Three Generations of Service: Tommy Shines as Design Group Manager

If Tommy's interest in drafting and design, as well as his passion for the environment, didn’t lead him to Tessenderlo Kerley, his family ties certainly would have.

A design group manager, Tommy is a third-generation member of Tessenderlo Kerley. His grandfather was a purchasing manager for Western Environmental Management (Tessenderlo Kerley would later purchase the engineering and construction portion of that company), and his mother was a field office manager at Tessenderlo Kerley.

“When my grandfather worked here, I was young, so I didn’t really understand what he did, what the company did. But when my mother worked for the company on a project in Billings, Montana, I learned more about what we do,” Tommy said. “I realized we’re not making gasoline. We’re not making diesel fuel. We’re taking refinery gases and making sulfur. I asked, ‘What do you do with sulfur?’ One of the folks there told me, ‘Well, we make fertilizer from that.’”

After gaining an interest in drafting and design in middle school, Tommy began taking related courses at a junior college while he was still in high school. He went to work for a mine and became an engineering technician, then found his way into surveying before joining Tessenderlo Kerley.

“It’s a career that I could see myself enjoying, and not just as a job,” he said. “I’ve always enjoyed art, but more the technical aspects of art – looking at line thicknesses, sharp lines, things like that. And that naturally turned over into architecture. From there, it turned into drafting and design details. I found that's a career path that I could look into, and I went for it.”

Tommy has already added a substantial amount to his family’s legacy during his 11 years at Tessenderlo Kerley. He was the design lead for a major expansion of the Billings plant, leading to a crucial increase in production there. He also helped design a new a sulfur tank at Tessenderlo Kerley’s plant in Finley, Washington.

“It was my first time doing 3D modeling for a Tessenderlo Kerley project completely on my own – developing the model and developing the drawings for that, putting together the package of drawings, giving that to my manager, and going out and being physically able to go to the plant and lay out the project from the ground up. And it was great to go back there years later and see it still in operation,” he said. “Getting to see the different plants, it's allowed me to grow much faster than I would by just working in the office. It’s much better than just looking at it on paper.”

During his travels, Tommy loves educating people he meets at a restaurant or airport who assume Tessenderlo Kerley is an oil-and-gas producer that doesn’t care about the environment.

“You can tell them, ‘No, we don't produce oil and gas. We take the tail gas streams off of these refineries and we produce liquid fertilizers from them.’ And automatically, their eyes open up, and they go, ‘Really? I didn't know that there was a company out there that did that,’” Tommy said. “And then, they always say, ‘What was the name again?’ I’ll tell them, ‘Tessenderlo Kerley.’ And they say, ‘OK, I don't think I'm gonna forget that name.’ And you walk away believing that.”

Like his mother and grandfather, Tommy has been given the chance to pursue bigger and better things at Tessenderlo Kerley. It’s one of his favorite things about where he works.

“There are people in our group that have been here for 20, maybe 30 years, they started out making copies of drawings, and they've been able to develop and grow. And now, they're our capital projects managers and our project control managers,” he said. “I've been given that opportunity, and knowing that you're not going to just hit a ceiling and that you can continue to grow, I think that really helps everyone.”