Originally from the Netherlands, Maria Talasz’s background is in art, graphic design, and architecture. Now residing in Anchorage, Alaska, Maria works as the Office Manager for Stantec, a global architecture and engineering firm.
As an area that was previously developing quite aggressively in terms of energy, Alaska was effected pretty greatly by the industry downturn.
We caught up with Maria to talk about what she’s up to now, her advice for pushing forward in your career—even in a disheartening downturn—and how your interests can find you in some unexpected places!
Getting Her Start
While she now works heavily with health and safety management, Maria’s career path was anything but linear. When she moved to Alaska in 2001, she began working at a small aerial photography company—which is now part of Quantum Spatial.
“My job involved branding and marketing, designing graphic and web-based materials and assisting with photo editing for various deliverables,” she explains.
Maria loved the places she could explore right from her own desk—just by looking through the various aerial shots. “Especially interesting was the photography that was flown after the earthquake in 2003, where the Trans Alaska Pipeline System was impacted by the activity around the fault line,” she adds, “The pipeline is iconic in our state and is a critical piece of infrastructure.”
After a few years working for the aerial photography company, Maria decided to make a change. She started at USKH, an architectural and engineering firm. There, she
performed branding, graphics, and web design for seven different branch offices in Alaska and the Pacific Northwest.
In 2012, Shell became serious about drilling in the Chuckchi Sea, and USKH’s environmental services group was eager to help in the development efforts. “We started to work together with Native Alaskan businesses that were part of the Arctic Coalition,” she explains, “I became very interested in the oil and gas industry, as it became evident that it was instrumental in establishing and maintaining how we live in Alaska here today.”
With her artistic talents and keen eye, Maria loved her work in marketing. But, in 2014, USKH was acquired by global architecture and engineering firm, Stantec—which means her job responsibilities shifted quite a bit. While she’s still largely involved in marketing, she also took on work as a Safety Coordinator for the company’s Anchorage office, while assisting the other former USKH offices.
Stantec has been working on the Trans Alaska Pipeline System for many years and provides a wide range of services to a number of producers and pipeline operators.
An Industry Downturn
In 2014, Maria was at the Arctic Energy Symposium, where she was attending a briefing by Robert Blauw of Shell—which happened to be the very same morning they got the news that the decision was made to leave Alaska and cease drilling. “This was the beginning of a sharp downturn,” Maria says.
“It is said that—for every job lost in the sector—another six are in jeopardy,” explains Maria. She mentions that currently every dollar is being looked at to keep the state government funded.
However, Maria is managing to stay positive in the downturn, and feels fortunate that the firm she works for is still performing well. “This has historically been a part of life here—boom or bust,” she shares, “In general, things will come back. Maybe they won’t be as they’ve been before, but I’m hoping they’ll be better balanced.”
Finding Pink Petro
Maria discovered Pink Petro through a few of her friends, and has really enjoyed the sense of community it has provided for her. In fact, Maria and a few other women started their own Pink Petro hub in Alaska to keep women connected. “We try to reach out in the community and create two events a year,” Maria explains, “In Alaska the personal aspect of meeting face to face and local networking are important.”
As for Maria’s advice to other women who are aiming to push forward in their own careers? “Network, network, network, and keep learning,” she says, “Be present, volunteer, and be involved.”
Maria believes that having that go-getter attitude and willingness to learn is exactly what will continue to propel women upwards—even in male-dominated fields like the ones she has worked in. Maria cites her own daughter as an example of that, who she claims has gone further in her career than anyone else in her family. “Each generation,” she concludes, “Girls dream bigger, act bolder, and achieve more!”