SPE Young Professionals: Building Bridges

Have you seen what is happening out there? Young professionals in the petroleum industry are joining together, interacting, and networking in ways never previously seen in our industry. Young professionals are reaching out to students to share their enthusiasm about their careers and provide a lens into their exciting futures. The interaction with a successful young professional gives students insight into the opportunities that exist in the industry. Students have the chance to see the types of new technology that are being used in the industry. They are able to see with their own eyes the kind of career progression available and the career path options that they can begin pursuing immediately. Young professionals have organized themselves, first locally and, over the past 2 years, internationally. They have created programs to accelerate their development, social events to build their technical and social network, and a variety of programs designed to ease the transition from university life to professional life. So, you ask, what is so new?

Much progress has been made in recent months to advance several proposals to improve both young professionals’ and students’ experience in SPE. To attract, retain, empower, and excite the next generation of industry workers, young professionals and the SPE Board of Directors are making several enhancements to existing programs and are introducing new initiatives. These include the following.

  • Student Paper Award winners’ abstracts from SPE’s Annual Technical Conference and Exhibition and International Petroleum Technology Conference will be published in TWA. The winner and all finalists’ full-length papers will be published on the YEPP Network.
  • Increased distribution of TWA to students in their final year of university.
  • The Ambassador Lecturer Pilot Program features young professionals visiting universities and discussing their careers, their interaction with technology, and their experience with SPE.
  • Expansion of Young Member Service Award to regional awards (you have to get started now if you want to win one of these).
  • Student e-Update e-mails will now include a link to TWA and will point out articles of particular interest to students in each new issue.
  • The e-Mentoring program is up and running. Apply now to connect with a mentor who can assist you with your direction in the industry and any technical challenges you may encounter.

Refer to the last TWA issue, the first issue of 2006 (Vol. 2, No. 1), for details about the YEPP Coordinating Committees’ charge and structure, the Ambassador Lecturer Pilot Program, the awards program expansion, and for information about the YEPP Network. You can find out more about the first Ambassador Lecturer visits to universities in this issue of TWA.

The current trend began several years ago with the creation of local young professionals programs in sections around the globe. Twenty-two programs now exist, with many more in active development. Only in the past year or two has the energy really picked up on the international level. It began with the creation of SPE’s first online nontechnical professional network on, designed to bring young professionals together across geographical boundaries. Once young energetic leaders made that connection, the organic growth of new, exciting programs was inevitable. Even I, a self-professed optimist, never expected the startling rate at which this ever-growing network was able to band together, organize itself, and begin generating tangible benefits for SPE. You are now reading the most visible of those products. Since TWA was launched just over a year ago, this novel magazine has been accelerating. The magazine, written and edited by young professionals, initially was sent only to members under the age of 35 and to top-level management. Thanks to a recent expansion, university students in their last year will now also receive the magazine. All other students and the remaining members of SPE will receive an e-Update e-mail with a link to the online version of the magazine whenever a new issue is released.

One of the primary objectives of creating local young professionals programs is to bridge the experience between active participation in a student SPE chapter and active participation in a local section after graduation. Fresh graduates often feel intimidated or apprehensive about immediately contacting the SPE chapter in their new work location, attending meetings, and volunteering on committees. This course of action is, of course, the most effective way to quickly make new friends and contacts in a new location and build a technical network to assist them in rapidly adding value in their new role. Often, people in leadership positions on the section board are senior, experienced engineers and petroleum industry professionals. For a recent graduate, the opportunity to take a leadership role on the board may at first seem inaccessible.

SPE and the industry are aware of the impending “big crew change” and are keen to integrate the perspective of and cater to the needs of the next generation of industry professionals. If your new local section has a young professionals program, the transition is eased by the immediate opportunity to get involved and assist in planning events that appeal to you. As you read through the TWA Local and International Activities section, you can get a sense of the range of unique, interesting, and fun events that are taking place in local sections around the world. If a young professionals program does not exist, there is an international community accessible through the YEPP Network available to support you in the creation of a new program. Best practices about how to establish your own program are being assembled now, and will be available on the Network soon. These programs give young professionals the opportunity to gain valuable leadership experience. YEPP board members plan their own meetings, socials, and philanthropy events, but also assist the main section when needed. A solid mentoring relationship is established that eventually grooms young professionals to take positions on the main section board. Whether it is for questions about starting new local programs or just to network with others, go surf the Network and drop a question on the discussion board. You will be surprised by the connections you will make.

Make the time investment now. Volunteer for your student and/or local SPE section, write or coauthor technical papers, and find ways to improve the community you live in by assisting local charities. Take advantage of your free SPE student member access to the online library to learn more about topics that interest you. The most amazing thing I have realized about my various commitments to SPE and local charities is that the more I put on my plate to accomplish, the more efficient and focused I become; I get more done, and life feels increasingly more fulfilling. We are all representatives of this great industry and are personally responsible for improving the industry's image by educating the public and walking the walk when it comes to making this a better world to live in. Keep it up, and your time investment will pay huge dividends for your future and your career. Your efforts will inspire those around you and may eventually provide your university with some bragging rights and well-deserved recognition by helping win the annual Student Chapter Award.

This is an incredibly exciting time to be entering the petroleum industry. Given the projected energy demand, huge investments and additional personnel will be necessary to supply the oil and gas to keep our global economy running. You will find upon graduation a great number of opportunities in the industry. Your most difficult task will be to choose a direction among the many options. If you would like to learn more about any of the programs mentioned in this article or if you have a suggestion, please contact me at


Josh Etkind earned a BS degree in petroleum engineering from Texas Tech U. in 1999. He works for Shell E&P Co. in New Orleans as a focal point reservoir engineer for the Enchilada/Cougar/Western Gas Area. This area includes seven Gulf of Mexico platforms and two subsea fields. An active SPE member since 1994, Etkind currently serves as the SPE Delta Section Membership Chairperson and is a past president of the local Emerging Leaders Program. He is the Chairperson-Elect of the Young E&P Professionals Coordinating Committee, the Internet Chairperson of the YEPP Network, and serves as the Editor of the Student Link section in TWA. He received the 2004 SPE Delta Section Outstanding Achievement and Service to Section Award and the 2004 SPE International Young Member Outstanding Service Award.


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