Professional Networks Support SPE Members

Young Professionals (YPs) and other SPE members are finding that one of the best ways to get answers to questions about the oil and gas industry is to go directly to those who work n the field. SPE’s Young Professional Networks (YPNs), which can be accessed at, are interactive outlets that give SPE members a way to communicate with each other through posting questions, discussions, listing of conference dates, and other information.

The SPE Board of Directors, in 2004, established the PNs as a nontechnical counterpart to Technical Interest Groups (TIGs). Currently, there are four PNs, each dedicated to the interests of a particular group, including young professionals, educators, women, and human resources.

Young Professionals Network

The role of the YP is increasingly important to ensure the long-term success of the business of oil and gas production. The YP Network aims to be a knowledge center for YP members. It includes a place to post best practices, presentations, images, and other documents; a discussions forum to ask anything a YP might want to ask; and links for eMentoring, YP awards, local YP programs, the ambassador lecturer program, technical skills development, and a YP Network blog.

“The network platform has stimulated the discussion boards into refreshed activity,” said SPE North Sea Regional Director John Donachie, Associate, Industry and Technology Team, Simmons and Company. “We now see that the YP Network cements the bond between young and student members. Active student members post questions to which enthusiastic young members reply in a mentoring capacity and offer opinion and comment on a broad variety of topics such as career choices, dissertation topics, networking opportunities, and the job market.”

In 2005, Mike Minyard, who worked for Hess in Angola, at the time, was very involved in YP activities and made an observation during a strategic discussion, Donachie said. “Bulletin boards and discussion forums work because there is something specific to speak about. You don’t have successful discussions on the color blue, but you do see endless discussion on, say, a 1969 Chevrolet Camaro. The reason is that the discussion is centered on something specific that has clear boundaries and people can deliver opinions, ideas, and discussion on specific things,” said Donachie.

The materials on the YP Network allow young members to understand how to build activities in their area that are of interest and to take what they can from the global repository and implement it in their local sections. “I read a book recently titled Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything that discusses the rise of collaborative, open-source environments. A key phrase in that book is ‘Think Globally, Act Locally.’ The phrase is attributed to David Brower, the founder of Friends of the Earth (FOE), and was used as the FOE slogan when it was set up in 1969,” said Donachie.

“We began the YP Network using the TIG model and created a discussion board open to YPs. From an initial trial period of 3 months, we discovered that it was not being actively used as a forum for discussion and it was clear that being a YP is not enough for young members to create a reason to have a discussion. We spent time in populating the network with a broad variety of documents across a mix of segments that would act as a draw for YPs and form the basis as a knowledge repository for best practices.”

Donachie encourages active and enthusiastic members to build on the YP Network. “SPE is fueled by the energy and ideas of its members and we actively solicit fresh approaches in how we might do things better,” he said.

Other Networks

In addition to the YP Network, three other networks have also been established: Human Resource (HR) Network, Petroleum Engineering Educators Network, and Women’s Network.

The HR Network is an open podium for SPE members to discuss any issue related to the main asset of the industry, its people. The forum addresses pressing human-related issues with an objective of raising transparency and fairness values in the industry, said Gopi Nalla, reservoir engineer for Chevron and moderator of the HR Network. Hussein Ali and Ali Salem from Saudi Aramco also serve as comoderators for the network.

The network raises HR awareness among members; promotes professionalism, ethics, and values of common human practices; provides the industry with indices that measure the level of satisfaction about people and the work environment; and enriches SPE members with industry experiences, best practices, and lessons learned, Nalla said.

This network is available to SPE members who are interested in the HR discipline and want to post topics, ask questions, make comments, and exchange thoughts and ideas related to the people side of the industry.

The Petroleum Engineering Educators Network’s objective is to develop a better understanding of the industry’s training needs and determine how academia, in partnership with industry, the service sector, and government, can help fill those needs. Discussion topics focus on the evolving roles of these groups and SPE in education. One of the goals of this PN is to strengthen industry/education/ government partnerships to develop the people and technology the industry will need in the 21st century.

The goal of the Women’s Network is to encourage networking among women members who could benefit from sharing experiences and insights on gender-related career issues. The network eventually may create a referral system to enable members to contact other members who are willing to provide individual advice on various topics.

Although many women are fortunate to work in companies that offer equal opportunities, some women experience a noncollaborative, lonely, and, in some cases, hostile, work environment. Because women in the petroleum industry may have few female colleagues at their work location, the network is a good way to bring women together to share solutions on how they have overcome challenges, said Eve Sprunt, University Partnership and Recruitment Manager for Chevron and moderator of the Women’s Network.  

Most activity in the network so far has centered around arranging conferences. “I hope that more women will be willing to post links to useful information as well as conference notices,” Sprunt said. “I recognize that many of the issues women wish to discuss are very sensitive. The network is moderated, so if someone wants to ask a sensitive question (or answer one) they can, at the top of their note, request that the note not be accepted, which would reveal the identity of the person posting, but rather ask the moderator to post the questions and/or responses. In a moderated network, nothing is posted until the moderator has approved it."


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