Career development

Oil and Gas Careers You Didn’t Know Existed—Transitioning a Career Path: Applying Reservoir Engineering Expertise in Graphics Tech Company

There are roles in tech companies that need extensive oil and gas background and specific experience in reservoir applications and reservoir simulation.

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Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.
Abraham Lincoln

During our search for oil and gas professionals who had transitioned in their careers, we had the pleasure of meeting Nefeli Moridis, developer relationship manager for the subsurface, Global Energy Team at NVIDIA, a company very popular among gaming enthusiasts! Talking to Moridis was very exciting for us, as she not only had a transition in her organization (not something that everyone would relate to as oil & gas immediately) but she also has a job profile which we did not know existed.

Before NVIDIA she worked in the oil and gas industry as a reservoir engineer and as a consultant, focusing on projects in unconventional reservoirs in the US and internationally. Moridis has published 11 papers and has presented at SPE conferences worldwide. She was recognized as one of the 2021 TWA Energy Influencers. Moridis holds PhD and MSc degrees in petroleum engineering from Texas A&M University, an MSc in reservoir engineering from the French Institute of Petroleum (IFP School) in reservoir engineering, and a BSc from the University of Texas at Austin in petroleum engineering.

–Aman Srivastava, Prithvi Singh Chauhan, Mohamed Mehana, TWA Editors, Discover a Career

What is your current role and what are the responsibilities that you handle as part of it?

My current role at NVIDIA is developer relationship manager. I focus on subsurface applications on the energy team, where I am responsible for helping optimize applications to be GPU accelerated, providing solutions for the clients and partners that we work with, and seeking new applications that can be accelerated on GPUs. Another portion of the work I do includes AI/ML implementation of reservoir applications and helping optimize those algorithms.

Did you achieve a degree or certification to qualify/ prepare for this role?

My degrees in petroleum engineering and years of experience in the oil and gas industry qualified me for my current role. It is important to be able to have a technical conversation with the clients, partners, and startups that we work with.

What motivated you to look for another job or to transition in your career?

I graduated at some of the worst times for the petroleum industry. I finished my MSc in May 2015, which is when I decided to continue to pursue my PhD. I then graduated from my PhD at the beginning of a global pandemic. The first two positions prior to joining NVIDIA were for small energy startups in Houston. Due to the pandemic, I was furloughed indefinitely from the latest company I worked for. A friend and former colleague of mine contacted me when this happened and mentioned that NVIDIA was looking for someone with extensive oil and gas background and specific experience in reservoir applications and reservoir simulation. This was an amazing opportunity, and I was thrilled to begin discussions with, and then interview for, such an exciting position and company.

What attracted you to this type of work?

The points that attracted me were the ability to continue using my background in reservoir engineering, but even more was the opportunity to learn about the tech industry, to learn about GPU programming, and finally that I would have the opportunity to work in all aspects of the energy industry. Though my primary work functions are focused on reservoirs, we have also been working on green initiatives for the industry, specifically on CCUS projects. Additionally, I am not only focused on GPU optimization for simulation frameworks. I have the opportunity to work on visualization, AI, and ML projects, including natural language processing (NLP) and conversational AI projects.

How did you prepare for the interview?

Prior to the interview, I studied what NVIDIA was currently doing in the energy industry and what they had previously done. I also studied NVIDIA's full software stack and the solutions they offer for all industries. Additionally, I studied all NVIDIA’s hardware solutions and how they differ, what the different functions are, and how their hardware is related to the software. My last focus was tying my experience in the oil and gas industry to the role I was applying for, and connecting how my expertise and background are valuable to NVIDIA and to this position.

How steep was your learning curve for this role?

The learning curve is exponential. The first month at NVIDIA, I focused solely on hardware and software training internally. Most NVIDIAns must take these trainings and continue to take them quarterly to stay up to date with our latest technology. I had to focus on learning about NVIDIA’s hardware solutions and how they differ, for example what is used for visualization versus high-performance computing, and why there are these differences. I also had to learn and understand NVIDIA’s software solutions and how they are optimized for different applications, and then tie those solutions to energy problems. Every day is very different, so I am continuously learning—which is one of the best parts of my current position.

Looking back, do you believe you made the right decision?

I am very happy with my transition to a tech company. Not only do I have the opportunity to continue learning about an industry that I did not have much interaction with before, but I also work on a huge array of projects which is very exciting. I am professionally challenged and am looking forward to continuing in this career path.

Are there any common points between your current and previous roles?

Prior to joining NVIDIA, I worked for two startups that were fast-paced and there was a constant hustle. The energy team at NVIDIA has a very similar feel because we are a relatively small team and are very ambitious. On a technical front, as I focus primarily on subsurface applications, it is important to understand the challenges that the client is facing and how we can address those appropriately. Having a technical background as a reservoir engineer is vital in being able to have these discussions efficiently.

How can a YP learn about your current role, if they are interested in moving toward it?

The energy team website outlines the work we do across all energy, from subsurface to surface, to power and utilities, to renewables. That would be the first place to reference the work we are doing. I am also happy to connect with any YPs on LinkedIn if they have specific questions or would like to discuss this further.

What advice would you like to give to the YPs who may be thinking of a career transition?

My advice to YPs who are thinking of transitioning into a new career is to do sufficient research to ensure it is something you will enjoy doing. This includes speaking to professionals who have also transitioned to hear what their experience is. Once you have found what you want to do next, ensure you are prepared for your interviews.

Any closing remarks?

I encourage you to seek other opportunities in different industries if you are interested in doing so. My experience is that the first few months were very challenging because of the new environment and new industry, but the work is very rewarding and very exciting!