Paradigm shifts: Project leader grows, improves through Systems Tech
Jason Meaux's route to an engineering career may not have been the most direct, but it was effective, with each stop along the way building on the last.
Meaux's most recent stop, the Master of Science in Systems Technology at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, helped bring his diverse training and professional experience together.
After training to become a fire fighter, Meaux earned an associate degree in fire science, and then a Bachelor of General Studies degree from UL Lafayette.
“I would sit front row and raise my hand, ask lots of questions, kind of a geek,” he says.
After completing his bachelor’s, Meaux went to work in the oil and gas industry and that’s where he’s been growing and advancing for more than a decade as a project controls lead in marine engineering.
Busy as he ever was, working full-time and raising two young teens with his wife, Meaux dove back into higher education, but the MBA program he enrolled in was not translating to his career how he had hoped. Then a class forum post mentioning UL Lafayette’s M.S. in Systems Technology online program piqued his curiosity.
“I went on UL Lafayette’s site, checked out the curriculum and realized that it was a really close fit with the exact job function I currently have,” says Meaux. “Then I reached out to [program coordinator] Dr. Gholam Massiha and everything else is history.”
Making it work
Meaux worked full-time while in grad school. The demands of his role include regularly traveling between Lafayette and Houston, Texas. Work weeks could be 50 hours; they could be 70 hours.
The three factors helping Meaux meet academic challenges were disciplined organization, the ability to compartmentalize schoolwork, and instructors’ support.
“I have a numbered and alphabetized file structure, and my job is basically project controls, which is cost and schedule, so I'm pretty adept at scheduling,” he says.
While some students complete small school tasks each day, Meaux’s weekday schedule — sometimes 12- or 14-hour days — could prove exhausting, so flexibility was a must.
“Oftentimes what I really enjoyed about the program was how it allowed me to crunch all of my schoolwork into Saturdays and Sundays,” says Meaux.
In addition to Meaux’s personal discipline and organizational skills, faculty support was another key to success. Meaux found instructors in the program were consistently engaged with students and available for guidance.
“Dr. Joe Jordan, specifically, made himself available both in the winter break and during the summer break. And we continued to speak even whenever he was not in school,” Meaux says. “So, that showed me the commitment that the program has to its students, and I think that's key.”
Room to grow
For an oil and gas professional with more than a decade of experience in the industry, was a graduate degree worth it? Definitely.
One of Meaux’s most rewarding classes in systems technology was on project management — the kind of work he already does — and it was as challenging as it was rewarding.
“I'm quite experienced in project management, so I expected it to be very easy, and it was not. I had to work the most for that course,” Meaux says.
“It shifted assumptions that I had held within the project management sphere. I think that's exactly what school is supposed to do — it’s supposed to challenge you and give you the tools to go forward on your path and do so in an improved way.”
Graduate school also helped Meaux reach a new professional achievement: getting published in a trade journal.
“Some of the coursework really applied to my current job, specifically the tenants of project management, so I was able to use some of those tools and I was able to co-publish with the ‘Society of Petroleum Engineers’ in November 2020,” he says. “I worked closely with Dr. Jordan, and he was instrumental in coaching me through my graduate project, which I aim to publish with his help next year as my journey continues.”
The degree has changed Meaux’s day-to-day operations as a project controls lead.
“We're implementing tools that make us not only more efficient but also integrate a variety of technologies into our business and do so under a watchful eye of project management,” he says.
Meaux’s noticeable success through the M.S. in Systems Technology program has made him an accidental ambassador for the online graduate degree program.
“Systems Tech was so beneficial to me, and it was so evident to some of my coworkers that it was easy convincing them to apply,” he says. “I've already got one person in my organization to apply for the program, and it looks like I may have a second one coming soon.”
Develop relevant, applicable skills through UL Lafayette’s M.S. in Systems Technology degree program online. Online graduate students receive flat-rate tuition and unparalleled support. Request information today.