Meet Alexandra! She’s an intern at Total E&P Headquarters in Pau, France, where she is part of the Subsea Maintenance Methods Department.


“In 2014, I attended Total Summer School in Paris, France, which was a great opportunity to learn about Total, as well as network with students, engineers, and HR representatives. Then Total came to my university (The University of Texas at Austin) in the spring of 2015 for an information session, and I was then invited to be an intern for the Subsea Maintenance Methods team in Pau, France for 6 months.


When I first arrived in France, I only knew one person and I had never studied the French language and only spoke a few basic words. It took me a while to immerse myself in the culture but after three months, I learned enough French to have a basic conversation. I have also had the chance to work with Dutch, Indonesian, Nigerian, Scottish, and French co-workers. It has been a very valuable experience and I believe working with a diverse group of people will be very important for my future career.


Currently, I’m working on a very challenging and interesting project. When operations are in a hostile environment, it is always complex and costly to install subsea equipment or to intervene during maintenance of this equipment. Therefore, it is important to prepare for this type of environment and anticipate anomalies or damage from equipment in the deep offshore. Just recently, new technologies, tools, and methods are being introduced to subsea maintenance. One of my tasks for this internship was to help the subsea maintenance team propose a management tool or a software/database that would allow for affiliates to highlight similar and repetitive failures in order to improve the reliability and availability of subsea equipment.


Working at Total has enabled me to achieve my ambitions of working to benefit the society as a whole. The entire world needs energy and there is a rising energy demand. Therefore, it is important to provide this energy in the most economically, socially, and environmentally effective manner. The challenge requires engineers to evaluate situations and to use creative thinking to determine possible ethical solutions. I feel like I have this responsibility as an intern to learn from the current engineers that have had multiple years of experience, in order for me to be prepared for this challenge as an engineer in the coming years.


I’ve learned that it is sometimes difficult to come to a solution when there is disagreement among team members, so it is necessary to discuss possible solutions that everyone will agree on. Demonstrating respect and adaptability for other’s contributions is also vital.


My advice to future interns would be to show that you are self-motivated and to always have a positive attitude. It is also important to have a desire to not only learn the technical aspects of engineering, but to have a desire to gain a better understanding of the impact of engineering solutions in a global and societal context. Being knowledgeable of contemporary issues in society as they relate to engineering is very important in the oil and gas industry. My favorite part of the role is having many experienced engineers around me that are willing to help and give me advice on my career path. I also enjoy having the responsibility of a project that will really add value to the company.


One of my goals for the future is to gain more experience by going to work in the field on an onshore or offshore rig. Although there are many risks and safety concerns, I believe it would be an amazing opportunity to physically see what it is like to work on a field and to acquire more knowledge about how the operations function on a rig. There are many engineers I have been working with that have worked on the field in different countries. They have shared their experiences with me, so it has inspired me to consider this option in the future.


The most surprising thing about my role is that many young engineers are constantly being rotated in and out of their roles. There are also always new people coming in from different countries or after working for a few years on a rig. It is interesting to see how everyone has a different experience even though they all work for the same company!”