By Krystle Holdegaard
If you’re working in energy, you’ve probably heard of Mackenzi “Mac” Mitchell, the powerhouse 28-year-old First Nations woman with ten years of oil and gas experience. Mitchell, who is currently the Canadian sales representative for Red Deer-based Katch Kan, worked her way through the industry to build the strong reputation she enjoys today.
Mac is someone you can classify as an “All-Albertan woman” — she has lived in Calgary almost her entire life and loves to be involved in her community. She is a member of the Métis Nation of Alberta and an affiliated family member of the Heart Lake First Nation.
Mitchell recognizes the history of Alberta and believes more people should spend time appreciating Calgary’s western heritage. She is a big fan of the rodeo (the Chucks, in particular),and volunteers her time with the Calgary Stampede. She is the Communication sand Marketing Board Director for Miss Rodeo Canada as well as the vice chair and social media lead for the Calgary Stampede’s First Nations Princess.
Mitchell has also been working closely with Ingrid Schulz from Cody & Sioux in Inglewood, who created the Way Out West festival (WOW Fest) that showcases Alberta’s western heritage and modern West community. She believes that farming, agriculture and energy are so engrained in Alberta’s roots that it only makes sense to see so many familiar faces working in these industries.
This downtown woman started in the oil and gas industry at the young age of 18 in the file room at Nabors Canada. While her friends from high school moved on to university, Mitchell knew she wanted to follow in her family’s footsteps and pursue work in the energy sector.
Mitchell’s father, Terry Mitchell, is an entrepreneurial jack-of-all-trades. He worked his way through a number of industries, specializes in working with First Nations, and showed his daughter the importance of hard work, dedication, and the value of a strong network.
She buckled down and found herself moving up at Nabors. From the file room, she was an administrative assistant, then a sales and marketing assistant, and finally as a sales and marketing representative. After nine years with Nabors and their production services division called C&J Energy Services, she knew that if she wanted to be taken seriously in the industry, she would have to work in the field. She had to walk the walk to be able to talk the talk. “I knew that if I wanted that leverage to become a respectable woman in downtown selling, I needed that field experience. If you’re going to sell oilfield equipment, you have to know what you’re selling, said Mitchell.” Mac took the leap in 2017 and went to the field as a field sales representative. “I called my other half, Les, because I knew I needed help. I said ‘You know what?I’m driving to Fox Creek.’ We had our first date at Ernie O’s Restaurant and Pub, and spent the time driving to every single rig in Fox Creek that we could visit,” Mitchell explains. “He came with me to talk to the consultants and the tool pushers, and that’s where it just started.”
Working in the field helped Mitchell understand the other side of the industry and ignited her passion for energy. “I rolled onto a rig one day and it was –55°C, and they were still out there working like any other day, and they still met with me,”explains Mitchell. “Working in the field was a challenge, but it made me appreciate the hard work and dedication of the people who work in this industry and taught me a lot about myself.”
In less than eight months, Mitchell visited more than 200 rigs and sites. Among her travels, she had stumbled across Katch Kan. “There was an opportunity available at Katch Kan and I knew I had to take it,” recalls Mitchell. “Katch Kan has always been known and used in the industry. I knew I couldn’t pass up this up.”
After Mac had met with Tom Morris, Vice President of Katch Kan, and Quinn Holtby, Founder, President and CEO of Katch Kan, she had hit the ground running. “It feels like I’ve been working for Katch Kan for ten years, even though it’s only been four or five months,” says Mitchell. “The connection I have with Tom,Quinn, and the Katch Kan team is such a perfect fit for me.” Mac’s goals and values lined up with Katch Kan’s, and since then she’s been working to facilitate protecting lives and Mother Earth.
When speaking about her journey,Mac has endless positive things to say about the oil and gas industry. “Working in this industry has given me so many opportunities for personal development.But it hasn’t always been easy. Since I started in 2008, there was a downturn in 2009, then another in 2015, and the industry still hasn’t recovered today.”
Mitchell is always advocating for the industry she calls home, taking every opportunity to share the new advancements and positive stories that come from oil and gas.“Every single drilling contractor that I’ve spoken to is passionate about two things, safety and the environment,” explains Mitchell. “I see that drilling sites are maintained, cleaned and brought back to the conditions they were in prior to when the drilling began…at most times in better condition then when they started.”
The oil and gas sector also contributes to another industry: technology. Drilling rigs and well servicing rigs are made of unbelievably technologically advanced equipment. “There are tools, technology, and programs that I have never seen in any other industry, and it all comes from the innovative minds in the energy sector.”
In the near future, Mitchell hopes to see governments, energy executives, and First Nations work together to strengthen Canada’s energy sector. During her time at the National Coalition of Chiefs, Mitchell chose to share her story of why the industry is so important to her.
“I was supposed to be there to share the Katch Kan story… and I remember thinking ‘everyone knows the Katch Kan story, but I felt that it was important to tell my story.’ I wouldn’t have the education, mentorship, training…basically everything that I have in life if it wasn’t for this industry.”
She told the story of her Kokum (grandmother), Mary Mitchell, who is from Heart Lake First Nation. She saved every penny up to age of 61 to pay for her teaching education and is still to this day, at the age of 80, teaching Cree on the land to the youth. Mac believes it shouldn’t take someone to the age of 61 to get their education. This is one of the reasons why she feels very lucky to be apart of this industry that has given her countless opportunities and mentorship.
When asked if she would recommend this industry to anyone looking for a long-term career,she insisted “absolutely, 100 per cent. It’s tough and it takes dedication,passion, and sacrifice, but you will be surrounded by the utmost knowledgeable,wonderful, and helpful people. ”
Mitchell has seen the industry shift into a new age with more of the younger generation getting involved and working towards a steady career. “The industry is getting younger. The people who have been working in the sector for over 40 years are retiring. There are countless opportunities for personal development, mentorship, creativity,innovation, technology and more.”
Alberta could use more women like Mac Mitchell. We need people who appreciate the past, while advocating for a strong future.