John Zahary, BSc (Eng) ’83
Serving the oil industry well
John is the President and CEO of Altex Energy, a private rail terminal and logistics company serving the oil industry. He also is the President and Director of a first nation owned oil company called Frog Lake Energy and the Managing Director of a private heavy oil e&p company Kaisen Energy. He currently serves on a number of boards for companies in the energy and medical industry and is active in industry and volunteer activities such as the Petroleum Advisory Committee of the Alberta Securities Commission. He began his career at Texaco and has worked at a number of companies including President and/or CEO of Petrovera, Viking, Harvest and Sunshine. He has also been active in industry and volunteer activities with the Alberta Chamber of Resources, Petroleum Technology Research Centre, Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, Canadian Heavy Oil Association, Society of Petroleum Engineers, Asia Advisory Committee and Royalty Review Committee for the Alberta Government, Strategic Advisory Committee for the University of Regina Engineering program, Rhodes Scholarship Selection Committee and Miller Thomson Scholarship. He has a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Calgary and a Master of Philosphy in Management Studies from the University of Oxford.
While the engineering program at UCalgary gave me a solid educational underpinning and helped get my career launched with access to jobs in the oil and gas industry, my favorite memory is the many friendships that I developed during my time at the university.
President and CEO of Altex Energy
What’s your favourite UCalgary memory?
While the engineering program at UCalgary gave me a solid educational underpinning and helped get my career launched with access to jobs in the oil and gas industry, my favorite memory is the many friendships that I developed during my time at the university. Many of these friendships are still very active and I enjoy catching up with my university classmates often. Although we may live far apart and work in completely different industries, the bond from those years that we spent together remains strong.
What was your favourite campus hang-out?
I spent a lot of time in the gym playing basketball and a variety of other sports and games and no doubt followed it up often with a quick one or two at Dinny’s (pretty much the only watering hole on campus at the time) but my favorite campus hang-out spot was the Mechanical Engineering homeroom. While I appreciate that growing enrolment doesn’t make this possible anymore, at the time all students got their own teacher’s desk in the homeroom on the third floor of the Mechanical Engineering part of the building. We had the same desk in the same room for two years. Some people pretty much lived in that room. We had various devices to prepare food, a warroom for our engineering week and other campaigns, a vast collection of job rejection letters (it was a tough time to get a job like it is again the last few years), we even had a dog for a while. While I certainly wasn’t the main protagonist in the room dynamics, it was where everyone went first thing and last thing in the day and many times in-between.
What advice would you give your student self today?
The best advice I would give myself is the advice my father gave me at the time – the people you are schooling with are your classmates, your friends and most likely the people you will work with and play with for the rest of your life – get to know them and stay in touch.
How did your engineering degree help you get to where you are today?
It has helped me immeasurably and in many different ways. I can’t imagine I would be doing most of the things that I do today without it.
How has your career path evolved and changed since your graduation?
Not much – just putting one foot in front of the other down the path. You just have to decide whether to go left or right at each of the forks in the road – happens pretty often.