Career development

Respect Your Elders

As the SPE 2018 President, I set a goal to revisit the SPE strategic plan, which was last updated in 2013.

Shown in this photo taken in 2016, from left, Janeen Judah, 2017 SPE President, S.M. Farouq Ali, and Bita Bayestehparvin, SPE student member.

The value of senior professionals

As the SPE 2018 President, I set a goal to revisit the SPE strategic plan, which was last updated in 2013. A lot has changed over those 5 years, and SPE has responded to those changes. Our mission remains unchanged, and our commitment to the One SPE guiding principles (adopted in September 2001) has endured.

One of the products of the 2013 strategic plan was an impact review of the “Big Crew Change,” as the current generation of senior professionals with more than 30 years of industry experience retire and leave our ranks. The demographic representing those 55 and older was identified in the strategic plan as a vital and valuable segment of our membership, at risk of slipping away during the then-nascent oil price downturn.

While the crew change has passed, our strategic response to this potential significant loss of membership, knowledge, experience, and human resource is critical to the future of SPE and our industry. These valued members carry with them the institutional memory of our trade, the competencies and technical knowledge we seek to disseminate, and the volunteer spirit on which SPE was built. The value of retaining and engaging these senior professional members cannot be overstated, and I personally wish to recruit these venerated members to assist in achieving my goals.

I value these members as strategic thinkers, champions of community outreach, and supporters of corporate responsibility. They have so much to offer by mentoring less-­experienced members as well as future SPE and industry leaders. These senior professional members can also mutually benefit from their continued engagement in our society. I believe it is imperative that SPE recognize the value these members represent by offering benefits tailored to their specific needs.

These benefits include:

  • Staying connected with our changing industry and the extraordinary people with whom they have worked
  • Helping transition through their late career stages into retirement
  • Qualifying for discounts where applicable such as special membership dues categories and events
  • Giving back through volunteer opportunities designed to fit their schedule and situation

Personally, I believe the greatest benefit we can offer is meaningful volunteer opportunities, and we have no shortage of those. It is one of my objectives to continue the practice of promoting and supporting connections between competent volunteers and rewarding volunteer opportunities. I lean heavily on the energy and creativity of our members to accomplish the objectives I set out for my presidency.
To that end, I wish to make a personal appeal to our senior professional members to continue and even grow your involvement in SPE activities at the section, regional, and international levels. This is easily accomplished through enrollment in the League of Volunteers, whereby you can match your interests and talents with rewarding volunteer opportunities. Your continued support of technical knowledge transfer by publishing papers, editing papers, participating in technical communities, attending technical meetings and workshops, and mentoring less-experienced professionals is the essence of SPE. The opportunities to continue to grow your SPE experience are as limitless as your own imagination.

As proof, please allow me to get personal. Three senior SPE members who have made a distinct difference in my career need to be mentioned. I am sure a good number of you will know and recognize these icons of our industry.

First, in the No. 1 position in my world and maybe more broadly in our world, is the very, very remarkable Dr. S.M. Farouq Ali. Where do I start? He was a luminary and a role model for me as a university student in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, in the early 1980s. A patient, kind man full of adventure and brimming with brilliance. And he forgot nothing. He formed my opinion of the industry, gave me hope in a future (a commercial future) in heavy oil, and instilled in us a glimmer of hope after the 1986 price slide. Then, over the years and decades, was still there everywhere offering advice, encouragement, and praise. He remembered and recalled great experiences along the way, usually interactions with us as former students. He has attended 53 consecutive ATCEs and is looking forward to this year being his 54th. When I have put in 50 or 60 working years, watch for me on a dock somewhere. Not Dr. Farouq. He makes me tired looking at his schedule. Thanks, Dr. Farouq, for being my hero and a great SPE senior member.


Second, is Roger Hough. He officially retired from a global career with Shell as a drilling expert and moved to Calgary, Alberta, Canada, in his “retirement,” yet he was far from retired. In fact, Hough continued to consult and teach all over the world. Everyone I meet who has been affiliated with drilling from the Shell organization knows Hough and has a story. A respected drilling expert, Hough epitomizes the active role of a senior member by excelling in the dissemination of technical information. A former Distinguished Lecturer and longtime SPE member, Hough soon surfaced in the Calgary section and was brought on to the section’s board of directors. Not long after his arrival, he took over managing the section’s website and social media. Normally, we look for the younger members to do this, but Hough did it effectively, promptly, and with enthusiasm. He became the Calgary section chair, after me, and eventually he was followed by Ramez Hanna Alla, a young professional. I watched the leadership of the Calgary section bounce from a senior member to a junior member, essentially a generation apart, and they were equally effective in the position. SPE membership knows no age boundaries, and enthusiasm and volunteerism are welcome in all positions.


Thirdly, and sadly in memoriam, is Roger Hite, who is remembered in this month’s People section. In February, Hite was in his final year on the SPE international board as the regional director for the Gulf Coast Section when he lost a rapid battle to the terrible disease known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. I only knew Hite for 3 years, the time I served with him on the board. He was larger than life, one of the brightest people I have met, but also one of the kindest. He epitomized inclusion. Hite was a pillar of reason and tolerance and always had my back in key decisions. He represented one of the most dynamic sections in the SPE world, the Gulf Coast Section, and he represented them well. It is a tribute to him and to all senior members that he took up that position well into his “retirement.” Hite had a long and successful career with Shell, a lot of it on the research side, after having earned a doctorate degree from Princeton University. He also did postdoctoral work in Germany. Hite retired from Shell in 1999, but he was very active in our industry until his passing. Hite loved jazz music, boating, and traveling. We will really miss him on the board.

Our society is full of that knowledge, that expertise. We have the amazing benefit of using this knowledge as we go forward. The younger members need this expertise as they produce energy for our world. Today, we must focus on building community and being transparent as energy suppliers. We must blend the technical expertise and incredible value of our senior members with the enthusiasm of our newest members into making the world a better place. Whether you are 25 or 85 years old, you have a place in SPE.