Focusing on Developing Your Future

The first SPE North American Young E&P Professionals Workshop was held in Keystone, Colorado, during 10–11 April. The event was attended by young E&P professionals from all over North America, including engineers (reservoir, facilities, drilling, completion, and production), sales representatives, land negotiators, and advisers from many companies. Participants from New Orleans to Calgary gathered to discuss their futures within the industry. Experienced members of the oil and gas industry also attended to present various topics that focused on how young professionals can guide their own careers and decide what their futures will hold regardless of industry cycles.

The first day begin with an overview of industry statistics, including the staggering fact that approximately 60% of SPE members are age 45 or older. It was also noted that the 50- to 69-year-old age group is growing faster than the 20- to 35-year-old age group. This emphasized that, as young professionals, we must learn and master the skills that the industry requires in order to fill the shoes of the people who will soon be retiring.

Technical vs. Managerial

On the first day of the workshop, Chet Ozgen of Nitec LLC, a petroleum engineering consulting firm, spoke about the qualities of people who excel in technical and managerial roles. People who decide to take the technical path for the majority of their careers, he said, must have education, experience, expertise, and an in-depth understanding of technical subject matter. On the other hand, those industry professionals who follow the managerial route must master skills such as conflict resolution, decision making, problem solving, and the business side of the industry to be successful.

The second speaker of day one, Jeff Bush of CSI Recruiting, spoke about managing a career in the oil industry throughout the boom and bust cycles. He emphasized that characteristics such as a strong work ethic, good interpersonal skills, and solid technical skills are more important to a person’s career than the price of oil.

Going Back to School

Also on day one, Les Kinkaid of BP discussed the pros and cons of going back to school to get a second degree, either a master’s degree in engineering or an MBA degree. He emphasized that before returning to school, people must first look at their time commitments, family support, life/work balance, and objectives for earning a higher degree. He stressed that to be successful in balancing school and work, a person must have self-discipline and support from both employers and partners. Master’s degrees are not a guaranteed way to get ahead, but with the future need for both industry experts and managers, higher degrees can help to distinguish one employee from others.

Day two of the conference had a slightly different tone from that of the first day, with the focus being community service and what we can do for others. The first presentation was given by Wayne Finger of Schlumberger Oilfield Services, who gave an inspiring talk on the topic of global citizenship. Finger spoke about issues such as global climate change; health, safety, and the environment; and education. He emphasized some of the programs Schlumberger has initiated and implemented worldwide to support the communities in which Schlumberger works and recruits employees. Finger’s talk was truly motivational and sparked discussions among the workshop attendees about what different companies do to support the communities where they work.

A second talk about community service was given by DeAnn Craig, Colorado School of Mines Professor and a former SPE president, who spoke on the merits of volunteerism, including the direct benefit of volunteer efforts as well as the personal satisfaction people have when they give their time and efforts to those in need. Craig also discussed the career benefits of community service, such as gaining skills that you may not be able to learn on the job.

The second major topic of day two, Public Image, included Doug Hock of EnCana Oil & Gas. Drawing on his experience in community involvement and public affairs, he shared with participants his experience dealing with landowners, shareholders, and the public. He noted that it takes a diligent effort by the dedicated and responsible individuals in our industry to share with others what the industry is doing and how it is doing it. He emphasized the need to speak at public forums to engage the communities in which the industry works and to address the public’s concerns.

Making Your Voice Heard

The last speaker of the workshop was Mark Rubin, Executive Director of SPE, who spoke about the necessity of being politically aware. He noted that many environmental groups are very active at lobbying and tend to have influence with makers of public policy. Rubin emphasized that we have the opportunity to make our voices heard by makers of public policy just as those opposed to the oil and gas industry do. As industry professionals, we should help educate the public about the positive aspects of the oil industry, he said.

The 2-day conference included breakout sessions in which small groups had the opportunity to discuss and learn more about many of the topics presented. With attendees representing operators and service companies, perspectives varied on many topics. Some participants live in communities where the oil and gas industry is looked upon favorably, and others where it is not. Participants work in environments where they have access to different resources, including scheduled training, external training, field-based training, and hands-on experience. It was an opportunity for participants to share their experiences and get new ideas, as well as to network with other young professionals. Plans are already under way for the second North American Young E&P Professionals workshop, which will take place in Calgary in 2007.

The Keystone, Colorado workshop attracted young E&P professionals from all over North America, as shown in the photo.


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