Aaron Alaniz, Director of Sales, Kimray, is a participant in the Council’s Executive Leadership Program. He recently shared his insights on the energy services and technology sector.
COUNCIL: Why did you join the oil and gas industry? Was there an individual who influenced your decision?
AARON ALANIZ: I joined the oil and gas industry early in my life, starting in a machine shop as summer help learning how to rebuild pumping unit bearings. In the following summers, while off from school, I shifted from machine shop work to a local independent producer, pumping wells. I would say this is where my real passion for oil and gas began. I quickly found myself wondering more about the business than gauging tank levels. I wanted to know more about oil/water separation, as well as the various lifting techniques.
Several people influenced my decision to further pursue opportunities in the industry, many still in the business today. My next opportunity came with an oil and gas equipment manufacturer, learning the basics of separation with our standard equipment line. During this time – 2005 onward – oil/gas production dramatically increased as shale plays were developed. I believe this event, and the change of how we manufactured equipment to accommodate the new shale market, is what really drove my excitement for oil and gas.
COUNCIL: What individual has been most instrumental in helping with your career? What did their mentorship look like and how did it guide your path?
AA: Leo Klintworth was an influential mentor while I was at National Tank Company. Leo led with a servant’s mentality while always focused on the bottom line – the customer. He challenged my thoughts about my own full potential. He pushed me to new heights, all while encouraging me through the journey. He listened attentively and always went to bat for his team. Leo also showed me that true leaders know when to lead from the front and when to get out of the way. His planning was always two to three steps ahead of everyone else. He intentionally invested in my future, far before I could see my path. As a leader, he knew what opportunities I would have, even those I could not see. He always had me ready for the big game.
COUNCIL: What was your impression of the industry beforehand and how has it evolved?
AA: Considering I started in an area of Texas that had been produced since the early 1900s, almost everything I knew was vertically drilled wells on rod lift or vacuum. I started at the very end of a well’s life, so naturally everything “new” in shale was exciting. I remember the Barnett booming, and getting opportunities to learn more about natural gas dehydration. The Barnett changed my perspective dramatically. I went from working on low-pressure free-water knockouts and storage tanks to high-pressure separators and gas dehydration. It was a whole new world for me and my career, not to mention a whole new opportunity to learn in a transformative time in the industry.
COUNCIL: What has surprised you most about the industry?
AA: The biggest surprise for me is the change in production techniques over the last 10 years. Well pads were one to two wells per location; then many producers began bringing four wells to one location. Today we have many producers with 30-plus wells on one location. The economics, environmental impact and details considered in these decisions have a whole new meaning to the outcome as compared to the past. The industry continues to evolve into new benchmarks, with a focus to push those boundaries. Truly a dramatic shifting baseline over the last 10-15 years.
COUNCIL: Where do you hope to see the industry develop over the next five years?
AA: I want to see the industry continue to evolve systems that work for the producer. Technologically driven systems that are efficient, economical and reduce risks for the operator. Automation is on every new location, but there are also a lot of opportunities to update older producing wells too.
COUNCIL: What role do you believe you will play in the industry’s future?
AA: First and foremost, I hope I am impacting those around me in a positive way, the same way my mentor did with me. Building future leaders among the team will always be a goal of mine. Specifically in the industry, I want to play a role in transforming automation in upstream controls. Kimray revolutionized the industry in 1948 with the pilot-operated back pressure valve, and we see ourselves in a similar role in 2021 and beyond with the same revolutionary focus.
COUNCIL: How has your involvement in the Council supported your career goals?
AA: My involvement with the Council gave me access to a network of problem-solving leaders from around the world. Pair this with the content of the training programs, and I have insightful, problem-solving resources for a lifetime. I have often been able to call or inquire about specific challenges, and my concerns never fall on deaf ears.
COUNCIL: Who are one or two individuals you’ve met while working in the industry who have impacted your thinking?
AA: Chris Brown, Director of Global Supply Chain at Frank’s International was my Executive Leadership Program accountability partner in 2020. Chris always impressed me with his levelheaded big picture view. I also was impressed with Pat Lipovski (Envision Group) and the insight he provided during our one-on-one coaching sessions.
COUNCIL: What’s a technology or innovation you’ve seen in the energy services and technology sector that impressed you?
AA: I really enjoy technology in my personal life, so seeing augmented reality and virtual reality training for field trouble shooting hit the industry as well as incorporation of drone use for visual inspection was exciting.
COUNCIL: What advice would you give someone just getting started in the oil and gas industry?
AA: Find a company that shares your values and supports opportunities for change. Learn from the experienced people around you, ask questions, and play the long game. Challenge yourself to new heights.
COUNCIL: What do you wish other people knew about oil and gas?
AA: I wish people understood more about how oil and gas play a role in their daily lives. I also wish there was more awareness of ESG activities over the last 10-20 years among major E&P companies. There have been a lot of great, measurable integrity moves made, but they don’t receive coverage often enough.
COUNCIL: What do you do for fun?
AA: Fun for me includes team roping. I have two horses right now starting their second and third year under saddle. It’s always fun learning their personalities, and what they enjoy (or don’t enjoy) doing. It’s an amazing feeling to break down obstacles with an animal who has no way of communicating in the same language as you. The feeling of accomplishment is almost indescribable. I also love spending time with my family; my wife and I just adopted our daughter, Serenity, an 11-year-old girl full of energy. She keeps us on our toes.
COUNCIL: What’s a fun fact that people would never guess about you?
AA: Miss America taught me how to tie my shoes when I was little. She was dating my cousin at the time, and I was struggling to get it down. She took the time, I listened intensely, and it stuck.