What's Ahead

What is this all about?

It is about survival.

Please take a look at the graph below and draw your own conclusions.

It looks like young professionals may be an endangered species, if not in the industry, at least in the SPE world. Extinction may not be too farfetched a concept in this case. If extrapolation is a permitted exercise (and my experience in this industry tells me it is), then the trend from the graph suggests we might be looking at approximately 15 years before SPE membership is 100% over 45. Or, another way to look at it, it might be 15 years before the youngest SPE member is 45 years old. I challenge anyone to find comfort in the latter concept.

Age distribution of SPE members.


Whether prompted by the instinct for survival or something else, young professionals in our industry have decided to take matters into their own hands to try to stop and reverse this appalling trend. Activities by and for young professionals (YEPPs from here on—Young Exploration and Production Professionals) have grown exponentially in the past few years within local SPE sections worldwide. Despite no initial coordination among the different local sections, they emphasize common denominators:

  • Responsibility—Young professionals are being proactive, taking initiative and promoting activities that they conceive.
  • Issues—The topics that are addressed and discussed by young professionals encompass the technical subjects characteristic of the SPE portfolio as well as new ideas, the so-called soft skills, soft in content but hard to master.

YEPPs are getting involved in the process of making the products they will be the final users of (please pay a visit to the YEPP Activities section of this magazine for complete cover- age of local and international initiatives). It is here where the substantial difference with the past lies. We are moving from a passive approach to SPE—making use of resources “courtesy of SPE”—to an active one. This exercise is one of accountability, maturity, and leadership. As both 2004 SPE President Kate Baker and 2005 SPE President Giovanni Paccaloni stressed during the President’s Luncheon at ATCE 2004, SPE wishes to serve our industry by shaping tomorrow’s leaders. The opening event of ATCE, the Leadership Conference, was confirmation of that desire.

By being involved in delivery of products/services, we are inherently going to bring SPE closer to our needs and expectations, which by definition differ from those of the average SPE member, who is over 40 years of age. This is especially true when it comes to content: Young professionals at the start of their careers value the how just as much as the what. Our interest is not limited to technical subjects, but embraces the broader picture of noncore activities—the means and techniques to more effectively convey ideas to and deal with others in the organizations in which we work.

In the article on the Sixth SPE Colloquium on Petroleum Engineering Education featured in the Local and International Activities section of this magazine, readers will find out that participants in the event, when asked what the greatest inadequacies of engineering education are, ranked career management and management and people skills among the first three deficiencies. Soft/interpersonal skills become fundamental whenever teamwork is required, and even more so in managing people. In the Forum section (which gathers responses to questions posted on the online Professionals Network on the SPE website), the reader will find out that young professionals are often given jobs of some responsibility, which may include leading a small team, between 2 and 5 years of seniority. Are they going to live up to the task? A solid background in negotiation, communication, conflict management, leadership, etc. will not do the job for you, but it will help in getting off to a good start. In fact, the Soft Skills section of the magazine features a very compelling article  on  communication  and related issues, and the title says it all: You Cannot Avoid Communicating.

The Way Ahead has its foundation in the traditional SPE values of quality, professionalism, and excellence, which will serve as our inspiration. We especially want to preserve and cultivate another value of SPE, that of mentorship. We recognize the huge knowledge and culture potential that lies with senior professionals in our industry that, for a number of reasons, is not always effectively conveyed to the young. We want this magazine to facilitate this flow of experience: The Way Ahead Interview and the Pillars of the Industry section (technical/career mentorship from an experienced professional) are designed to guarantee that YEPPs get valuable exposure to personal experiences that took 20–30 years to be shaped and are offered to us for our personal benefit and growth. It is about the people—that is where the real added value of SPE sits.

The message embedded in all of these activities and efforts is that the seeds of innovation and change have been sown. It is now up to us young E&P professionals to nurture this investment and reap the dividends. The mission of The Way Ahead is to feed this process with fresh energy and creative ideas, with the ultimate goal of bringing SPE closer to our needs, giving us a real opportunity to become pillars of the professional society of which we are proud members.


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