Glen Walker: A leader in oil, construction, and kindness
OUT OF THE BLUES
by Maggie Boyle Judi
At the beginning of every summer, in the shadow of the south peak of the Abajos, a group of rambunctious boy scouts and their leaders camp amid the hallowed ground of the great San Juan County outdoors.
Their purpose, at this week long camp called Timberline, has always been to teach and learn young scouts leadership qualities and abilities.
For Glen Walker, son of Mel and Ilene Walker, this camp coupled with his “awesome” childhood in Monticello proved to be a jumping off point for a career which began in the military and currently spans the world in places like Korea, Saudi Arabia, Calgary Alberta Canada, and the North Shore of Alaska.
In the early 1990’s, Glen spent a portion of his summers first attending, then staffing the Timberline camp. It was, he says, “We really just learned how to try our best.”
He especially remembers the leadership of Camp Director Steve Lovell, who in his words, was, “A perennial scouter who has dedicated his whole life to scouting. I just remembered overall how much he cared about scouting and us boys.”
Glen Walker loved his time in Monticello and remembers his time fondly, “Monticello is an awesome place to grow up.”
The small town framework lent it self well to Glen Walker’s development as a success in the world of engineering. “At the time it wasn’t any big deal, it was just what we did. We had chances to try everything.”
But it was a big deal, Glen played nearly every sport offered at MHS, was the lead in the school play, and co-valedictorian (Brad Young of Monticello shared the honor with him in 1996).
He took state in solo and ensemble with his trombone, was the winner of the state science fair and, along with the former Millie Redd, attended the National Science Fair in Birmingham, AL.
What I remember most of Glen was his kind manner. He never said a rude word, never laughed at a cruel joke, and always had a positive outlook, smiling whenever you saw him!
These days, Glen Walker works as an Execution Engineer, which, he says, “does not mean I kill people.”
He engineers and “executes” millions, sometimes billion dollar construction projects for Exxon. Currently he travels from his home in Springville, UT to the oil fields of Alberta, CA for five weeks of work that includes leading massive teams of workers in the task of developing, building and eventually implementing a massive tailings clean-up facility for the oil extraction process Exxon is involved in there. A job tinged with irony considering that Glen’s formidable years included the massive tailings clean-up of our beloved hometown.
Upon leaving Monticello and serving a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in Paraguay, Glen joined the ROTC at Brigham Young University.
This scholarship, along with one he earned as the Science Sterling Scholar winner, allowed him to pay for his schooling. He remembers the example of Mark Skousen in becoming an ROTC member.
He married his wife Meagan in 2001, graduated in engineering in 2003 and was thrown right into the world of leadership and project management as an officer in the US Air Force. “The military does a lot of things well, but the thing they do the best is teach leadership,” says Glen.
Fresh out of college, the Air Force entrusted Glen with various projects from runway and road construction to the management of the base housing including three different bases. “That’s where I got my feet wet in the project management career,” he says.
In the late fall of 2007, Glen was deployed six months to Riyad, Saudi Arabia, which, he says, wryly referring to Iraq, “was nice to be in a place where people weren’t actively shooting at me.”
Whilst in the arena of war, he buiIt “a lot of little projects and a couple of big ones.” But mostly what he took from that experience was yet another lesson in leadership. “As a leader, you’ve gotta show your workers that you are willing to get your hands dirty sometimes.”
Saudi Arabia is peopled with many Third World migrants who come to the oil rich country to work for much more money than they can get in their native lands. The Suadi culture depresses these people into a lower status, but Glen wasn’t about to separate himself from his workers.
He got them all safety glasses, and encouraged them to wear them. “It’s a slow process,” he remembers, “they saw it more as a gift not an actual tool. Your not gonna change the culture overnight but I really tried hard to talk to the workers themselves, not just their construction managers or project managers, just try and talk encourage them and show them safer ways to do things.”
He remembers a time when the workers needed to move a huge and very heavy piece of steele. He arrived at the worksite to see these hard working migrants rigging up a crude pulley system with just what was on hand.
His words paint a picture in my mind that looks like a bunch of teenage boys building a fort, or maybe a gaggle of 12-13 year old scouts learning skills from teenaged staffers at Timberline, to which Walker says, “It kind of is. It was scary, hilarious and impressive. They are Third World nationals, and they are the hardest working people you will ever meet.
“They come from a country where they are supporting probably 50 people from their family and they will figure out a way to get the job done. You tell them to go do something and they will figure it out.”
No matter how hard it is or how long it takes. Which is indicative of Glen himself. His success as a leader boils down to a simple formula.
“It comes down to caring for the people. I care about people. I have no problem talking to the richest person, I have no problem talking to the poorest person. He learned those things in the shadow of the blues. He learned from Mr. Eardley, Mr. Long, and Mr. Reeve at MHS how to get the best out of people, he watched Steve Lovell lead brigades of teenage boys into leadership positions, and all of this he remembers had the element of kindness.
Whether he is building facilities in Korea, and shipping them to the chaotic North Shore of Alaska, traveling the world or making cupcakes with his wife and two children Ethan, 12, and Madelyn, eight, or managing the facilities of one of the biggest companies in the world, Glen Walker does it with the most important leadership quality of all. Kindness.