Alyssa willis with distilled water machine

For Alyssa Willis, her dad embodies everything she aspires to be.

He encouraged her to pursue a deep passion for science and fostered her curiosity about the oil and gas industry. In addition, he showed Alyssa how certain jobs can change lives for the better, and in doing so inspired her to pursue a career in a male-dominated industry. Her dad previously worked as a mechanic at BP’s Cherry Point Refinery and has also served in a variety of roles on Alaska’s North Slope oil fields.

“My dad is the hardest working person I know,” said Wills. “He doesn’t have a degree yet worked his way up in the industry and ensured my brother and I had every opportunity to succeed.”

Willis was fascinated by science and technical processes (organic chemistry was her favorite) as a child. When she began to consider career paths, she chose to pursue a career in oil and gas and follow in her father’s footsteps.

After graduating from Bellingham Technical College’s (BTC) process technology (PTEC) program in 2017 with an associate’s degree, she landed a job as an operator at Shell’s Puget Sound Refinery (PSR) in Anacortes, WA. She started working at the site this past July.

She hit the ground running from day one and said her love of organic chemistry serves her well since it’s a key aspect of process operations.

Willis, who grew up in Ferndale, WA, graduated from BTC with a 4.0 and served as the president of the ‘Students for Local Industry Club,’ where she and her peers advocated locally about the benefits that local industries provide.

She and a few classmates also formed a team known as the Vortex Breakers and represented BTC in Texas for the 2017 North America Process Technology Alliance (NAPTA) National Troubleshooting Competition. During her second year at BTC, she worked part-time as a peer mentor and tutor to develop professional experience.