Chapter 6: Shakedown Cruise
As individuals and as an industry, we need to focus on the essentials. Our industry is on a shakedown cruise like no other in our history.
I am very resourceful, as any woman would be.
What is a Shakedown Cruise?
Learning is not compulsory ... neither is survival.
For those unfamiliar, a “shakedown cruise,” also known as a sea trial, is performed to test a ship’s operational systems, both mechanical and human. I became painfully aware of the term “shakedown” when I went on my first trip to the Charles L. Sommers Canoe Base operated by the Boy Scouts in northern Minnesota in 1974. The guides had us (literally) dump everything out of our travel bags and then selected only the essential items we could take. Weight was at a premium, and, if I may confess, I did lie a little about my age. The minimum age was 12, and I turned 12 during the trip, but it was a brutal physical experience for us. We were left with a compass, a few utensils for eating, a sleeping bag, and one change of clothes. I actually recall drinking, eating, and cooking out of a single stainless steel cup. Bluntly, I don’t think I have ever been colder, hungrier, or more tired in my life. But, of course, the guides were correct. You only need the essentials to survive.
Many of you are probably thinking, “I’ll bet I know where he is going with this …,” and you are right. As individuals and as an industry, we need to focus on the essentials. Our industry is on a shakedown cruise like no other in our history. We must jettison the nonessentials and test the machinery (i.e., our technical knowledge and capabilities) as we restart and re-engage. Most importantly, we must focus on those actions/paths that ensure our effectiveness, efficiency, and long-term survival.
At SPE, we, too, are in shakedown mode, which has been painful for all and excruciating for some. We have had to redirect resources, and, perhaps most importantly, we have had to focus on the reality that our business model must undergo substantial changes. The essentials will remain, such as technical conferences, workshops, and our primary intellectual asset, technical publications. However, assistance to sections and student chapters has been reduced, as well as support for academic and public service programs.
The reality is that SPE is financially sound, but, like any ship in a storm, it has to batten its hatches and, if the pandemic prevails, make further program reductions. On a positive note, SPE has been able to avoid reducing its workforce, as we have created a financial path that avoids personnel reductions. As the 2021 SPE President, I congratulate the SPE’s senior management for their efforts to achieve this outcome.
Better Weather Ahead?
Winter is a season of recovery and preparation.
I have used nautical and weather analogies in these columns to find a manner of speaking in stories, and my goal in this section is no different. I believe there is much better weather ahead in 2021 and certainly in 2022, not just for our industry but also for society as a whole. The pandemic has been brutal to the global economy and bitterly cruel to our global society. The extent of loss has been overwhelming, and, short of war, nothing compares to this past year. Many may be thinking that I am merely hopeful or optimistic, but I can assure you I am painfully realistic. We have not won the “war,” but we know that we will; we know that we are an essential industry that provides stable and reliable resources when the world needs it most. We all understand that the world has changed and will continue doing so, but our industry and SPE will continue to evolve and fulfill a critical resource need.
As an analogy, perhaps Theroux is correct; we need to use this “winter” to recover and prepare. I encourage everyone to begin preparation for the coming “spring” and “summer” when we will need to be at our physical and mental best. I know that circumstances seem somewhat tenuous, but, as an industry, workforce, and SPE, we are strong, capable, and ready for whatever comes next.
What are YOUR Essentials?
Never relinquish the initiative.
In keeping with the concept of a shakedown cruise, it is time to ask ourselves, “What are our essentials? What can we not live without? ” Obviously, food, shelter, and clothing are at the top of the list, but let’s assume we have those covered. Most of us cannot live without an income because that enables everything else, so we have to accept that is essen- tial as well.
I believe everyone should develop their own shakedown list, and I am happy to give you some guidance. I propose the following items, keeping somewhat with my example of camping in the wilderness:
Compass—A mentor or guide to help keep you oriented (an obvious role for the SPE)
Matches—Something to initiate learning/action (SPE can be the match, but you must add fuel)
Tools—Access to technology and the skills to use technology (this is the SPE’s primary purpose)
Clothing—Protection from the elements (SPE’s social and networking functions)
Food—This is your income (SPE has several efforts/resources to assist in employment)
My purpose is not to say that SPE can fulfill all your career needs, but it can provide the means for you to do so. It’s your career and, ultimately, your responsibility. My message is to lighten your pack to be able to function more effectively at present but also in the future when you will have to rely more on your technical and career management skills. The analogy of a shakedown may seem harsh, but the lighter your load, the farther you can go.
Likewise, SPE cannot, and should not, be able to answer all of these questions. I do want to point out that, at its core, SPE is the thousands of members who volunteer their time, effort, and resources to support the technical and social missions of the SPE. Remember that these members work to help everyone, including, and especially, you. In this role, you see the big picture, the really big picture, and the most rewarding aspect is to see our members support one another through fair weather and foul. I repeat: Do not be afraid to engage and to volunteer. As a gentle reminder, it is volunteer season (i.e., the time when volunteer assignments to committees are made), so please consider a new volunteer role and visit the SPE Volunteer Portal
To advise is not to compel.
In conclusion, I always try to leave you with the impression that I certainly do not have all the answers but believe that tenacity of purpose and dauntless work ethic will lead to success in every endeavor. And, as usual, I stumbled on Chekhov’s quote above when looking for something else, and it struck me with its truth and simplicity. My mission is to compel—to encourage, challenge, inspire, enable, and motivate—every SPE member to pursue their personal and professional successes with relentless determination.
Likewise, SPE cannot, and should not, be able to answer all of these questions. I do want to point out that, at its core, SPE is the thousands of members who volunteer their time, effort, and resources to support the technical and social missions of the SPE. Remember that these members work to help everyone, including, and especially, you. In this role, you see the big picture, the really big picture, and the most rewarding aspect is to see our members support one another through fair weather and foul. I repeat: Do not be afraid to engage and to volunteer. As a gentle reminder, it is volunteer season (i.e., the time when volunteer assignments to committees are made), so please consider a new volunteer role and visit the SPE Volunteer Portal (https://www.spe.org/en/volunteer/) before 31 March 2021 for 2021–2022 committee appointments.
As I close, I would like to thank the SPE staff, the SPE Board of Directors, and all of those working in SPE Sections or SPE Student Chapters for all you do. In our most challenging times, you have stepped up in your service and your commitment to the SPE and our industry. It is an honor to serve you during this time, and I thank you for your support and labor on behalf of the SPE’s missions.
As always, please feel free to contact me at email@example.com for any feedback.