What influenced your decision to enter the oil and gas industry?
I have always been non-mainstream, and I could not see myself as a mechanical engineer in Germany designing wiper blades for Volkswagen for the rest of my life. While I was in college, I worked at the Institute of Petroleum Engineering testing oil field equipment, which offered me an exclusive insight into the innovations in the oil and gas industry. This sparked my interest in our industry and my passion for driving new technology. I think our industry has a bad reputation as being old school, but not many people have the opportunity to look behind the curtain to see what cutting edge technology the oil and gas industry is actually delivering.
What was your impression of the industry beforehand and how has it evolved?
Against friendly advice, I entered knowingly into an industry that is driven by strong cycles, but as a young engineer I felt invincible. In hindsight, I significantly underestimated the swings back then. But what I have learned is that our industry is very quick to adapt to the invisible hand of the free market and adjust business models and technologies to be able to deliver better, faster and low-priced over time. I believe that these cycles have kept us on our toes more than other industries and make us stronger overall.
What have you found to be the most surprising about the industry?
It’s a small world! I have had the opportunity to work in international locations, as well as domestic roles in the U.S. It is amazing to meet previous acquaintances again all over the place. This fosters a great sense of special community and allows individuals to quickly build a network.
What do you find most challenging and most rewarding about the industry or your work?
I believe the before mentioned industry cycles are the most challenging part of our industry. Throughout the various cycles, I have seen too many talented young engineers leave into other industries to never come back. It is difficult to manage this as our industry is highly dependent on a well-educated and trained workforce. The investment that we all collectively put into training people is straining each company, just to let them go and then restart this cycle over again. The most rewarding part is seeing new technologies driving step changes in performance. Once in a while we have this one thing that takes the industry by storm and drives never before seen efficiency gain, like the Top Drive. I was lucky to be part of the Rotary Steerable System from the beginning and know there will be other, major step changes coming.
Where do you hope to see the industry develop over the next 5 years?
We are at the brink of the fourth industrial revolution and as such we have the opportunity to break from the old way of managing these cycles. I am excited about the opportunities that come with automation, data analytics, cyber-physical systems, IoT and cognitive computing. We have to manage the transition into this new world and need to learn to adapt quickly.
What role do you believe you will play in the industry’s future?
I sure hope I have a few years left to be part of this transition.
How has your involvement in PESA supported your career goals?
I was nominated by my CEO in 2017 for the PESA Executive Leadership Program: Engaging Leadership. At first I wondered how this could help me. Over time and multiple events at PESA, my network started growing and I developed a new sense of market understanding. Rather than looking at everything from a driller’s perspective, I started understanding other market indicators and triggers. This has significantly broadened my awareness of the industry and the underlying market drivers.
Tell us about some of the people you’ve met while working in the industry and how they’ve impacted your thinking.
I have met so many people and had so many interesting discussions ranging from the problems of valve manufacturing to government diplomats’ duties and their needs. PESA provides the opportunities to have these discussions outside of our current work environment and therefore allows me to develop further and grow with the insights I receive.
What would you tell someone who is thinking about entering the oil and gas industry?
I have been out promoting our industry for years and have gone to many non-mainstream places like Embry Riddle Aeronautical University. I am convinced that the future of our industry lies in the diversity of our entrepreneurs and as such offers a huge opportunity for everyone that comes in with fresh ideas that challenge the current status quo.
What do you wish other people knew about oil and gas?
We have an excellent track record for safety, health and environmental performance considering what we are doing on a daily basis. We have to work harder on overcoming the negative perception of the oil and gas industry.