Essential skills for 2020 curiosity and lifelong learning

Mark Little at Suncor site

Some might say this year’s graduating classes deserve a ‘do-over,’ having done the hard work without the same level of support as previous graduating classes. After years of learning, their degrees, diplomas, certificates and awards are all deserving of celebration and ceremony.

Suncor takes lifelong learning and curiosity seriously enough to embed them into its values. This value encourages growth, challenges the status quo, and encourages people to learn from and support each other in making the world a better place. It has also helped Suncor navigate the unpredictable curveballs of 2020 including the challenges of a global pandemic and tumultuous market conditions. 

“If this year has shown us anything, it’s how fast-paced the world is, and that curiosity and continuous learning are essential life skills,” says Suncor president and CEO Mark Little. “This belief certainly gives me a perspective on just how significant the skills and knowledge learned in school are and how they can have a huge, positive impact on your lives.”

Earlier this fall, Mark spoke during the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology’s (SAIT’s) online convocation ceremony, where he received an honorary degree. More recently, Mark received an award from the University of Calgary’s Schulich School of Engineering (SSE).

Both schools held virtual events where Mark was recognized for his contributions to the energy industry and commitment to innovation.  

Mark Little received the 2020 Canadian Engineering Leader award for his commitment to continuous innovation through research, teaching and learning.

Mark Little received the 2020 Canadian Engineering Leader award for his commitment to continuous innovation through research, teaching and learning.

What you learn today, will lead you tomorrow

Mark is the 16th recipient of the SSE’s Canadian Engineering Leader Award, which is given to those who demonstrate a commitment to advancing the energy industry with continuous innovation through research, teaching and learning.

“Being from Calgary and having gone to the University of Calgary, it’s incredibly meaningful to receive this recognition,” says Mark. “It’s amazing how science and engineering have led to many breakthroughs for Suncor. And the breakthroughs of this year have been critical to our success as we continue to operate our facilities and use technology that allows our employees to connect in ways we have never connected before.”

In his remarks to SAIT graduates, Mark explains that although he had lots of theoretical knowledge from his first science degree, his further education allowed him to learn how it all applied to his company’s operations.

Earlier in his career, when he was managing an oil sands operation in Cold Lake, Alta., Mark realized that there was a lot he didn’t understand about the business, including many of the processes and technologies the company was using regularly.

“While I’m honoured to be recognized for these awards, I’m reminded of how much I’ve learned from so many colleagues, leaders and peers in my own journey.”

Finding ways to support this kind of learning is also a hallmark of the new post-secondary donation program launched by the Suncor Energy Foundation in 2020. More than $1 million was donated through this program to ensure the next generation of graduates, ceremony or not, are well prepared for whatever the future holds.