Volume: 2 | Issue: 5

New People and New Thinking for New Challenges

In the Northern Hemisphere, summer is almost over and this means new graduate engineers will be entering our workforce. This is an exciting time: fresh faces with new ideas.

My experience with new graduates has been universally positive: There is tremendous talent coming into our industry. I see this not only in my own company, but also in equipment and technology providers, engineering companies, and enterprises along the oil and gas value chain.

As the new folks get their feet under the table, discussion often turns to careers and opportunities. Over the years, I have developed a number of “observations/home truths,” which I invariably share as part of the dialogue. I profess no great mentoring or management skills, nor can I be considered a subject matter expert, but I have learned a lot over the last 30+ years. My “graybeard” status gets me invited to engage in the dialogue in group settings, as well as one on one with our new engineers and scientists.

I offer some of my favorite nuggets to provide food for thought for everyone across the maturity spectrum as we welcome new engineers into our workforce. If nothing else, engaging with others about these points will encourage conversation.

  • Just because it computes does not mean it is the truth. I have noticed a universal faith in simulation over the past several years. There is no doubt that modeling and simulation have revolutionized our industry, however, a good practical knowledge of engineering fundamentals is required to ensure that good decisions are made.
  • Simple and elegant is good in communication and engineering.
  • Do not be in a hurry to move into management. Ensure that you are developing leadership skills, as well as engineering skills, throughout your career. Only when these are reasonably well developed will you make a good manager.
  • As a facilities engineer, you need to learn to speak subsurface. Our earth science and reservoir colleagues revel in uncertainty and risk—two elements we need to understand to be good facilities engineers.
  • Building a network takes time and effort; it is worth it.
  • Technology can both unlock and erode value. Knowing when to use new technology and how to ensure that it is mature and fit-for-purpose are key. This sounds simple, but in practice, it is not. If you think that deploying a new technology is easy, you have not done enough work.

These are not earth-shattering observations; in fact, they are obvious. As with many things obvious, they sometimes get lost in our day-to-day business. It is good to occasionally review what we do and how we do it. The arrival of new talent into our industry gives us such an opportunity. 

A trait that I have noticed in the past few years is that our recruits have an amazing ability to deal with data and diversity of ideas. I am impressed by the combination of breadth and depth of their fundamental knowledge.

I see this trait across the globe, irrespective of education system or location. Visit an SPE student chapter or an SPE Young Professionals meeting/event, and you will see what I mean. Today’s petroleum engineers are more aware and capable than I was when I took my first steps into our industry. I have come to believe that knowing what I did then, I would probably not get a job in our industry today. Some of my colleagues and I feel that we would not have been smart enough.

New people and new thinking for new challenges—based on my experiences with the industry’s newest recruits, I think we are in good shape to go forward.


Paul S. Jones is the subsea unit manager at Chevron and a past SPE technical director for Projects, Facilities, and Construction. He is a member of the Editorial Board of Oil and Gas Facilities.


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