Graham Janega, Martin Wouterse, Cathy Wouterse, Mike MacSween

Finding Meaning in Career Milestones

If you have reached a career milestone, whether it is 10 or 20 years, a big project completion, a pivot, or your retirement, you might find yourself scrolling through the company’s online Rewards Catalog to pick out a memento or even packing up your manufactured resin plaques.

Innovators like Lou Elliott-Cysewski are observing that the serve-yourself swag celebration is falling behind true connection to the company and an individual’s contributions to meaningful work. There are several trends to support this including: Why You Should Reconsider Giving Branded Corporate Gifts | and Can we finally kill off cheap, disposable conference swag? (

If you ask employees if they are proud of what their company does and their job, they will often smile and provide a rich story of one of their accomplishments in the face of adversity and tight timelines. Large companies are still defaulting to company swag, or external providers who offer a selection of tools, jewels or gadgets to commemorate your milestone.

If the Rewards Catalogue, or the quirky cake from the local grocery store doesn’t make you feel the long-term sentiments that you were hoping for, perhaps you should follow the lead of these four professionals who took matters into their own hands. Proud of the industry they worked in and fierce advocates of community, innovation, and reclamation, these professionals have turned to a more artful solution to commemorate their years of service in the energy industry.

Seeking out a meaningful memento means sourcing something that:

  • symbolizes your success and the pride you have in your work,
  • is personal and brings true meaning to the long days, heartfelt relationships and memories of a job well done,
  • resonates with you on an emotional level. The average person will spend 90,000 hours at work. That’s about one third of your life.
  • is elegant and sparks rich conversation with those who ask about it. We shouldn’t be living and working just to retire into a hobby and a recliner chair. All life’s treasures are in the journey and we all have many stories to share.

 Acquiring an original work of art met all the criteria for these professionals:

Graham Janega, 20 years in Upstream O&G Operations and Cleantech

You have made a key career shift from upstream to cleantech. What observation have you made from that shift? Why was it important to you to have a painting that represented the work you have done in Alberta?

 “It is important for the industry to make remediation and reclamation a strategic priority. Companies need to demonstrate a commitment to developing and executing closure strategies. I think the industry Is beginning to realize that it is in the best interest of all stakeholders and is an important part of a sustainable industry.

I have always had passion around reclamation, and ensuring it is not overlooked or avoided. As an executive in this industry, I wanted to have a painting in my Calgary office that focused on this important part of our industry. I often get questions around the painting, and it gives me an opportunity to explain the significance and need for reclamation in our industry.

My goal is to ensure affordable and reliable energy, while not adversely impacting future generations, including my children.”


Martin Wouterse, 29 years in Energy Industry

Why did you choose to have a commission of the Syncrude bison as a memoir of your work in Fort McMurray?

“As someone who lived in Fort McMurray for more than 50 years and worked in the local energy industry, just as my father did, I wanted to have a memory of one of my favourite places in the region to mark my retirement.

I used to swim in the Athabasca River as a kid, and we would have to wash off beads of oil that naturally leached from the riverbanks. There are areas in the region where the energy companies, in meeting their requirements to reclaim one hundred percent of the lands they disturb through their business practices, have created some beautiful spaces for families, communities, and wildlife.

The Wood Buffalo Viewing Point and Sanctuary is a natural ecosystem with a thriving bison herd and is evidence of the positive work the energy industry does to remediate the mining sites and restore native wildlife and habitat.  

I commissioned this piece because I’m proud to have contributed to the local industry that made reclamation sites like this bison sanctuary possible in the region. It is proof that our energy industry and the environment can co-exist.”

 Cathy Wouterse, 30 years in Human Resources

You mentioned it was important to have an example from the GREEN collection in your home. Why is this important to you?

“It is important for me to have art in our home that helps tell the story of the work our energy industry does with reclamation. I'm proud of the talented and passionate individuals who are involved in the planning and transformation of these spaces to include self-sustaining ecosystems with native vegetation, traditional medicines, and natural habitats.

I lived in northern Alberta for several years and was employed with both the local energy industry and the public sector. There is a significant amount of environmental and community development work the people in our energy industry make possible that isn’t celebrated or widely known. Having art from this reclamation series in my home can help me tell that story and change the narrative.

The trees in this painting and at the site were also touched by the Fort McMurray wildfires of 2016.  That event displaced the entire community and many families, including ours, lost their homes.  This painting is also a reminder of the strength of the people who live in northern Alberta and that when faced with a challenge you can rebuild and reclaim your lives.”

 Mike MacSween, over 35 years in Energy Industry

What is meaningful about having a painting in your home office that represents the work you led in Northern Alberta?

“I grew up on the east coast and traveled west to Alberta for work. I was always struck by the amazing scenery and harsh environment in northern Alberta. I think about my personal journey and my impression of the surroundings and the environment that First Nations have lived in for so many generations. I never imagined that it would be a part of my life for so long. I still travel periodically to the Wood Buffalo region for my Board position with McKay Métis Group LTD. and it still brings back those emotions. I think about how many others have taken a similar journey across the country and from beyond.- the region has become part of the fabric of our nation and is still critical for so many people to find work.

I think it’s important to reflect on the Indigenous communities and their way of life. The natural beauty and how the Indigenous communities have lived is inspiring – the challenge of winter and the beauty of it. This way of life: preserving and restoring it, is so important to the industry. What is done within large scale operations is a huge disturbance. It is critical to ensure that there is ongoing engagement as partners and restoration for the communities living there.  I am so proud of what our industry has done, but there is more to do.

Everyone needs to seek to understand and build awareness of the Indigenous peoples who were here before us. My involvement in the industry and the roles I had, provided a unique experience to engage and learn about the communities, the language and the unique cultures and I will forever treasure that. It is an emotion that I feel when I see the painting.” 

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