Honoured with a Pipeline Leadership Award
Usha Mulukutla – Technical Leader, Environment, Energy Adjudication
Keeping pipelines safe is important, even when they stop being used. Thanks to the work of great people like Usha Mulukutla, who holds a PhD in environmental science, we’ve come a long way in understanding more about how to better abandon oil and gas pipelines.
We aren’t the only ones who think Usha is great. She was recently honoured with a Pipeline Leadership Award from the Petroleum Technology Alliance of Canada (PTAC) for her “outstanding contribution to addressing knowledge gaps and providing leadership in finding new venues for research in the area of pipeline abandonment.” In recognition, PTAC donated to Operation Eyesight, an international organization founded in Calgary in 1963, dedicated to eliminating avoi blindness.
After earning her PhD in India in 1992, Usha worked at World Wildlife Fund for Nature – India as the pollution control coordinator. Here she created a program to educate the next generation of environmentally conscious people. In 1997, her husband Venkat’s career took them to South Korea. As she was not permitted to work in South Korea, Usha took the time to continue her post-graduate learning through the University of Loughborough, U.K.
Usha and Venkat immigrated to Canada in 2002 pursuing a better quality of life. Canada was also a place where Usha could advance her environmental career. This was not, however, Usha’s first visit to Canada.
“I was 23 years old when I first came to Canada for a two-month exchange program at the University of Waterloo – one of only eight students selected by the Canadian International Development Agency,” said Usha. “I was thrilled but at the same time, I was nervous as it was my first time travelling internationally. I was awed by Canada’s pristine nature; however, it was somewhat difficult adjusting to the climate and culture. I had no idea that Canada would be our future home and the place where we would realize our dreams.”
Usha settled in Calgary in 2002 and started at an environmental consulting firm. When a friend told Usha about an environmental health advisor role at Alberta Health Services (AHS), her initial response was that she had no background in health. However, deciding she had nothing to lose she applied and was offered the position.
After five years at AHS, Usha wanted to try something new and in 2008, she accepted an environmental specialist job at the National Energy Board (later to become the CER). In 2013, Usha was promoted to a technical specialist role, and in June 2021 took on the role of technical leader.
“I am very proud of the work the CER is doing on our strategic priorities through research, engagement with landowners, Indigenous peoples, and other key stakeholders. We are coming up with innovative ways of implementing the new pieces of the CER Act.”
Usha also takes pride in her role as a leader and mentor. She works closely with her team to help them feel supported and understand how the work they do connects to the overall goals of the CER.
“I am grateful for the many opportunities I’ve had to challenge myself at the CER. I see it as my responsibility to inspire others and encourage my amazing team to embrace change.”
While Usha likes to focus on the positives and maintain an open mindset, she also believes there is work to be done at the CER linking projects and initiatives across different business units.
“Everyone is doing their bit but our next step is to see the big picture”
Outside work, Usha loves to travel, and explore new places to hike. She has a passion for cooking (which she inherited from her mom). You can often find her in the kitchen preparing one of her famous spicy sauces (there is no such thing as too spicy for Usha). In addition to her full-time work at the CER, Usha also has a part-time job as a dog mom to her beloved Westie, Snowy.
Like many of us, Usha and Venkat are looking forward to being able to travel again. She has not seen her mother in India for over two years, and her son, Pranav, and his wife Alyssa, who are in Sydney, Australia where he is studying medicine. “We’ve been watching the various ‘waves’ of this pandemic over several continents and sincerely hope to be able to visit with family soon.”
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