Helen’s Story

I had always thought I wanted to get into something artistic when I was in high school. I thought about becoming an animator for Disney or a set designer or something. Once I got to university, it definitely changed and I was interested in so many things from being a pediatrician to a marine biologist. 

I grew up in Southern California and I was tired of city life and Alaska sounded like an adventure! Also, the University of Alaska Fairbanks didn’t require an essay to apply and that sealed it for me! I moved to Fairbanks, Alaska for college.

Even though I studied biology in college my job isn’t related to that at all! I’ve had lots of different jobs, including drafting and doing drawings in Autocad. That tapped into my love of art and I really enjoyed it for awhile. It was good to be able to be creative and even though I’m no longer doing that professionally I always try to get back to being creative and art any chance I get. I’ve worked in lots of jobs for lots of different companies.

Now I work as a maintenance technician in Prudhoe Bay. It’s an interesting place because no one can visit or be there when they aren’t working. We work two weeks of 12 hour shifts every day and then we go home (for me that’s Anchorage, Alaska) for two weeks. My duties are mostly to be an assistant to the maintenance leads and be responsible for work orders and keeping track of preventative maintenance tasks at the oil production facility. I open and close work orders and also help the techs to decipher any they find confusing. I’m also responsible for finding gas emissions from the pipelines using an infrared camera. I have to walk throughout the entire facility, viewing the gas lines with the camera and look for leaks and make note of them, both for the facility to fix and also to create an annual report to send to the EPA.Those are the two main duties but overall, I help out in the office with computer issues as well. It’s a little bit of everything in this remote location and harsh climate.

To get promoted with my company, it’s important to have the correct credentials and apply or speak with someone in a higher position. Usually, it’s word of mouth when positions open up so networking is super important as having a good working relationship with everyone on the team.

Considering I had no direction and no clear idea of what I wanted to do, I’m sometimes surprised that I have become as financially successful as I am!

What do you wish you had known when you were a high school senior?

That having a degree, no matter what in, is most important for jobs in management positions and in other specific jobs. Just as important is what you know and knowing how to learn new things!

What is your favorite thing about being an adult?

I can do anything in the day without someone telling me it’s right or wrong. I can eat cereal for dinner every night and no one can say anything. My decisions are my own and I get to choose if I want eggs for breakfast or poptarts

What’s the best thing about your job?

The time I have off. I work 2 weeks straight 12 hour days, but then have 2 weeks off every month. Most people have to work a whole year before they get 2 weeks off for vacation. I get it every month and is worth the time I put in to get it.

Read more real stories about adulting here!