Eric

Managing Director / Chief Engineer / Energy Industry Leader
Last Updated: June 9, 2017
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Career Development
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More than five years after a profile article was originally published on RigZone.com(original source) and cDiver.net - and after a recently released interview on Drillers.com(https://drillers.com/eric-roth-interview/), OilVoice.com, and OilPro.com - I still often receive emails from either young professionals or mid-career changers asking for advice on both getting into and succeeding in oil and gas. I am most humbly grateful for this consideration and respond to as many as possible, so in the interest of being able to share this information widely for the use of others, I will try to address it directly in more detail.

Take a moment to think of some of the rarest qualities that one would hope to find in professionals or prospective candidates, in any field or industry. Now take another moment to think of the rarest qualities one could hope to find in professionals within the Oil and Gas industry worldwide. Any ideas? Somewhere within your answers to both of these questions alike would most likely be an individual who is a combination of a sound operational advisor, and a knowledgeable technical engineer.

As most of us know, these two qualities are difficult to find in one individual serving in a supervisory post. As with most industries, unfortunately normally we find those who are either a good operational leader or a sound engineer, not both.

As an example, in my own chosen specialism, Rig Integrity/Operational Assurance and Operational Performance and QHSSE for Drilling & Wells, one has to constantly stretch and develop himself and his competencies, in order to stay relevant and valuable to his clients. For the aspiring professionals in training, or those who have recently began careers in O&G, this is a good opportunity to develop themselves in each area going forward, which enables them to market their services to a specific audience, as someone who understands the operations being conducted. After a certain level, one must be able to eventually provide a particular value which distinguishes yourself from amongst your peers.

Why is this important?

First, a little background…

All aspects of onshore and offshore oil and gas operations – what we broadly term petroleum engineering, and includes the full life cycle of the well, from reservoir and formation evaluation, to drilling and completions, to production operations, to workovers and well service work, to plugging and abandoning – are inherently very technical in nature, requiring analytical methods to be used throughout the well life. This requires continuous monitoring and management of the equipment, procedures, processes, and manpower (which is often comprised of people from many different cultures and nationalities). To compound this, these are without question some of the most hazardous environments in the world to be working in, when you take into account the hands-on nature, moving parts, heavy equipment, high temperatures, high pressures, fluids with chemicals, and many types of stored energies. We have built on our industry knowledge from all the way back to the 1800’s when the first onshore oil wells were drilled using rudimentary tools, to the capabilities we are developing and using today in ultra-deepwater and extreme environments. And yet, we are still exploring in ever deeper wells and water depth, more challenging geology, and more remote locations using, in parallel, both aging and newbuild rig fleets for the well construction – all of this demands a level of understanding and methods high above those which were once sufficient for these operations.

The bonus is that this also makes it one of the most interesting and exciting career fields in the world for young and mid–range professionals (of any specialty) to be a part of. It is high risk/high reward. The technologies we are implementing today to help solve downhole challenges are truly awe inspiring. Because of these, we need experts who are aware of the operating procedures, so that they can effectively assist the engineering teams with mitigating/minimizing the associated hazards created from these type of highly specialized operations. This does not always occur only on a piece of paper written from our desks miles and miles away from the site.

There has been quiet a number of articles written the last couple of years on the coming skill gap with the great crew change ('ahem, I know, not this yet again?!' ;), and in particular the urgent need for more university engineering graduates. However, not always mentioned is the fact that it is not required that one necessarily have an engineering degree to be successful in the oil and gas industry, as long as this individual can demonstrate a certain level of technical aptitude in field applications and has the desire to learn, and a willingness to start in literally any entry level job - regardless of education level or roles done before in other fields (as I had to initially swallow my pride to do, having previously served in elite military forces, as a Marine on special teams protecting dignitaries, presidents, and world leaders, having been on duty in the middle of, and leading teams during actual major international crisis situations, and thereafter in similar "glamorous" jobs in the private sector). "Hmmm", I wondered at the time, "what one of the billionaire CEO's or A-list movie stars I was working for in Hollywood just the previous year before I resigned [really], would think if they realized I was now a deckhand cleaning toilets on a liftboat in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico??!!" - No, I've never regretted that decision.

To complement the above qualities, we also need these same advisors to be emotionally intelligent, highly adaptive, and efficient in the field dealing with personnel from every type of department, and to be able to communicate effectively (through the use of adequate ‘**soft skills’ such as empathy, situational leadership, cultural awareness, and direct communication** among others) with contractors or subcontractors as well as their own teams and communities where the projects are conducted.

Moreover, this capacity for being able to work in a team is important to relay information and get engagement with basic guiding principles, such as international standards set forth by API, BS & HSE (UK), OSHA, NORSOK, IMO ISM, ISO, and any other relevant organizations which put forth approved best practice recommendations, depending on what region we work in and the registered origin of our company. He/she must have the ability to cascade lessons learned from the field, not only locally or regionally, but also from worldwide events, to all levels of the operating organization vertically and laterally, in order to prevent the re-cycling of incidents. Worldwide coverage of accidents such as those at Macondo and Montara, and many others less known, are only the final result in a series of escalating smaller events which ultimately caused the final well integrity failure. As is the question many times when we look at our goals, personal and professional, we now come to the point of asking ourselves:

That’s where we want to go… so how do we get there?

The candid answer is that there is no road map; you'll be required to blaze your own trail. There are, however, some gentle suggestions which may help you get started....

The first obvious step is to decide, firmly, that this is the chosen area we would like to dedicate our professional lives to, and stick to it. The reason is because becoming a fully competent professional, especially in an industry as demanding and technically challenging as ours, requires self-motivation and an ever present desire for knowledge. You will be learning the trade for the rest of your life; its not a part time side hobby, it has to be a passion. One way to shorten the learning cycle is to ask for advice from the previous more experienced generation who are nearing retirement age, who have been in the business for many, many years - pick their brain, listen to their stories, and their own lessons. And as other writers have previously mentioned… make no mistake, there are and will be hardships, such as extended time away from home, long hours, steep learning curves, failures, and yes, sometimes harsh, uncomfortable conditions.

The second, is to choose a specialization area for the focus of our interests. This may require new crew members to take any available entry role and work up through several areas, deciding eventually which specialty he/she prefers. For example, either upstream or downstream; onshore or offshore; drilling rigs or production platforms; domestic or international. This allows us to focus our energies (important in any area of life, we find as we get older); the technologies we use are changing and improving at a healthy pace, and we have to be willing to update our notions of what we believe to be best practices in safety and operations as novel ideas are being generated and put into use. And we have to continue to ask new difficult questions, regardless of, and sometimes in the face of what has always been done before.

The third, as alluded to above, continually develop yourself on matters that are applicable to your chosen area. If you are already employed in a position in your desired type of role, do not simply wait for and depend on your current employer to devote the time and resources to send you to development courses or seminars. Be willing and ready to bear your own costs on your own time (think longer term investment, not sunk costs!), as this might be the only way to build the knowledge base you want. Read white papers, technical publications, and books focused on your job family, seek membership in groups and international organizations such as the Society of Petroleum Engineers (spe.org) and/or the International Association of Drilling Contractors (iadc.org), which offer information and advice on issues critical to our industry. The information is out there and it is abundant - all we have to do is use the initiative to seek it out.

[In your eager pursuit of the above, it is important to remember this: there are two types of integrity... one having to do with industry (operational, asset, mechanical, etc), and the other which is PERSONAL INTEGRITY. At the very least, uphold and be an "expert" in this second one - DO the right thing by people, and treat others kindly, even if and when others do not; DO NOT sacrifice your personal integrity in the pursuit of the dollar or individual short term gain. This business is cyclical, and you have to be willing to weather the storms, the low times, to survive in it. Be willing to graciously give and assist without expecting something in return, and serve as a positive example others can aspire to follow. Your reputation and legacy is what will remain after the job and material benefit are long gone.]

This is the Ultimate Need

To summarize, the value of a cross functional operations advisor or specialist (whether in drilling, intervention, production, servicing, marine, or other) within our industry - who has the competence and emotional intelligence (and again, with personal integrity) to not only be an effective field leader capable of communicating across all demographic groups, but who also possesses the technical knowledge to assist senior management and key personnel with engineering challenges that present themselves during, and are unique to, oil and gas operational phases (rather than someone simply with regulatory knowledge for example), - will be invaluable to contractors and operators alike in the near term and future, as we continue to expand to these more challenging environments. As the skills gap grows more acute and the need greater, it is a good time to become an oil and gas professional. Truly, all the best - because your success is our success as an industry!

See you in the patch.

@ericrothrsp

SenergyConsultants.com

RigIntegrity.com

linkedin.com/in/ericrothrsp

*Note, an alternate version of this blog was originally published as an article (under my name as author) in an ASSE O&G Technical Publication in 2013. I've updated and amended to address the subject more broadly.*

Career Development Professional Development Career Management Upstream Oil & Gas Oil & Gas Upstream Drilling & Completions Wells Project Management
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