Cori Nell, Senior Manager, Product Management for Helmerich & Payne, is a graduate of the Energy Workforce Executive Leadership Program. She recently shared her insights on the energy services and technology sector.
ENERGY WORKFORCE: What is your role with the company? What are your core responsibilities? What does a typical day look like?
CORI NELL: I manage a team of product managers and product owners focused on protecting H&P’s competitive advantage through innovative technology – both software and rig equipment automation. My team collaborates with other departments to effectively move ideas for new products or iterations of existing products through a product maturation process with the intent to commercialize and sustain.
ENERGY WORKFORCE: Why did you join the energy industry? Was there an individual who influenced your decision?
CN: My dad was a geologist for 36 years for Chevron (via Texaco and Getty acquisitions). Math was always my strongest subject, and I was interested in engineering. Pairing a love for geology that was passed on from my dad with my love for math led me to petroleum engineering.
EW: What individual has been most instrumental in helping with your career? What did their mentorship look like and how did it guide your path?
CN: It’s hard to pick one person. I intentionally tried to steer the beginning of my career to as many new opportunities as I could – as a result I moved locations and groups often. I was fortunate to be guided by intentional and intelligent leaders and mentors throughout each transition. I am a very involved mentor now in my career, and I think that is largely due to the fact that I was the “green” employee with a mentor for the first six years of my career. I have adopted my favorite approaches from each of my previous mentors – approachable, honest, direct and supportive.
EW: What was your impression of the industry beforehand and how has it evolved?
CN: When I sat in my first morning drilling meeting as an intern, I remember feeling so overwhelmed – how could I ever understand this drilling language they are speaking? I was amazed at how quickly I could get up to speed. The interesting thing about oil and gas, especially upstream, is that there’s no limit to how much you can learn or research. There are always new wells with new challenges, new procedures and new technology to continue to provide opportunities to expand your knowledge or challenge the status quo.
EW: What has surprised you most about the industry?
CN: The personalities. There are a lot of assumptions about how oil-affiliated workers are, especially when it comes to field work. I have met some of the smartest and most supportive people in the oil and gas industry, and I’m thankful for the lifelong connections that my office and field work have provided me.
EW: Where do you hope to see the industry develop over the next five years?
CN: It’s amazing to me how much performance goals continue to get surpassed each year. Well KPIs from five years ago are unrecognizable to well KPIs now. I hope the industry continues to challenge the norm and optimize operations, while ensuring that each company that contributes to the success wins together.
EW: What role do you believe you will play in the industry’s future?
CN: With a persistent negative perception of the industry, advocating for entry into the energy workforce will be critical. I believe my role will be to challenge long-standing thinking and make known the benefits of our industry – exposure to different people, geographic areas, technical challenges or operating procedures to name a few. There is no shortage of knowledge or experience to gain.
EW: How has your involvement in Energy Workforce supported your career goals?
CN: Energy Workforce has provided excellent developmental tools through the Executive Leadership Program and great insight into the global energy position through their events. This information will help me excel in higher-level/strategic roles as I grow in my career.
EW: Who are one or two individuals you’ve met while working in the industry who have impacted your thinking?
CN: When I was a new production engineer in West Texas, I had an operations superintendent that was a tough personality to figure out – most found him quiet and intimidating. I remember the first workover I was designing. I went into his office and gave a few proposals of what I was thinking and asked what he thought. He immediately became unguarded and walked me through exactly which design we should work off of. I had earned his respect by consulting him and created a relationship with someone who would guide and support me for the nine months in that role, and who would believe in me for the rest of my career. It was a great lesson for me to carry with me for almost every day of the rest of my career – BE HUMBLE. Never assume you’re the smartest person in the room and leverage the experience of others around you … especially someone with 30+ years of field experience!
EW: What’s a technology or innovation you’ve seen in the sector that impressed you?
CN: I might be biased, but I am excited about the current and future state of rig equipment automation paired with rig control automation.
EW: What advice would you give someone just getting started in the energy industry?
CN: Service companies have a lot to offer to your career. Sometimes emerging professionals are taught to view working at service companies as less desirable than working for an operator. Having worked at both, I encourage emerging professionals to keep an open mind to all areas of the industry and take notes.
EW: What do you do for fun?
CN: My two-year-old makes every day fun!
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