southern.

The advice, from the head of one of Alberta’s largest energy corporations, was made during the Executive Speaker Series presented by the SAIT School of Business, on Sept. 19.

Southern’s presentation comes during a time when many students are concerned about finding employment upon graduation, given Alberta’s current economic climate.

In her address, Southern predicted that Alberta’s recession will persist for another two to three years, and advised graduating business students to gain work experience outside of their chosen field as the economy rights itself.

“Learn to take a job that isn’t quite what you wanted, but be bold in your aspirations,” said Southern.

“If you embrace any job, and do it to the best of your ability, you will excel.”

Southern told students that experience in any field of business will put them ahead of students graduating into a better economic environment.

“If you can aspire to be the manager of a retail store, or a food outlet, it will hold you in good standing,” said Southern.

Southern spoke about her mother, Margaret Southern, cleaning the washrooms at Spruce Meadows, despite being co-founder and former CEO of the horse jumping facility.

“No job is too small, you have to be prepared to do anything.”

Southern said that institutions such as SAIT offer a “practical and pragmatic approach” to education, and she has found that SAIT’s graduates do not leave with a sense of entitlement, as opposed to their university and business school counterparts.

Southern reflected on a previous period of economic hardship, drawing comparisons to Alberta’s current economic climate.

In 1980, ATCO acquired Canadian Utilities, in hopes of banking on a booming natural resources sector.

“No sooner had we acquired the company, then the price of oil went plummeting,” said Southern.

What followed, said Southern, “was a decade of absolutely stringent operations. Not a penny went out of the company.”

Southern recalled watching her father lay off workers at the ATCO Industrial Park.

“I only saw my father cry twice, and that was the first time,” said Southern.

Southern’s late father, Ron Southern, founded the Alberta Trailer Hire in 1947, to service Alberta’s newly booming oil industry, with a loan of $2,000 from his father.

The company has since grown globally, and today boasts assets worth more than $19 billion.

Nancy Southern took the helm of the multi-billion-dollar corporation in 2003.

The Southern family also founded the Spruce Meadows equestrian facility in 1976.

No job is too small, you have to be prepared to do anything. – Nancy Southern

More than 400 people attended the event at SAIT, which was free and open to the entire SAIT community.

The Executive Speaker Series is run by the SAIT School of Business, and brings in business leaders to share their expertise with students.

The series is sponsored by Chartered Professional Accountants of Alberta (CPA Alberta).

About Alexandra Moher 5 Articles
As a writing and communications major in the journalism program at SAIT, Alexandra Moher is working as a reporter for The Press during the 2016-17 academic year.