Senior Gas Control Operator Talk with Joel Rathjen

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Senior Gas Control Operator Talk with Joel Rathjen

Guest Profile:

Joel Rathjen brings a wealth of experience to his role as Senior Gas Control Operator at ATCO in Edmonton, AB, a position he has grown into over his impressive 15-year tenure with the company. In this capacity, Joel diligently oversees the remote operation and monitoring of various ATCO-owned or operated pipeline networks. His efforts are crucial in ensuring the safe, efficient, and cost-effective delivery of products from their initial receipt to their final destination.

Before stepping into his current role, Joel honed his skills at ATCO’s Red Deer distribution operation center, primarily working as a Pressure Control Operator. In this role, he became adept at maintaining different types of regulator stations and spearheading new constructions, setting a foundation of excellence and expertise.

Aside from his illustrious career in gas control operation, Joel is also a proud graduate of the Audiovisual Communications program at MacEwan University. Leveraging his education, he engaged in print and digital design projects across Canada. Furthermore, he collaborated with Axia Netmedia to create a database teaching tool utilized by the NFTC/Bombardier flight training centers in Cold Lake, AB, and Moose Jaw, SK.

Not just confined to the corporate and educational realms, Joel’s creativity extends into the musical sphere as well. He has enjoyed two stints as a professional touring artist and musician, lending his talents to the power-pop group “Welcome” and the country act “The Boom Chucka Boys.” His musical accolades include songwriting credits on his projects, in addition to co-writing songs for other artists, showcasing his versatile and dynamic artistic abilities.

At home in Sherwood Park, AB, Joel finds joy and balance in his personal life. He shares his life with his loving wife, their two children, and a pair of cherished dogs, grounding his remarkable professional journey with a rich and fulfilling family life.


Central control and process operators in petroleum, gas and chemical processing monitor and operate petroleum, petrochemical and chemical plants and monitor, adjust and maintain processing units and equipment in these plants. They are employed by petroleum and natural gas processing, pipeline and petrochemical companies and industrial, agricultural and specialty chemical and pharmaceutical companies.

Job Forecast:

The employment outlook will be good for Central control and process operators, petroleum, gas and chemical processing (NOC 9232) in Alberta for the 2022-2024 period.

The following factors contributed to this outlook:

Employment growth will lead to several new positions.
A moderate number of positions will become available due to retirements.
There are several unemployed workers with recent experience in this occupation.

Employment Requirements:

This is what you typically need for the job.

  • Completion of secondary school is required. Mathematics, chemistry and physics subjects are often specified.
  • A college diploma in process operation, sciences or a related subject may be required for some positions.
  • Company certification as a petroleum process operator or technician may be required.
  • A provincial power engineer licence, compressor operator or refrigeration certificate may be required when certain kinds of equipment are included in the process.
  • Certification in the transportation of dangerous goods (TDG), first aid, firefighting, or workplace hazardous materials information system (WHMIS) may be required.


Need More?

Check out our Career Crisis Interview Series:

Full Length Episode:

Complete Episode Transcript

Coming up next.

Yeah, I am.

I’m sorry that your wife and your family went.

Went through all of that.

And it’s nice to hear that Atco is a supportive company that would get you through that.

That tough time.

Yeah, all I felt was support and then they allowed me to take some time off when she had her surgeries and, and kind of ease back into work and just always asking about how she was doing.

And It makes you appreciate where you work even more and you kind of have I feel like I had maybe have a different loyalty than maybe some people would have, Welcome to the Job Talk Podcast, where we talk with people who love their jobs.

Our guests open up about their challenges, surprises and secrets to success in their industries.

Through conversation, we explore their careers, past work experiences and the education that got them to where they are now.

Today’s guest is Joel Wratten.

Here’s our job talk with the senior gas control operator.

you have made a few career pivots in your life, and I want to get into that.

But you have eventually landed in a position as a senior gas control operator with ATCO.

So we’re going to make our way to that.

But Joel, can you share with our listeners what your first career path was? First career path.

Oh, well, out of high school, I built houses okay, you got into construction.

And, yeah, that was.

It was all right, But it drove me to want to further my education.

Yeah, I wasn’t the greatest And what did you choose leaving carpentry.

what do you think drew you to multimedia? What were you wanting to get into after taking a communications diploma from Macewan? well, actually applied for a guitar at Macewan as well at the same time, and both programs interested me, but audio visual responded first I was into design.

The photography side interests me and we did some video production, all old school.

Now everything is on computers, but we were using B roll tapes and developing film ourselves.

So it was a it was a great program, two years of of kind of getting to dabble in, I don’t know, five or six different mediums and kind of went more to the design side, just like interface design and graphic design, And how many years did you did you give yourself to try to make a career in multimedia we graduated in 98 and I, I pretty much gave it a go until 2006 with a two year stint in Vancouver.

In interwoven into that, I was in a rock band for a few years and toured too, so I kind of did the freelance thing so I could do it when I’d be home from touring and got into a little bit of programing.

The one company that I worked with ended up kind of thrown into programing a shell for the FTC.

So it was the National Flight Training Center, which was a moose jaw, and they had one in Cold Lake.

So but I realized programing wasn’t really for me, but I managed to fumble my way.

Hopefully no one ever looks at my code So did something happen in your life that made you want to transition out of multimedia? Was there a certain writing on the wall maybe that you weren’t seen opportunity with, with that chosen career field we moved to Vancouver for a couple of years and I actually in the sharing of space with a grad friend of ours and it was just it was pretty competitive out there for design and and multimedia.

Getting into more of the web apps.

we moved back to Alberta to Salt Lake, and I end up working for a company called Abacus.

And we, I end up doing lane locating and learning how to survey.

I took some courses in surveying and did that for a couple of years and that that was pretty intense.

Gone all the time and home for a day and then gone for another three weeks and you never knew where you were going to be show up on Monday and we’d all have these jobs lined up on the desk and there be like, Oh, I’m going to medicine half for a week, I’m going to p server for a week.

And then you’d be up there and I’m like, Oh, we got more jobs up here.

So she always had to have a backpack for a week or two.

There it was. It was.

It was all right.

Though I enjoyed the traveling around.

I just wasn’t home very much.

So Yeah.

Not great for your family life I’m guessing.

Something for.

Okay let’s talk about your experience in the music industry.

And I can’t think of a harder industry to make it in than than the music industry.

So can you talk about your your experience with that? Were you touring with a group? Were you a solo artist? What was your your career with being a musician? Yeah, Yeah, yeah, you were opening for some pretty big names.

When you look back at your your time in music and I don’t know if you’re still pursuing it, but do you have any experiences or stories that really stand out from your time as a musician? yeah. There’s there’s some great, great touring stories.

We when I was in Welcome we were driving back, we did a two day drive back from Toronto after doing a showcase to get back to Edmonton.

So it was probably December and we’re driving through northern Ontario with a van and a trailer and our bass player was on the driving shift and he may have been a little bit tired or on something else, I’m not sure.

But we ran out of gas in Marathon, Ontario, and it’s this town in the middle nowhere, and the gas station wasn’t open for another 3 hours, so we had enough gas to keep the heater on and stuff.

So I’m I’m sleeping on the first bench and the bass player sleep in there with his head on the on the steering wheel to even think that I was in some sense of danger.

And the bass player still has head on the steering wheel, sleeping.

And he starts to tell me all these stories of how he authored this poetry book, The Sands of Time, and he pulls it out and it’s on like, What’s your grade one child would have like learning how to write, you know, cursive.

Anyways, he shows it to me.

I’m like, Oh, great, why are you here? And he he’s like, Oh, I’m trying to get to trying to get to Vancouver.

I have a, I have a Trans Am waiting for me there that I have to pick up.

And they start telling all these stories how he’s in jail with Mick Jagger.

It was it was pretty interesting.

one thing and Vancouver, I guess.

And I guess he’d been around town for a few days chatting people up.

And we left.

The one guy, though, up in the bunk, we built a bunk in the back and he was sleeping in there.

We all left and he woke up and he’s in there in the van with this guy and he nice band mates.

I, I’m going to venture a guess that most of the traction that you were experiencing was when you were in a band called The Boom Check up.

Was that.



I’m going to make okay.


But yeah, I mean the stuff together down in Nashville is level six, so I guess you.


What do you think the biggest crowd was that you performed to probably the Merritt Festival, we opened for Big and Rich, that was toward the end of our time together.

I think there was like 15, 20,000 people because we were right before they went on.

Yeah, it’s kind of weird though, that many people, you only really notice the first 20 rows for me at least.

I don’t know.

I it’s weird.

I should have been more nervous.

I never really got super nervous playing.

If I was probably the lead singer, I would have been. But I just enjoyed it while it lasted kind of thing.


And that just goes to show you you were experiencing traction.

That is a very hard industry to to find success in.


I think because we had we had artists that was managing us.

Gord Barford And he opened a lot of doors for us, but a lot of it throughout the career.

We built our reputation on just playing like good live shows where we entertain people and just had a lot of fun and then we get us back.

And then so you get us back to one place and then go to another place.

You get us back there and then you start getting really busy and you start building a name for yourself.

So not the typical way, I guess the in the country scene.

It seems like you got to get on radio and then that gets promoted and then you play some festivals.

But we were kind of doing more, more the carb one, I guess grassroots just playing small towns and us all being from small towns.

It was very comfortable for us. And like I grew up in a town of 900 people, so I felt very relatable, like I could relate to the people I was playing for.

And I like, I like meeting new people.

And that’s part of the job.

I really like Okay.

We’ll have you on again where we just focus on your music career because I do want to know we’ll do it again.

We’ll do an anniversary special with you, But I do want to get to your position as a senior gas control operator with ATCO before we get into that.

Why why did the boom check boys? Why did that come to an end? Oh man, that could be its own episode, but it’s complicated.

There is just business stuff, personality stuff.

Kind of just it was kind of fading and people wanted to go in different directions and yeah, that’s a probably leave it at that.

It was disappointing.

We all invested a lot in and that our agency had that we were with and management and we all put a lot into it.

But yeah, it was, it kind of it, it’s shelf life at, at the height of our success I guess whether they say go go with a bang I guess, I don’t know.

It seemed like we were, we were definitely making the most money we’d ever made and we were kind of hitting the big festivals.

But it just sometimes it’s hard.

It’s like being married to five people and sometimes that it’s not always the easiest thing in the world with personalities.

That’s why a lot a lot of bands are sometimes just solo artists with hired people, you know, in that industry, my background, it was never country anyways, but I did embrace it and write right for it and stuff.

But I was more of a rock pop singer, songwriter type music, Beatles, Beatles.

And so yeah, it’s a different it’s a different structure for sure.

But yeah, as far as why the band broke up, that that can be a long story and I think I’ll just leave that.

Leave it to Okay.


Senior gas control operator with ATCO, Can you explain to our listeners what that job is all about? Well, the kind of things play way down quick as far as the gas price.



I’m just like, yeah, let’s talk about your your typical day.

What’s your day to day like when you when you leave the house and go to your shift.

6 or 6 to 6.

So a set would consist of two or three days on and two or three nights.

So you have a day between us, we call it to four, but it’s a 24 hour break between so you can transition the nights.

But yeah, 12 hour day shifts.

I would get there quarter to six handoff from the night.

The night people like the night operators and then yeah, you’re just kind of getting up to speed on jobs that are happening that the system demands.

We have different times of the day where the gas load is higher so we call morning load.

So and definitely in the wintertime, like when everyone’s waking up and getting ready for work, the furnaces are kicking in hotter.

Like we’re trying to compensate for that with the system and the night person before you is usually bringing extra gas on so that everybody is supplied properly for the demand.

So a lot of it’s a lot of forecasting too.

You’re looking at weather trends, you’re looking at past years where similar weather situations were were involved or you can learn from those and then apply to that day so you don’t get caught with your pants down.

I guess we would just say, What kind of education did you take to, to get this position and do you remember your job interview to get into.

ATCO Yeah.

education wise, there are people that have taken the gas control tech course and Nate, some people have power engineering degrees to get into this.

I did have to have a diploma or a degree of some kind, so my audio visual at least got me in the door.

But my eight and a half years experience on the gas side and like the distribution side, which is customer gas side, helped me get in and I was already in the company, but help me get an interview.

And so I had a good understanding of that side of things dealing with the field operations.

And then I had to learn the other the technical side of it.

But it was three years of training.

I don’t know how many exams I did.

We had back in the day when I was training, we had to memorize the pipeline systems and be able to draw them out on a board and explain how the different segments, we call them transmission.

So they’re segmented into different areas and we had to explain how they worked and where the gas came from, how we can deliver it here.

Can we increase gas pressure through compression? Excuse me.

So as three years of training for that and then to become a senior is another 2 to 3 years of showing that you’ve taken on additional roles, you’ve trained other people, you’ve responded in emergencies and been able to come out adequately, even where you you control the situation.

Maybe you brought in some innovations and and into the into the team to where things could be done differently, more efficiently.

It all gets kind of tabulated and then yeah, and then when you’re ready the you get the step up to senior with with it comes more responsibilities and more more roles of being looked to.

So And can we talk about some of the challenges he experience in, in your job and do you think your career as a musician playing in front of 20,000 fans helps you handle stress? Yeah, On area just some of your challenges because I’m trying to wrap my mind around you’re dealing with pressurized gas.

That sounds stressful.


Like, yeah, big thing.


Right now.


Every day you.

Yeah, yeah.

And I like how you tie some experiences from your your past life into the role that you’re in now.

Does ATCO is it a company that promotes growth in in your career and advancement.

Yeah well yeah now I yeah well I so really proud to What do you love about working at Echo? They’re really good talking about us.

Well, they way they were great.

Yeah, very.

Yeah, I am.

I’m sorry that your wife and your family went.

Went through all of that.

And it’s nice to hear that Atco is a supportive company that would get you through that.

That tough time.

Yeah, all I felt was support and then they allowed me to take some time off when she had her surgeries and, and kind of ease back into work and just always asking about how she was doing.

And that was it.

It makes you appreciate where you work even more and you kind of have I feel like I had maybe have a different loyalty than maybe some people would have, But, you know, nothing’s no job is all roses.

Right? But when the pros way outweigh the cons.

Yeah you’re you’re thankful and yeah, I’m I’m happy where I am and I like the people I work with and I’ve had a really good experience with pretty much everybody I’ve worked with in the different fields.

And I still keep in touch with a bunch of them and some of them have been recruited into where I work now.


How is your wife doing now? Good.

First of all, actually, I want to say I’m so grateful and to hear that she’s doing well, so that’s good.

But If you were to speak to somebody that is interested in applying and becoming a employee with Atco, what what would you say to them? What puts them in the best light to sell themselves as a good worker? For Atco, Yeah, yeah.

And then you actually got a place that was we have a great feedback that really yeah, there were and be a good worker.

I was going to ask that’s actually a perfect segue way into.

How do you find the work life balance with your career? I like yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. No.

Looking back over your life, would you have done anything differently with with the careers that you chose to proceed or like, Yeah, what’s, what’s next for you, do you think? Continue to pursue your career with that? Go Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, right, right, right. Now.



Head up to head up to Denmark.

Actually, that are you. Oh, good.

I’ll talk to you about that.

After tips on traveling to Denmark, do you have Scandinavian roots in your family? Yeah.


That’s a nice mix.

Before I let you go, actually, I just thought of this.

So you have made career pivots as we’ve discussed.

What advice would you give to somebody that’s looking to make a career pivot? Yeah.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.

Sometimes if.

Yeah, but yeah, yeah.

Well, I am so happy that your wife made it through the breast cancer situation.

And I wish you and your family well.

And thank you so much for coming on to share some stories about your life with our listeners.

I appreciate it, Joel.

Thank you for tuning in to the Job Talk Podcast.

For more information, please visit us at Our podcast music was created by our friend Mike Malone in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.

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