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1
Aug

General Overview of PI

OSI Soft’s PI is a robust suite of applications and infrastructure which easily allows the historization of data collected from systems that produce large amounts of time-stamped data. So, for example, a research lab may have an LIMS which collects sample data from a number of different scientists on something that is being tested; or an oil company may collect sensor readings from pipes within a plant. Any industry that requires operational measurement of operational infrastructure benefits from the historical data collected by PI.
Everything about each system becomes available in real time to executives, engineers, and any other person who could benefit from the data. There is so much information about PI that it really deserves another post, so I’ll leave with a general visual overview of PI through a structural diagram borrowed from OSI-Soft’s website:

Architectural overview of PI

Architectural overview of PI

20
Jul

United Way Mega Week of Caring

About the job

As with many large companies, Shell has a relationship with the United Way organization. There were opportunities that came up for leadership roles during the Mega-Week of Caring campaign, so I applied. The job given to me was to coordinate an event with an organization called The John Howard Society. With 5 other volunteers, our main task was to landscape the yard of one of their transitional youth houses.

About the organization

Prior to this volunteer experience, I had never heard of The John Howard Society. Upon being assigned to the job, I did some research and found that John Howard, whom the society was named after, was a proponent of prison reform in Europe. He advocated for prisoner rights during a time when prisons were literally dank, unsanitary dungeons. Where death rates were high and plagues were borne. On horse-back he traveled throughout Europe, including France, Germany and Russia, educating prison wardens and owners on creating adequate prison conditions.
Flash-forward to today, The John Howard Society of Calgary, takes a proactive approach to preventing crime through assisting at-risk youth. Their transitional housing is offered to youth (16-22 years old) at risk of not having a place to live. Residency can be obtained through counselor referral or on a voluntary (or self-referral) basis.
The program teaches the youth life skills such as financial management, career planning, and house-hold management; it teaches self-sufficiency and independence. All of these core skills needed to keep them working and out of trouble.

About my role
For this particular job, we worked with the staff and the youth of the transitional home to improve the landscape of the front yard. Our team, along with the staff and youth, quickly went to work. We planted flower and shrub gardens, trimmed hedges, mowed the lawns, pulled up weeds, and cut out chunks of grass to put in stepping stones. When we were done, the staff and residents were excited for their new landscape, and the volunteers were happy to have had the opportunity (it also helped that it was a whopping 27 degrees).
The event was positive all around. Everybody had a good, safe time, and we were able to contribute positively to the community.

8
Jul

Why everybody hates the help desk

Everyone loves to hate the help desk.  Social barriers, language barriers, and lack of proactive improvement have all contributed to the stereo-types placed on the helpdesk.  One of my favorite sketches over the last decade from Saturday Night Live was Nick Burns: your company’s computer guy.  Have a look:


Nick Burns – The Company Computer Guy

Bri | MySpace Video

While I’m not in a basic help desk role, the assist desk that I work with sees its share of customers passed around organization’s broader help desk.  So far, I’ve been able to link this to a number of key factors: failure or inability to use available knowledge resources; lack of effective communication between the silo service desks that exist; the desire to pass on the responsibility rather than actually try to solve a problem.

In my 8-month work term, it is not going to be my job to over-haul the entire service desk, it won’t be my job to change processes that are followed to effectively maintain the enterprise-wide support knowledge-base, and it won’t be part of my job description to analyze the routing efficiency of service calls.  However, while I am in my role as a PI System Strategy & Initiation Analyst, I will seek to achieve a number of visible objectives and to make an impact in the organization.

To put everything in perspective, my current role is supporting a suite of engineering applications.  The applications historize data which is collected from various locations across the organization – basically any plant that the engineers want to trend data from.  Sensors (eg. temperature or pressure) send readings to SCADA (and other) type devices, which then pass the data through a complex architecture until they reach applications on the desktop which we support.  That’s a little simplified for time’s sake, but it’s an interesting and complex world of software and business processes.  All that said I should have an eventful eight months.

1
Jun

Safety culture of Shell and Safety Day

Before joining Shell, I was always a safety-minded individual, or so I thought. Since joining Shell, I’ve realized how much more there is to think about, and how easy it is to incorporate that thinking into every single day..

I noticed right away that we started our first meeting off with a “safety minute.” This is incorporated into every meeting that happens at Shell. It is to keep us safety-minded and remind us of the targets that Shell sets for safety.
Goal-Zero is the biggest part of Shell’s safety culture. This is simply the over-arching goal of Shell as a whole to have zero days of lost work time due to accidents. It is something in common for Shell employees universally.

To assist with goal zero are Shell’s twelve life-saving rules. These are pervasive rules that apply not only while at work, but anytime while in the employ of Shell; and, in reality, they should be applied by everyone everywhere. It is encouraging to have executives speak about these rules as a foundation that helps each of us to come home safely to our families at night.
I was with the company for a little over a month before experiencing the first full-fledged safety activities: Shell’s Safety Day. On safety day, the whole lobby in Shell Center was set up to bring awareness about safety to Shell employees. This included a number of virtual reality activities, including: a driving simulator, and a fire-fighting simulation.

I learned a number of things from safety day. First, a culture of safety is important. Our entire department came together for a number of safety day briefings. Managers and executives participated too, and helped to reinforce this culture of safety. Second, there is a lot to keep in mind to continue to work safe. We had a safety knowledge trivia game, and it showed me how much I still had to learn.
Finally, I learned about the contingencies that have to be worked through before entering into a dangerous situation. This I learned while trying the fire extinguisher simulator. In this simulation, the fire marshal turned on the “fire” and I put it out with a fire-extinguisher (this is on a screen of sorts and the extinguisher is an infrared-type device). I was able to put out two of the three fires, but I had to keep in mind that at some point I would have to decide whether to keep fighting the fire, or get out of there before the fire became unmanageable.

The culture of safety at Shell is a huge positive, and something that I will take with me no matter where I end up.