Alumnus Profile: Matt Pettit
Matt Pettit lives on the edge of a vast boreal forest, engineers deep-sea oil wells, and plays semi-pro basketball. So, where in the world is he? Pettit (BS ’11 CE, EPP) lives in Kongsberg, a small town in southern Norway. He moved there a year ago to work for FMC Technologies, Inc., an international company that engineers subsea oil and gas production systems. Though Pettit’s initial career plans didn’t include a stint in Scandinavia, his time there has given him the opportunity to learn, work, and play (basketball, that is) in a new and intriguing environment.
When Pettit was at CMU working towards a dual bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering and Engineering & Public Policy, he didn’t give Norway much thought. He had begun to explore job opportunities in engineering, and after graduation he remained in Pittsburgh to manage a CEE construction class project and continue his job search. Then, Pettit’s basketball coach at CMU sent him an intriguing proposition. A representative from a Norwegian basketball club wanted him to play for the BK Miners, Kongsberg’s Division 1 team, and had also offered to put him in contact with the town’s many engineering companies. Pettit decided to go for it. “The offer was out of left field, but I didn’t want to shy away from it,” he remembers. “I was always interested in going abroad, and didn’t have the opportunity during school because of basketball.”
Pettit moved to Kongsberg and entered the Engineering Rotational Program at FMC Technologies in October 2011. The program allowed Pettit to test the waters in several departments, and included a stint in the Connection Department, which engineers the connectors between subsea oil wells and the flowlines that transport the oil to rigs. “My time in the Connection Department was a lot of observing and learning,” Pettit explains, noting that in time he was able to contribute to departmental reports. His favorite rotation took place in FMC’s Field Development Department, which oversees the engineering process. “I really enjoyed my time in this department because it takes a system-wide approach and requires many different skills,” Pettit says. “I was able to develop a cost-estimate program for the department that is still being used.” Pettit is currently in charge of the Connection Department’s mechanical qualification testing, and intends to return to Field Development to continue his work there.
Pettit finds that the general structure of class assignments at CMU was invaluable in preparing him for professional engineering. He gained valuable leadership experience during his senior year Design Construction course, in which he led a long-term construction project to build a deck outside of Scaife Hall. “Here in Norway, I’m able to use the project-based approach and work flow that I was exposed to,” he says. “No matter what type of engineering you go into, you need to understand how to apply that approach.” He gained additional experience in Professor Larry Cartwright’s lab, where he worked for two years as an assistant. “You’re not able to learn everything in a classroom, and working in Larry’s lab gave me important hands-on experience.”
For Pettit, a Michigan native who loves backpacking, Norway is paradise. “The best part is the vastness of the country,” he says. “I can go out my back door, walk two minutes down the road, and hike as far as I want in woods that go on forever.” Working at FMC has also allowed Pettit to exercise his language skills. “I haven’t taken Norwegian classes; I’m more trying to learn by osmosis,” he explains, chuckling. “The company’s official language is English, but most of the engineers chat to each other in Norwegian, so my Norwegian has gotten surprisingly good.”
Pettit is currently applying to master’s programs in the U.S. He plans to return to school in 2013.
|The BK Miners. Petit is pictured in the back row, fifth from the left.|
|Pettit is able to take advantage of a number of outdoor activities in Norway. Here, he is pictured visiting Pulpit Rock, a massive, 1982 foot-high cliff in Ryfylke, Rogaland.|
|Matt Pettit stands above Kongsberg.|
Connectors between subsea oil wells and pipes transporting the oil up to rigs, which Matt Pettit worked on during his time in FMC's Connection Department. Because subsea oil transportation infrastructure operates in a high-pressure, hard-to-reach environment, the connectors that join pipes are critical points in the system.