A Conversation with Matt Hula - Anvil's Pathfinder

For most people, getting up early to run through miles of dark, cold, and wet Pacific Northwest wilderness – with your coworkers, no less – would not be an ideal way to spend a weekend morning. Thankfully for us, Matt Hula is not most people. 

Over the last several months, the Process Safety Resource Manager has organized several cross-country runs for interested Anvil employees and their families. Each week, Matt scouts a location and provides details to his coworkers online, estimating an overall difficulty rating for each respective track. 

Led by Matt, the Anvil Trail Running Club have already explored trails within the Chuckanut Mountains, around Lake Whatcom, and through Larabee State Park, with many more trips planned for the near future.  

“I figured that providing an easy experience for people to see the local beauty and trails of Whatcom while exercising was a no-brainer. Any time outside and moving is valuable for the body. I want Anvil employees to have a chance each week to join in on this adventure – the fact that most every trail in Bellingham is beautiful I hope provides an extra incentive.” 

What kind of employee organizes something like a trail-running club for their coworkers? And who, of all people, would have the discipline, integrity, and generosity to keep such a thing going? For those who work closely with Matt Hula, none of this might even come as a surprise – for as long as we’ve known him, there has yet to be a challenge that Matt has ever shied away from, nor a call for help he has ever ignored. 

For many of Anvil’s employees, Matt Hula is a trusted guide through the tangled, unknown regions of our most complicated projects – an experienced shoulder we may all rely upon. As Anvil’s pathfinder, Matt has spent the last thirteen years taking us where we have never been before. 

  

  Matt Hula and Elizabeth Sowers.

 

Matt Hula grew up in a stereotypical Midwestern town in the suburbs of Indiana. 

“Most of the parents of my friends, including mine, were shift workers, union workers, and farmers,” Matt says. “The culture was one of extremely hard work, commitment, and planning for the next generation.” 

Because of that work culture, Matt spent a lot of time with his grandparents and great-grandparents, from whom he learned much about “hard work and perseverance.” Matt’s grandfather attended Lane Tech in Chicago, a preparatory school focusing on science and math. Unfortunately, his academic journey began alongside the Great Depression – before long, Matt’s grandfather and many of his peers were forced to abandon their education. 

Matt’s father also pursued an education in science and engineering, but circumstances would dictate a transition out of college. 

Eager to accomplish the goals his father and grandfather had set before him, Matt graduated from Purdue University in 1998 with a degree in Chemical Engineering. 

 

Many of the hikes Matt organizes feature scenic views of the Pacific Northwest, as captured above.

 

Before joining Anvil, Matt spent eight years at a refinery in Wyoming, where he served multiple roles. 

“My time at Frontier Refining was the most impactful of my career, prior to joining Anvil,” Matt says, “I remember the relationships I built with other engineers and operators the most, but I also remember this period being like the school of hard knocks – seeing firsthand the devastation of incorrect procedures that led to heater explosions or seeing severe electrical burns during routine work.” 

According to Matt, these failures gave him a focused perspective on the value of teamwork and meaningful relationships of caring and respect. During this period, he learned how to make quick, collaborative, and informed decisions. 

After learning everything he possibly could at Frontier, Matt decided it was time for a change. Eager to turn a new page, Matt applied to a position at Anvil in 2011 after falling in love with the Pacific Northwest.  

“I visited the area to experience the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver,” Matt says. “It was like no other place I had ever visited.” 

Today, Matt serves as Anvil’s Process Engineering Resource Manager. It’s his responsibility to manage and lead a team of skilled engineers and designers across several of Anvil’s most important projects. 

Haley Darlinton, a Jr. Process Engineer, has worked under Matt’s tutelage for a little over a year now. 

“Matt is both very intentional while also being really easy going,” Haley says. “It’s a privilege to work for someone who you really believe has your best interests in mind, someone who is always seeking out opportunities for his team to improve from.”

As a mentor to nearly forty-five engineers, Matt holds a great deal of responsibility in guiding many of our younger employees through a complicated and changing industry.

“Matt has always been a very impressive communicator and it has been wonderful to work with him,” Porter Nelsen says. “From my chats with him, the happiness and progression of his employees has always come first. I’ve already had several talks with him about where my career might go, and what he can do to help me get there.” 

Porter, who joined Anvil nearly one year ago, works out of our new office in Salt Lake City as a Jr. Process Engineer. 

“As a resource manager, he is also adamant about our group on staying up to date on training,” Carlos Hernandez says. 

Carlos works alongside Matt as the Workgroup Lead to the Process Department. 

“He knows that the better technical knowledge we have, the better we’ll be able to help our clients,” Carlos says. 

“I would not have accomplished what I have without a great support team, great mentors, and great professional support,” Matt says. “I have adopted a lot of attributes and habits from past leaders – Jim Turner, Jim Wakefield, Andy Heister, Bill Carter, Werner Plagge – because those attributes and habits work. I use them daily to help mentor and guide my staff at Anvil. My success is directly tied to their success.” 

When mentoring his employees, Matt often finds himself calling upon three key principles. 

“First, have a plan when presenting a solution,” Matt begins. “Second, do not let things pile up – on your desk or in your inbox. Finally, be curious, not judgmental.” 

Matt also recalls a saying that he admits to referencing almost daily, a quote from the philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson: 

“Nothing is more simple than greatness; indeed, to be simple is to be great.” 

Like most pathfinders, Matt relies on the direction of those who have come before to help guide his way. Drawing on his own experiences, Matt then shows others a new way forward. 

 

Matt and Ken Koenig, accompanied with family – members of all kinds are welcome in the Anvil Trail Running Club!

 

After thirteen years with Anvil, Matt continues to grow and evolve as an employee and engineer. 

Last year, Matt had an article published in Plant Engineering detailing the benefits of Process Safety Management. 

“We have a lot of successful employees here at Anvil that can contribute to similar articles,” Matt says. “I have learned throughout my career that an extra set of eyes is crucial. The amazing people within Anvil are always willing to help with input to produce the best product that showcases our skills. If we did not collaborate as a team, we would not be as successful and continue to be successful.” 

Thank you, Matt, for your unwavering commitment to finding forward paths – our organization cannot wait to see where you’ll take us next. 

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