Here’s to the “Typical” Member

The one thing that let me to excel in my career was my SPE involvement, and it made the difference between drudgery and enjoyment.

Source: Getty Images.

Not everyone can be the top dog, and I should know. I have spent a lot of my career in the middle of the pack.

Some of my professors, who must be suffering from amnesia, gave glowing remarks about me as a student. Not true—I was average. I scrambled to get assignments done, scrambled to study for exams (and pass them). It seemed to me that I worked very hard for every little inroad that I gained. I graduated at one of the worst times in the history of our industry, 1986, and was one of the 37 members of my class of 38 who did not get a job. Throughout my career, I had bad luck as often as good luck. The good times were sweet, but the bad times were typical.

The one thing that let me to excel in my career was my SPE involvement, and it made the difference between drudgery and enjoyment.

Basically, I was a grinder (allow me to use an ice hockey term). An average middle or back-of-the-pack guy who enjoyed life but ground away during most of my career. What a glorious, normal place to be!

Now for the good news: SPE is incredibly proficient at disseminating technical information and our very purpose is to make all members the best they can be, even the “average grinder.” At SPE, those members in the middle of the pack are really important, influential, and a well-regarded part of society.

I love the stories of the hard worker beating the odds. My SPE career is full of them, and as I travel as SPE President, I am so proud to lift these people up by acknowledging their great work. No member is average—they are all superstars.

People such as Howard Duhon, who has been likened to “the smartest man who ever lived.” But, if you asked Howard, he would say he is just a good ole boy from Louisiana.

People such as the PetroBowl team from the University of Benin who, despite losing their team captain and other players to visa issues, traveled the world to attend ATCE in San Antonio. With only two players, this team made it to the championship final, taking second place.

People such as Andrea Payer-Moser from the Vienna Basin Section who turned a routine presidential visit into a tremendous motivational experience for people in two countries. Twice.

People such as Yusuf Babatune, the consummate Newfoundlander, who is always ready to help and singlehandedly has nominated more Canadians for awards than any other person.

And the list goes on and on and on. It’s actually about 160,000 names long (I’m reserving about 5,000 spots for those superstars who already have been recognized as such with SPE awards).

One of my presidential priorities is to update SPE’s 5-year-old strategic plan, and I will dedicate a future JPT article to the plan. What I want to mention now, however, is that our survey data tell me something. We get responses from—you guessed it—the grinders! They say things such as “SPE needs to maintain and enhance technical quality within programs,” and that SPE should “serve as a technical authority/trusted source of unbiased information for governmental organizations and the public.” We have received many comments such as these.

The strategic plan is all about making sure we are ready for the membership’s needs over the next 5 years. As we began the process, we identified three key potential threats. These threats are so critical to the average member. The grinders. The pillars of our industry.

Oil and gas price volatility. Even the best of us, corporately or individually, can be disrupted by an economic downturn triggered by low prices. We are in the middle of one of those times right now. The SPE Board must plan conservatively for these fluctuations. Commodity price fluctuation crosses all of our key activities: meetings, membership, and advertising revenue and exhibition space at conferences. Our last strategic plan was done when the oil price was high, and it contemplated a price drop. This strategic plan will be done in a low-price environment, and will try to account for changes if prices go back up (hopefully) and stay up (even more hopefully), or not.

Any deficiency of technical quality in our SPE programs. SPE’s existence and ability to flourish focuses on the strength of our programs. We must ensure that our technical quality is never compromised by growth, global diversity, commercial incursion, or any other reason.

A lack of volunteerism. We are rapidly growing our membership in areas without traditions of volunteerism. These new members are our future—but we must ensure that we can pass the volunteer baton on to new entrants. This problem is augmented by the departure, perhaps through retirement, of many active volunteers who have been part of SPE for years. SPE’s entire structure is heavily dependent on volunteers. If this foundation shifts, we need to react or be ready to react.

SPE is here to help you beat the odds. We are planning strategically to be here for you, the member. We are here to turn you from a person working in the energy industry into a person who demonstrates technical leadership in the industry. We want to raise the bar for you to ensure that we are the best.

Here’s to the 160,000 hard-working superstars known as SPE members! SPE has a strong and competent core. It’s great to be a grinder. Cheers!