From India to Alberta via Kuwait
Tulika Gupta’s successful career as a major projects analyst at Suncor came as a surprise – she’d expected to work in San Francisco
TULIKA GUPTA NEVER SAW HERSELF WORKING IN THE energy sector. After earning a computer science degree from the University of Toronto, the recent grad set her sights on something a bit more glamorous. “I thought, ‘I have an engineering degree, I’ll go to San Francisco,’” the 25-year-old explains. But where Gupta ended up was, at the time, about as far from her peers in the Silicon Valley as she could get. Instead she boarded a plane and, following her dad’s advice, was soon headed for Fort McMurray.
Born in Hyderabad, India, Gupta finished high school in Kuwait, where her father worked as a civil engineer in the oil and gas industry. While working in the energy business may have run in the family, today Gupta credits a lifetime of travel and cultural experiences for leading her into her current role as a major projects analyst at Suncor. It’s a role that could take on a renewed significance as Suncor embarks on an ambitious expansion plan that includes its takeover of Syncrude partner Canadian Oil Sands.
Of course, Gupta didn’t start out quite so high up the Suncor ladder. Instead, she began as a cost engineer in project controls. “I started at Voyageur, a huge upgrader project by Suncor,” Gupta says, “which was a big shock, going from Toronto to Fort Mac and being on site.” But when a new position became available at Suncor in 2014, working with the executive vice-president in the corporate office in Calgary, Gupta jumped at the job and got it. “I don’t have a job description,” Gupta says, noting that each day, while different, might involve organizing presentations to the board, analyzing oil sands projects and, especially in this low oil price environment, searching for cost-saving ideas.
But it’s not all business all the time for Gupta. She has been involved in Suncor’s Women’s Diversity Initiative, a project that has been engaging, connecting and supporting women in the company since 2012. In her new position at the corporate office, where she has been for just over a year, Gupta volunteered to host the diversity initiative’s annual event. “It was a really great experience as someone training to be a future leader,” she says. And her desire to make a positive impact on the company and the industry didn’t end with her hosting duties, either.
Putting her computer engineering skills to work, Gupta designed what she calls the cost-efficiency idea drive. The online system allows employees to electronically submit ideas to the executives of Suncor. “We decide if it falls under our circle of influence and if it doesn’t we take it to the right people,” she says. Gupta’s project began as something short term, but after people began to use the system, it was adopted as a permanent aspect of the major projects department, where it still operates today. “It’s something I’m very proud of.”