What's Ahead

Jack of All Trades vs. Master of Some: Service Companies vs. E&P Companies

Have you ever wondered what it means, in terms of your career, to work either for an E&P company or for a service company? E&P companies are typically seen as integrated companies that control all facets of the oil industry (exploration, extraction, refining, transportation, marketing) and thus are required to know at least “something about everything” (a “jack of all trades”). Service companies can typically be described as specialized companies able to provide focused expertise (“masters of some”) on many of the challenges found in the oil business—but without ever being in control of the asset. In this issue, TWA explores what all of this can mean to young professionals (YPs) starting their careers in the industry. And here is what our authors had to say about it.

In our featured TWA Interview, John Yearwood (chief executive officer, Smith International) identifies differences in the work scope between the business models of the E&P and service companies. He stresses that interaction between YPs in E&P and service companies is key in our business and that SPE should be used as a platform to bridge any gap that might exist between service providers and E&P operators. Service companies, he points out, are exposed to many more assets than any single E&P company and thus are in a better position to understand best practices in different areas, while E&P companies have a broader understanding of the interconnections among all elements of the business.

Our Technical Leaders, Norm Warpinski (chief technology officer, Pinnacle) and Keng Seng Chan (principal engineer, Petronas), agree that there is no one best way—service or E&P company—for YPs to enter the industry. Sequence, they say, is not critical and the choice depends on the individual. In terms of differences, Warpinski describes service companies as the “keepers” of technology, which can provide YPs with the opportunity to become much better acquainted with the specialized technology and even become “the” experts on the subject matter. Individuals in E&P organizations, he argues, are more likely to have a broader perspective of the oil field with broader responsibilities. Chan stresses that the relationship between service and E&P companies should not be perceived as that of mistrust but rather of close cooperation. He adds that in terms of primary responsibilities, YPs in both companies basically share the same goal of excelling and becoming leaders on what they do within 5 to 7 years.

Our Pillars author, Linda Ames (appraisal lead, BP), shares with us the analogy she was given when she was about to “pick her side of the table”—i.e., whether to join an E&P or a service company. In this analogy, E&P companies and service companies are likened to homeowners and people in charge of specialized home services (locksmiths, electricians, plumbers), respectively. While homeowners own the asset (just as E&P companies own the reservoir) and must be knowledgeable about all its parts, they are not experts about the intricacies of the home, like locks, wiring, and piping. The owners of the asset, however, bear the financial and decision-making responsibility of making the asset operate efficiently, which entails bringing onboard the expertise of service companies—which supply the specialized services that can keep all parts functioning.

In this first issue of the year, you will find the traditional welcoming message from our 2010 SPE President Behrooz Fattahi. He encourages us to continue our participation and volunteerism in our Society, and put our collective talent and skills to action through SPE. He highlights the very active role that SPE has in the area of skill development. The Energy4me initiative, for instance, is a great platform for global outreach that provides the public with easy and ready-to-use information about energy and career options. To learn more about the importance of energy education for YPs and our industry, don’t miss our Forum survey. The results of the survey are thought-provoking and can be an eye-opener for many of us.

And there is always more in your TWA. You will be asked, for example, to move out of your comfort zone by William Cobb, 2008 SPE president and one of our Pillars authors, who challenges us to get involved—no matter where you start. Eve Sprunt (business development manager, Chevron, and 2006 SPE president), our HR Discussion author, shares her career path and tells us to work on a SWOT analysis if we ever contemplate a career change.

As you read ahead, you’d also be delighted: to take our guided tour to another pre-eminent oil destination: Calgary, Alberta (“A YP Guide to…”). You’d be intrigued: to hear and learn about the challenges of work/life balance for working professionals in our Women on the Frontline series. You’d be reminded: of the importance of hard work during our time as YPs by our Soft Skills author. You’d be amazed: by the beautiful sights and scenery that are captured by YPs while in location and featured in “Your Best Shot” section. You’d be glad: to learn how easy it may be to make significant contributions right off the start of your career by joining the Young Professionals Network. Thomas Bruni, a TWA pioneer and our 2010 Young Professionals Coordinating Committee (YPCC) chairperson, gives you the details in his latest YPCC Update.

A New Year and a Goodbye

This is my last issue as the editor-in-chief of TWA. Anthony Onukwu (Eclipse Petroleum Technology, UK) and Max Medina (Weatherford, Canada) are the current TWA leaders in their new capacities as incoming editor-in-chief and deputy editor-in-chief. Deepak Gala (Weatherford, US) is our current communications editor. We have a great team in place and the best leadership in Anthony Onukwu and Max Medina. They have an unparallel commitment to TWA and the most exceptional support in the team of 20+ dedicated volunteers in the TWA Editorial Board. I thank you, the readers; my friends in the current and previous TWA Boards; all TWA pioneers; and my colleagues at SPE for their support throughout the years. To John Donnelly (JPT editor), in special, and all staff at JPT involved in TWA’s publication process, my recognition for their hard work and impressive commitment to making TWA happen. Their unwavering dedication to TWA and its success is duly noted and gratefully acknowledged.

I am always proud to remind my colleagues in other professions that SPE continues to be, to the best of my knowledge, the only professional society that has ever dared to embrace the concept of putting YPs in the driver’s seat and seeking their early and meaningful participation. TWA is resounding evidence of this commitment: a magazine fully dedicated to SPE’s young members that is, at the same time, completely run and designed by them. Now entering its sixth year, the TWA legacy is now ready to shine more than ever before. It was a pleasure being part of this collective journey. Go TWA!

Happy New Year 2010!


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