Although she majored in computing science, Robyn Derdall’s most vivid memory of her Augustana program has nothing to do with computers. A canoeing and camping trip on the North Saskatchewan River, part of an outdoor pursuits course, stands out. “It comes up in conversation again and again,” she says. “I learned the J-stroke and how to turn into an eddy, and I gained some confidence in myself.”
After graduation in 1997, Robyn moved to Calgary to work as a programmer at Chevron Canada Resources. Although the company used a computer language Robyn wasn’t familiar with, she was undaunted. “When you get a job in IT, you really just need to know how to learn. I knew how to learn a new language quickly,” she recalls.
She’s been in the IT department ever since, responsible for supporting software applications for departments such as production accounting, human resources, and communications. “The most challenging and rewarding part of my job has been supporting HR,” Robyn explains. “When something breaks during pay week, it needs to be fixed immediately. The deadlines are strict, and the pressure is intense, but I like feeling appreciated for keeping systems running smoothly.”
Robyn credits her Augustana courses with preparing her for Chevron’s team-focused environment: “The small classes fostered my way of learning. I like to ask questions and then think things through on my own. Augustana encouraged both those things. Now, at work, I love being part of a team of experts. I can ask questions and bounce ideas off my teammates, and then go off to think in isolation.”
Her diverse university courses also provided a background that enables her to relate easily to others. “When I meet new people, not only can I talk about computers, but I can talk about my canoe trip, for example, and about ideas raised in my religion or women’s studies classes,” explains Robyn. “I definitely appreciate the well-rounded education I received.”
Robyn’s role at work extends beyond IT. She takes part in the company’s annual Paint the Town event, painting homes for those in need. She’s a committee member and the IT support person for the company’s CARE project, which aims to ensure all employees are safe at work and home. “I’m proud to be part of something that has become an important part of Chevron culture,” she says.
Robyn has discovered that the Augustana community doesn’t disappear upon graduation. Her recreational Ultimate Frisbee team is made up mainly of Augustana alumni, most of whom she’d never met before. She explains, “When I meet new people who went to Augustana, there is an instant connection, as if we know each other already.” She attributes this partly to a shared sense of place. “Coming from a small campus in a small town, not only do we know the same people and professors, but I also know exactly where they lived and hung out. We literally walked the same paths. That creates an instant sense of friendship.” People and place—that’s what Augustana is about.