From Fort Frances to Angola

By Merna Emara
Staff Writer

For many people, dreams just stay dreams, but Melissa Bond, born and raised in Fort Frances, has found the secret ingredients to making them a reality; hard work and perseverance.

Bond graduated from Fort Frances High School and went on to study civil engineering at the University of Waterloo. She graduated from university in 2001 and took on a job with ExxonMobil in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Bond is now the lead country manager for ExxonMobil Angola. Bond assumed her role in April and is expecting to live in Angola for a couple of years.

ExxonMobil is a global company that has operations all around the world. Given Bond works in the upstream part of the business, she has had experiences living abroad.

Some of the places Bond lived in either for work or school include Fort Frances, Halifax, Toronto, Papua New Guinea, and Houston.

Bond said she wants students at Robert Moore school and Fort Frances high school to know they can achieve whatever they want in life.

“There is nothing special about me,” Bond said. “It’s going to take a lot of hard work, and a lot of determination, but they can absolutely do anything they put their mind to, and I hope that hearing a story about somebody that’s done something different can be inspiring and make them see some of the possibilities they have in front of them.”

Bond is married to Allan Barr, also from Fort Frances, and they have a 10-year-old daughter, Sienna.

Having attended Robert Moore school from kindergarten to grade eight then Fort Frances high school, Bond said she had supportive teachers that always challenged her to strive for the best.

“We had a very typical Fort Frances childhood,” Bond said. “Although we’ve been gone for more than 20 years, my mom and my husband’s family still live in Fort Frances, so we still have lots of ties back to the area.”

Bond said her favourite subjects at school were maths and science and has always been fascinated by bridges and buildings, a reason why she pursued engineering for her post-secondary studies.

Bond’s dad, Peter, was a math teacher for 30 years at Fort Frances high school and said he was extremely supportive throughout her life.

“Just work hard and you can do anything you want to do. It doesn’t matter where you grew up or where you went to school,” she said.

Living in different countries brings its own set of challenges as well. Bond said things like opening a new bank account is tough because there is a long process that has to be followed.

“I’ve been traveling back and forth to Angola since January, and I just got a bank account open today, because of the processes that are different in other countries,” Bond said.

Bond said even shopping for items such as cream or ricotta cheese could be a treasure hunt.

This is one of the reasons Bond said she is excited to bring her daughter to live in Africa so she can learn to not take things for granted in the age of Amazon where everything is at your fingertips.

“It makes you realize how incredibly fortunate we are for where we were born and where we were raised,” Bond said. “We just kind of won the lottery by being born in Canada. We didn’t do anything to earn that or to deserve that.”

Bond leads a team of 500 people, most of which are Angolans and some expatriates. They have four floating productions, storage and offloading vessels that are located offshore (FPSO), in deep water. They produce oil to the FPSOs, process it then it goes to market all around the world.

“We started producing in Angola in 2004, so we’ve been in the country for 25 years and producing for almost 20 years,” Bond said. “At our peak, we were producing about 750,000 barrels a day, which is a lot. That was in the early days of the project. That has reduced significantly but we were always looking to optimize our production and produce as efficiently as possible.”

Bond said the key to leading is getting to know her team and trying to understand them.

“What’s their background, what motivates them to try to optimize and make our team as functional as possible,” Bond said. “It’s definitely a challenge but it’s also super exciting.”

Melissa Bond, left, with her daughter Sienna, 10, and husband Allan Barr, are on their way to Angola, where Bond, a civil engineer, has taken on the role of lead country manager in Angola for ExxonMobil. – Submitted photo