Managing One’s Own Competency and Professional Development in Tough Times

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This is the sixth time I have been under-employed in my career. The oil price pendulum has that impact!

To date, this is neither the longest nor toughest downturn, it just feels that way. Amazingly, however, some Executives are so keen to reduce G&A Costs by more than 30-40% that their organizations are transferring the responsibility for Continual Professional and Competency Development over to the individual employee.

Annual Imported Crude Oil Price

The more enlightened companies have wisely asked their employees to critically review their professional memberships and will only reimburse the annual membership fees for those organizations in which the employee is actively involved and which will directly benefit their current or next assignment.

Other, more prescriptive, HR teams have interpreted such directives in terms of reimbursement of a single professional organization, which is usually taken to be the state, provincial, or national certifying authority through which the professional has accreditation.

This is a short sighted decision; as, in the final analysis, it is the Corporations that are the greatest beneficiaries of:

  • Technology Transfer and access to technical papers via OnePetro or the AAPG library;
  • Business opportunity identification from dissemination of new technology and experience;
  • Members discounts for Training Courses, Workshops, and Conferences;
  • The opportunity to use networking sessions for tactical or strategic data gathering and/or recruitment initiatives; and
  • The advocacy programs by the Professional Societies on behalf of our industry.

Moreover, this development has led some professionals to follow suit and let their SPE, AAPG, CSPG, PESA, or PMI membership lapse. This is also very surprising at a time when effective networking and technology transfer is essential to facilitate effective and rapid adaptation to a rapidly evolving business, social, and political environment for the energy industry.

For the professionals involved, the fundamental Professional Development questions remain much the same, but are significantly challenged by the available funds:

  • What key technical competencies do I need for my current role and for my most probable next assignment?
  • In what area and how should I be upgrading my soft skills for the next business cycle, especially if conditions remain as volatile as they were in the 1990s?
  • What will yield the best rewards for the limited funds that I have available to invest in Continual Professional Development and/or Competency Upgrades?

The answers are likely to be very different for each of us, depending on personal circumstances, what stage we are in our careers, where we are living, our career aspirations, and our employer’s revised training policies and resources.

By way of example, I had expected to make much greater use of PetroWiki than I have in the last few months. However, like revisiting my textbooks, OnePetro and/or the University library, this training resource seems to require some specific curiosity trigger to get me past the “good intentions” phase.

If I were to be working in a major corporation, I  believe that I would be taking full advantage of their online training resources, such as the IHRDC e-Learning solutions (IPIMS and O&M e-Learning). While I have been weighing-up the merits of pursuing this option personally, I prefer a blended learning program, including some more traditional classroom workshops where I can better interact with fellow attendees.

I am a visual and social learner and get a lot out of attending one or two day workshops and the monthly technical presentations put on by various professional societies. To me, the value proposition of investing the cost of a monthly night-out (an average $40-50/month, including the amortization of my annual dues) is self-evident. The potential reward, on an annualized basis, is some ten-to hundred-fold returns on the investment in terms of:

  • The value of ideas obtained from my peers, who are struggling with similar challenges;
  • The transfer of practical solution to complex problems and/or new technology;
  • Exposure to what is being attempted in other operating environments; and
  • The opportunities to develop contacts that may advance my career in some way.

The other training initiative that I have undertaken during each of the down-turns is to try to capture some of what I have learned in the form of training course materials and/or technical papers. About 50% of this material has been disseminated through commercial training organizations, like IHRDC; and 50% has been passed-on to those who will run the next lap via SPE Conferences, Workshops, and Courses.

This time is no exception, with the preparation of:

  • A lunch and learn and SPE Talk on Lessons Learned in 40 years of Tight Gas E&P Activities;
  • An upgrade to an earlier Gas-well Performance and Deliquification Short Course;
  • An IHRDC IPIMS module on Tight Gas Exploration, Appraisal and Development;
  • An SPE e-Poster on a data gathering trip to transfer learnings from Canada to Australia; and
  • A lunch and learn program on New Business Development in tough times.

It is amazing how much background reading I find that I need to do in this process; and, hence, how much I learn when trying to document a subject with which I am familiar.

It is truly amazing just how much we find out that we did not know, once we start researching that which we know we did not know!

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Bob Pearson

Bob Pearson is an independent petroleum engineering consultant, working primarily in Canada and the Australia, Asia Pacific Region. He acts as an Advisor to RPS Energy on coal bed methane (CBM), Shale and Tight Gas, as well as on other conceptual engineering and evaluations for Unconventional Hydrocarbon Developments. Bob began his career in 1970 as a Production and Well Engineer with Shell International in Southeast Asia and the North Sea and later worked for Petro-Canada in Western Canada and the Canadian Frontiers. In 1983, he began consulting with APA Petroleum Engineering Inc (now part of RPS Energy Canada Ltd). In 2007, Bob returned to Southeast Asia, first as the Operational Director of the RPS Energy consulting team in Singapore, and then for CBM/CSG services in Southeast Asia and Australia. In recent years, he has been heavily involved in sub-surface peer reviews and development plan audits for major Unconventional and Frontier Projects, on behalf of both Operators and Lenders. He has been a Distinguished lecturer for the SPE and facilitates several integrated development planning workshops every year for IHRDC. He is a registered professional engineer with APEGA in Alberta, Canada; and the Board of Professional Engineers in Queensland. He is an active member of SPE Calgary Section.

Posted in Oil and Gas Industry News, Petroleum Industry News Tagged with: ,
One comment on “Managing One’s Own Competency and Professional Development in Tough Times
  1. Eloquently put by one who knows a great deal about the E&P world. Bob has the gift of a vast depth of experience and the personal charm to make his lectures entertaining-having him as a consultant working side-by-side during the ‘heady days’ of world first Indonesia 9-5/8″ tubing completions and 15,000 psi Mobile Bay Ala. at Mobil E&P. Best regards. Richard A.Sukup, P.E., Magnolia Global Energy. Ft. Worth, Texas

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