Richard Leaper, Vice President, Sales & Marketing, Milestone Environmental Services, is a graduate of the Council’s Executive Leadership Program. He recently shared his insights on the energy services and technology sector.
COUNCIL: What is your role with the company? What does a typical day look like?
Richard Leaper: I have overall responsibility for the sales and marketing functions at Milestone. This includes all aspects of differentiating our service in the market and capturing the value we create through revenue and price. Life would be boring if there were such a thing as a typical day. Every day there is a new challenge and a learning opportunity for myself and the others on the team, and that’s one of the things I love about the job.
COUNCIL: Why did you join the oil and gas industry? Was there an individual who influenced your decision? Was there an event or piece of technology that got you excited?
RL: I joined the industry in 1997 when I began working offshore in the North Sea as a mud engineer. At the time, the oil industry was steady in the UK and accounted for a huge slice of the local economy in my hometown of Aberdeen, Scotland. So, it was just a natural pull into the industry for me. I took the opportunity to relocate to the Houston area in 2005 and have been here ever since.
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?
RL: I’ve been blessed to have had many great colleagues and mentors throughout my career. There are so many, and at the risk of exclusion I won’t try to name them all, but they know who they are. For me, great mentorship is not about problem solving for the here and now. The best mentors don’t provide all the answers. Rather, they inspire you to self-actualize. They build character for what lies ahead.
COUNCIL: What was your impression of the industry beforehand and how has it evolved?
RL: Before joining the industry, my impression was it involved a lot of good people, hard work, personal sacrifice/reward, and that we were providing a commodity upon which we depend to maintain quality of life. Twenty-four years later, all those things hold true, even more so.
COUNCIL: What has surprised you most about the industry?
RL: The resilience of our industry is staggering, especially when you consider the cycles we’ve seen in recent years. Our ability to bounce back underpins just how critical our product is to modern society. The breadth of technology innovation and the multi-disciplinary expertise required to be successful in the business is also quite breathtaking.
COUNCIL: Where do you hope to see the industry develop over the next five years?
RL: All facets of ESG will be increasingly important in our industry, particularly environmental initiatives. I predict that we’ll be trading in two currencies within the next five years: the U.S. dollar and carbon.
I’d also like to see fewer aggressive cycles, and hope the industry takes structural steps on the supply side to help smooth the curves. I think this will help develop a stronger industry with better retention and social license.
COUNCIL: What role do you believe you will play in the industry’s future?
RL: For the foreseeable future, the energy industry faces the dual challenge of cleaning up its act in traditional oil and gas extraction, as well as the transition. There are many structural things such as regulations and economic incentives that need to fall into place, as well as continued innovation. Milestone is well placed to help the industry in the big clean up, and I’m looking forward to playing my part.
COUNCIL: How has your involvement in the Council supported your career goals?
RL: In terms of professional development, I’ve found the Council’s Engaging Leadership course to be very valuable. Although it was something of a refresher for me, I still had many “aha” moments, and had some great networking and conversations along the way. I’m looking forward to participating in the ESG Certification Program this year, and potentially becoming involved with some of the Council’s committees.
COUNCIL: Who are one or two individuals you’ve met while working in the industry who have impacted your thinking?
RL: There have been so many great influencers to mention through the years. Present day, I’ll give a shout out to the team at Milestone for keeping it real every day and focusing on what matters. Also, I’d like to mention Energy Workforce Advisory Board Member Jeff Boettiger and the team at Envision, who’ve really helped me with the art of questioning recently.
COUNCIL: What’s a technology or innovation you’ve seen in the energy services and technology sector that impressed you?
RL: The U.S. shale market’s ability to ride out the price war of 2014/15 was driven by technology and process innovations, and not just downsizing. Nowadays, operators are drilling three-mile laterals in the same time it used to take to drill a 10,000 foot vertical well. It’s fair to say that $/BOE efficiencies are the reason the U.S. shale sector still exists today, and both the E&P and OFS sectors should take the credit.
Going forward, there will be continued focus on efficiencies per BOE, including through artificial intelligence and other technologies; but there will also be innovations in ESG. It’s clear we have to clean up the industry in order to re-earn our social license. For example, I applaud all of Milestone’s customers for choosing to dispose of their energy waste responsibly with minimal impact to the environment, even when regulation allows them to do otherwise. The industry has a lot of self-examining to do on ESG, and for many this will be uncomfortable, but we have to acknowledge problems before applying solutions.
COUNCIL: What advice would you give someone just getting started in the oil and gas industry?
RL: Most of us start out in some kind of operational or technical discipline, often out of engineering school. My advice would be to certainly fulfill your own ambition as an subject matter expert in your chosen field, but to also retain a holistic viewpoint of the industry and don’t forget to develop those cross-functional and non-technical skills. I’d also advocate a lot of reading and perpetual learning to stay current. The industry moves and innovates at an incredible pace, and it’s very easy to get left behind.
COUNCIL: What do you wish other people knew about oil and gas?
RL: It’s clear there are still segments of society who don’t understand the ubiquitous and essential role oil and gas plays in modern life. Even some of my family members don’t get it. I’m not saying oil and gas is inseverable from quality of life forevermore, but it will be an essential part of the mix for many decades to come, so we need to acknowledge the truth and make progress rather than engage in virtue signaling.
COUNCIL: What do you do for fun?
RL: I like to go camping with my family, particularly in the Texas state parks in the colder months. I also play some golf every now and then, and there’s nothing like sitting a deer blind on a long challenging hunt with lots of sweat equity. More recently I’ve become a very amateur red wine enthusiast — probably COVID-induced.
COUNCIL: What ‘s your idea of a perfect vacation?
RL: Sandals Emerald Bay in The Bahamas. Just me and the wife, with no cellphone, email, internet, or return date.
COUNCIL: What’s a fun fact that people would never guess about you?
RL: I didn’t graduate college until 2013, at the age of 40. I started my oilfield career at a time when all that was required was a good attitude and a willingness to get your hands dirty. Sometime after that, the industry moved heavily toward recruiting engineering graduates. I graduated from Florida Tech with a BA in business administration with a specialty in marketing, finishing with a 4.0 GPA and the Faculty Honors Award.