I’m looking forward to speaking at the “Sustainable Energy for South Texas Symposium” on February 25, 2015 as it’s an event on current research directions in energy, oil and gas exploration, with a focus on sustainable technologies.
The University of Texas-Pan American (UTPA) event is sponsored by Halliburton, and I’m going to be talking about how the industry requires people to be highly constructive (which makes working fun).
I will be discussing how various functions work together to produce results and how people with STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) skills are valuable assets, critical to safely and reliably improving capabilities throughout the industry.
It’s going to be a lot of fun collaborating with students and faculty at The University of Texas-Pan American and the other speakers. It looks like a lot of good things should come out of this symposium, which will cover a good variety of topics including advancing technologies, sustainable processes, leadership strategies and how to capitalize on employee ideas.
Fun, complex challenges
The energy industry is fun and challenging because there are so many complex engineering designs, great construction projects and advancing technologies. So I gathered advice from people of various backgrounds in the industry to help give color to what people can focus on to provide greater value.
Advice from operations
A good friend with extensive operations experience in the oil and gas industry emphasized the importance of problem solving skills. There are an unlimited number of engineering circumstances and variables in the energy industry, so it pays to know how one change can lead to another.
As an example, my friend was able to solve an electric power problem in a well because he fully understood what he learned in his engineering classes and could manipulate electric lines to reduce resistance. This really saved the company a lot of money, so you can see how being a problem solver increases your job security.
When people learn STEM disciplines, they should use their imaginations to think about problems they can solve. This leads to more sustainable solutions.
Advice from HR
Another good friend offered advice from a Human Resources (HR) perspective.
It is very important to build relationships and understand the culture you are working in as people have to work constructively with each other to get results. If you’re new to a company, it can be a good idea to make a 30/60/90 day plan for yourself to meet people from other functions such as manufacturing, quality, HR and finance.
Always think how you can help groups and ask questions. It’s good to build these relationships so that when you have an emergency, they can help you out. In 30 – 60 days, try to figure out who could mentor you on how to navigate through your organization, but not your boss or another person who would be responsible for your evaluations.
Ask someone who does their job well and creates value for the organization; someone with 7-10 years of experience often works well. I personally had a great mentor at one of my jobs, so I can attest to the benefits. Set up time periodically, and you drive the meetings.
You certainly want to be responsible for developing yourself as a professional.
STEM needs in a global industry
Other engineer friends pointed to the great demand for STEM skills in energy. The industry does have cyclical ups and downs. However, there’s always a need for qualified individuals of varying STEM backgrounds.
For example, mechanical engineers are required to design advanced equipment to reliably extract oil and gas from great depths in the ocean where there are often super high pressures and extreme temperature ranges to contend with.
Civil engineers are needed to build the offshore structures that are equipped for operations and house all the personnel.
Chemical engineers provide innovative solutions for preventing solids formation to increase the efficiency of oil production.
Engineers who understand new technologies and standards are needed to do project management for the building of solar power plants. The list goes on and on, and another thing that makes the energy industry enticing is that it’s a global industry with opportunities to work with people from all over the world to have a positive impact on capabilities and sustainability.
Passionate about learning
It can be very beneficial for people entering the energy industry to research the different areas of the industry to begin to learn how it all works together. People can then further learn details more effectively as they target companies they can provide value for. Hiring managers are impressed by those who know details about their company and industry. Engineers and other professionals are naturally passionate about learning how things function, so talking to experienced employees about expectations and getting involved with industry associations can be very rewarding.
Constructively provide value and overcome challenges
In order to increase company capabilities and reduce the risk of issues, STEM professionals and other professionals should constructively work with each other to:
- Avoid costly mistakes and problems
- Get the most productivity out of people
The more professionals constructively work with each other to point people in the right direction, the more effectively a company can utilize resources such as decision tables (to select proper seals for example) and near-miss incident information and the more effectively a company can gain the benefits from industry knowledge and advances such as those in industry standards and research.
Now, these are huge challenges professionals can have a great impact on working in the energy industry. In an advancing industry like the energy industry, it’s important that people fully contribute to the following aspects of improving a company undergoing change.
For details on an efficient process for increasing people’s contributions to these aspects of reliably and safely advancing company capabilities, check out this Advancement Process.
Constructive event of great importance
I anticipate the symposium at UTPA will lead to great discussions on reliably driving scientific and technological advances into company decision making to improve efficiency, safety and sustainability. It’s great to be a part of improving companies and industries.
Stay tuned. After the symposium, I will present some of the reactions and findings from those involved including good ways forward.
Here are some articles I have previously written on related subjects.