The Young Professionals Technical Paper Awards

The Young Professionals Technical Paper Awards

Recently established by the Young Professionals Coordinating Committee (YPCC), the awards recognize the achievements of young professionals whose technical development is showcased in papers they present at ATCE. Awards were given for the best young professional-authored papers in each SPE technical discipline.

Authors received their awards at a reception held ATCE’s first night—the perfect setting in which to recognize these highly talented young professionals, and a great opportunity to network with peers from around the globe, sharing perspectives on careers, life, and SPE.

These fellow young professional authors can inspire us to work on our own technical paper for a future SPE conference or for the 2011 ATCE, to be held in Denver. A great way to start is to review the award-winning papers ( and find out what it takes to achieve technical excellence.


The Young Professionals Workshop: The Oil and Gas Apprentice— Building Future Leaders

The objective of the Young Professionals (YP) workshop was to openly discuss leadership. The 2010 ATCE YPCC conceived a fully interactive workshop inspired by the television show The Apprentice, calling it The Oil and Gas Apprentice! For this first-time workshop, instead of having a single “boss,” participants had to impress a panel of four top industry executives.

It started with introductory remarks from the panel. Stuart Ferguson, chief technology adviser with Simmons & Company International, discussed the keys of leadership: the ability to inspire those around you—and the need to think like an entrepreneur about your career. He also highlighted the importance of envisioning where you are headed, making your only reason for not reaching the top of your organization that you might miss other excellent career options. However, he also recommended not dwelling too much on the future, encouraging the audience to act now, because today is what really matters.

Didier Holleaux, senior vice-president of Exploration and Production with GDF Suez, also encouraged young professionals to “just do it!”—while of course taking the necessary steps to ensure one’s actions lead to success. He added that to become leaders it is imperative for young professionals to rise to the task, while acting naturally and with humility.

“Challenge and succeed!” was the main message from Catherine MacGregor, president of Schlumberger Wireline. She advised the audience to make the most of their time in the field or rig. Take the opportunity to learn how things really work, she urged, so you can apply this knowledge as your career progresses. A major skill young professionals must have is the ability to deal with more experienced and knowledgeable senior peers. This means communicating well and learning , in addition to showcasing your own set of talents. Finally, she stressed the importance of a joyful and positive attitude.

David Reid, vice-president, Corporate E&P Business & Technology National Oilwell Varco, emphasized  the importance of good time management. “Time is your best resource,” he stated. He asked young professionals to discover what attracts them and follow that path. He also urged YPs to recognize that failure is as important as success, presenting valuable lessons from which to learn.

The event continued with the nomination of 10 “apprentices” from among workshop participants. The first elimination round consisted of a question each apprentice had two minutes to answer. The theme was the role of technology in our industry. Nerves got the better of the competitors. The questions seemed easy from the audience’s perspective, but the nominees struggled. The panel selected four contenders to advance to the second round, while the audience chose an additional apprentice through an automated voting system. The judges indicated the apprentices they rated highest gave concise  answers and stuck  by their decisions.

The second round, with half the “apprentice” nominees still in the race to be “hired,” consisted of a four-minute question-and-answer session on topics related to sustainable development. The contestants appeared to have absorbed their first-round experience well. They stepped up their game and audience members saw them shine. The panel advised that when under scrutiny, one should take time to structure answers, and just address the question, stopping when finished. At the end of this round the panel chose two apprentices, with the audience selecting a third.

For the final round, the remaining three apprentices worked with their teams to prepare a pitch showcasing an oil and gas company, while pretending to be its chief executive officer. After deliberating, the “bosses” hired the first SPE oil and gas apprentice.

In the end, we were all winners, benefiting from the opportunity to participate in this interactive, insightful workshop. The consensus was that we all should have gotten hired!


Interview with Franklin Gonzalez, YP Technical Paper Award Winner

Age: 35

Employer: ENI International

Position: Senior Reservoir Engineer

SPE Section membership: Italian Section

Award-winning paper: SPE 134141, A Fully Compositional Integrated Asset Model for a Gas – Condensate Field

How long have you been an SPE member?

I joined SPE in 1997, when I was at university, as a member of the student chapter. However, despite knowing the benefits of being a SPE member, it wasn’t until 2008 that I formally came onboard. I have to admit that during this period I didn’t take advantage of the benefits SPE brings to the professional community. Through SPE, I have had the opportunity to participate in important conferences and events such as ATCE 2008 and 2010 and Digital Oil Conference 2009. In addition, the young professional network community represents an effective and valuable way, not only to exchange information, but also to meet new colleagues around the world.

What motivated you to submit a proposal and write a technical paper for ATCE?

I have been developing the project for more than two years and I was convinced this experience and the lessons learned needed to be capitalized on and shared. Modeling complex assets is a real challenge, requiring integration of multiple disciplines.

What was the most difficult part of the paper development process?

Since the asset we focus on is a joint venture among four major oil companies, each of which considers this field a strategic asset, it was not easy writing a paper to share a methodology without exposing important information. Also, the paper is not only about integrating models but also about amalgamating multiple disciplines. The only way to translate the effort from each discipline involved on this methodology was through interaction among the authors. Each author covered a particular process such as reservoir, surface network, facilities, and software. Also, it is worth mentioning that writing a paper demands an investment of time. Additional effort was required from all authors and co-authors to write the paper without affecting daily activities.

What is your paper’s most valuable technical contribution to the SPE worldwide community?

In my opinion we gave valuable insight into managing complex fields with multiple constraints that vary from reservoir to the sales point. Accounting for these constraints and their impact on the entire asset adds value. The message is that despite the complexity a field may exhibit, it may be possible to model, properly manage, and make the right decisions. The integrated model will not provide a unique response but it will significantly reduce uncertainty.

What was the key thing you learned from the process of writing an award-winning technical paper?

One of the most valuable things I learned was about the integration between many processes involved in an asset. To create an integrated model you do not have to be a specialist all the disciplines. Instead, you have to interact, share, and learn from different disciplines. I always wanted to have the opportunity to write a technical article for SPE and I normally excused myself due to lack of time. Being awarded represents a strong motivation to continue contributing to the worldwide community. This was my first paper submitted to SPE and what a way to take off!


Interview with Ijeoma Odizuru-Abangwu, the Oil and Gas Apprentice

Age: 28

Employer: Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) of Nigeria

Position: Petrophysicist

SPE Section membership: Section 103, Port-Harcourt, Nigeria

When did you join SPE?

December 2009. I was involved in the Nigerian Annual International Conference and Exhibition (NAICE) in 2010 and 2008. The 2008 NAICE was a huge learning experience and I decided to make some contributions to the Society. As a result, I wrote two papers for the 2010 conference and was immensely pleased when one of them, “Biofuels: Green Energy for the Century” (SPE 140626-MS) won the NAICE best paper award for 2010.

What motivated you to actively participate in this YP Workshop?

I was nominated by my team members. I didn’t know what to expect but I decided to do my best.

What was the most difficult part of your participation in the contest?

I never really found it difficult, since the contest was a test of accumulated knowledge regarding events, issues, and trends emerging in the global energy sector, of which I was informed, given my recent study of Energy Management and my exposure to informative and interactive sessions with leaders across the Shell group. I put more thought in the final stage, because we were given some time to prepare.

What was the key learning from your?

The contest taught me the value of understanding and keeping abreast of global oil and gas industry trends and issues.

In your opinion, what was the most important message delivered by the panel of oil executive judges?

One message that clearly got to me was that young professionals in the industry need time to consolidate the fundamentals of their discipline before venturing into middle management roles.

What was your experience like during the final round and what do you see as the key factors you were “hired” as this year’s oil and gas apprentice?

The final round was the toughest for me because we were given time to prepare and think through the answers, unlike the first two rounds, which were impromptu. It was a bit challenging trying to imagine the future of a nonexistent company and map out strategies for areas such as safety, talent retention, and so on. One thing that helped was remembering the talks I have heard over the years from CEOs and top managers and asking myself would I adopt their strategies. While I may not have adequately stated concise plans for each area, I gained an appreciation for the level of thought involved in mapping out a strategy for a company’s future. I think the panel liked my participation and appreciated my few well-laid-out points, given the short preparation time.

In your experience, what was the highlight of the 2010 ATCE?

The highlight for me was networking with people in the industry from across the globe and learning about new technologies.


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