Career development

A Tribute to Giovanni Paccaloni. Part 1—A Visionary Leader and Young Professionals Champion of SPE

In the early 2000s, former SPE President Giovanni Paccaloni brought YPs together with a vision to start YP programs in SPE. In a tribute to his legacy, YPs who were part of the founding stages of the now successful programs share their memories working with Paccaloni and his role as their mentor.

Giovanni Paccaloni (standing, third from right) sharing key intrinsic motivation insights at the SPE Beijing Student Chapter Future Petroleum Engineers Conference.

Every SPE member has a story of how they joined SPE. Many members are introduced to SPE during their university days, while some are introduced through their colleagues, and all members consider SPE as the go-to place for technical and professional development for a career in oil and gas. As a member-driven organization, SPE members bring their ideas, initiatives, and fresh perspectives and find a platform in SPE to build on those. One such program, which was launched in 2005 is this young professionals (YPs) publication, The Way Ahead (TWA). TWA is a publication for, and run by, SPE YPs.

While virtual collaboration has become the norm today, TWA is a virtual collaboration success story of more than 15 years, with SPE YP members from around the world working together in the TWA editorial committee remotely to produce the publication. TWA is one of the many programs launched when SPE’s offerings to YPs gained momentum in the early 2000s. While the industry had not yet seen the demographic tilt toward YPs, former SPE President and a galvanizing mentor, Giovanni Paccaloni, brought YPs together with a vision to expand SPE’s YP programs. The YP initiative grew and thrived over the past 15 years and has led to the many programs benefitting SPE young members today.

To celebrate the impact Paccaloni had on SPE YPs, and to discuss how the YP program first started, current members of the TWA committee spoke with Léon Beugelsdijk and Josh Etkind, Shell; Hernan Buijs, Wintershall DEA; Natalie Chadud, Australia Pacific LNG; and Loris Tealdi, ENI US, all of whom were among the founding YPs of the original SPE YP program.

Each of them joined SPE before many sections had YP programs and later spearheaded YP initiatives in their regions and internationally, including TWA. In Part 1 of this two-part interview, they share their stories on joining SPE and their experience working with Paccaloni in founding the SPE YP program. The importance of mentorship in career development and their advice to today’s YPs are discussed in Part 2.

While the conversation covered many topics from participating as an active SPE member and the importance of mentorship to how their careers have grown over the years, one thing stood out during the interview: Paccaloni’s resounding message to YPs: “Excellence is a choice.”

-Thomas Shattuck, Deloitte, and Editor, TWA Interview Department

You have all been active SPE members for many years now and hold leadership positions in many SPE committees and regional sections. You were behind launching the SPE YP programs in the early 2000s when you were YPs. How did you get introduced to SPE and how did you start getting involved?

Natalie Chadud: I joined SPE in 1994. I was part of the student chapter at the University of New South Wales in Sydney where I was studying petroleum engineering—that was my first introduction to SPE. After I graduated and began working as a reservoir engineer, I became active in the Queensland Section. That was in the late 1990s, before there was an actual YP program or really any version of it in Australia and Asia Pacific.

Loris Tealdi: I also got involved in SPE early on, back in 2001, in the very first year of my career. I guess before that I was a member of my university’s student section, but I was not really involved. That year SPE established what was called the Emerging Leaders Program (ELP). Before that, there was only a YP committee in Italy and maybe a few other places like Scotland—I think there were maybe four in total at the time. At that point, I became really active in my section as one of the YPs.

Josh Etkind: My story is similar. I've been a member of SPE since 1994 when I joined as a freshman petroleum engineering student at Texas Tech. The following year I took a role on the student section board and ever since, I've had some sort of leadership role in SPE. Active SPE volunteerism has enriched my life and my career in countless ways.

Léon Beugelsdijk: I originally studied mining engineering in Delft University. One summer there was a conference for rock mechanics, a combination of the International Society of Rock Mechanics and SPE. I volunteered to help with the audiovisuals, working the slide carousel if you remember back when you needed those for the slide projectors. That was my first exposure to SPE.

Later, after a couple years in the mining industry. I came back to Delft to do research on hydraulic fracturing and I became an SPE member at that time, switching to focus on the petroleum engineering side.

Hernan Buijs: I joined SPE a bit later in 2005 and that was thanks to Giovanni, who was the SPE president at the time. He was on tour and was going to visit my university, so I went to see him present.

During his lecture, he mentioned that the SPE YP program was built on the concept of freedom and finding new ways to add value by challenging conventional wisdom. I realized that by being part of the program, I would have endless learning opportunities and a chance to help others grow on the way. Giovanni’s presentation was outstanding—his energy and passion about SPE was so fascinating that I was immediately attracted to serve this great society.

When did you first become active as a YP?

Josh Etkind: After graduating from university, I went to work in Midland, Texas. I took a role on the board there in the Permian Section. I was only there for about a year and then moved to New Orleans. The Delta Section in New Orleans welcomed me and I was able to get a role in that section, but it took me a little while. I think it took me a year-and-a-half or so to join the board because there were a lot of quite senior folks on the section board and they had been there for a very long time. They weren't making many spaces available for others to jump in.

I first learned of the YP program while visiting France. John Donachie [another YP member who was actively involved in the YP program at that time] and I both used to work for Schlumberger, and we were at the research and engineering facility. I was there because one of my inventions was being tested and he was there presenting on multiphase pumps. During one of the breaks, he pulled me into a little room and said, “You got to join me for this call.” It ended up being a call for YP leaders from all over the world. I remember they were all super-energetic and were talking about all this exciting stuff that they were doing. It was just at the very beginning of the programs, near the end of 2003 or early 2004.

Shortly afterward, Giovanni visited New Orleans in 2004 as SPE president-elect. We invited him to join the SPE Delta Section board for breakfast.  Giovanni explained all the great progress that the YP program was making in Italy. Like Loris said, some things were already sprouting up in a few places like in the Netherlands and in Aberdeen. I think Houston was starting up as well. And at this meeting, he said we should start an ELP here in New Orleans. They looked around the table and I was the only YP there, so that's how I became chair and initiator of the YP program in New Orleans.

Natalie Chadud: I got involved with the YP group after I moved to Aberdeen in 2002 and offered to volunteer with the local SPE section. Someone recommended that I join the newly initiated ELP committee led by John Donachie. It was like the YP Program SPE has now, but without the international coordination.

I was on the committee for 2 years and took over from John as chair for 2004–2005. During my time on the ELP, I was invited to be on the organizing committee for the first YP workshop in Stresa, Italy. The exciting times kept coming from there: inaugural editorial committee for TWA, a member of the initial YP Co-ordinating Committee, attending and chairing other YP workshops, and presenting Ambassador Lectures in Scotland, the Netherlands, and Hungary. Later after moving back to Australia, I became the SPE Queensland Section chairperson.

It was a great experience and I got to work with a highly energized group of international YPs. It’s important to me to ensure that other YPs can have similar opportunities to collaborate with like-minded YPs internationally and to be part of this movement. And in fact, I have just proposed a YP coordinator for the Australia-New Zealand-Papua New Guinea Council of SPE sections, where I am the Queensland representative, to replicate what I experienced in Europe. The goal will be to promote collaboration and shared learnings across this region, participation in SPE International YP programs, and encourage YPs in our region to contribute to the international YP community.

Léon Beugelsdijk: After joining, I continued to get more involved in SPE as a research assistant. I remember one of my professors Peter Curry asked me if I wanted to participate on the program committee for the Formation Damage Conference back in 1997. I asked them what they wanted me to do—take minutes, be an assistant, get coffee? Instead, they said, ‘you'll be ranking papers and chairing sessions.’ They wanted to get more young people who had an interest in SPE and in petroleum engineering involved.

At the conference, I talked with a director from SPE, and I said, ‘Well, you know, it is really nice that you invite young people to sit on program committees and you should do more of that.’ And I said, ‘Maybe even you should think of organizing events for YPs.’ She looked at me and said, ‘Funny you say that because just 2 months ago, we invited YPs from across the globe to attend a board meeting and talk about the potential for YPs in SPE.’ She said there was an age gap there and the board wanted to address that, so SPE was going to host this YP workshop, and she asked me if I would be interested to sit on the program committee, and I said yes. This became the first international YP workshop back in 2003 in Stresa, Italy.


During the opening dinner of the Scheveningen YP workshop on 7 February 2005, The Way Ahead was unveiled by 2005 SPE President Giovanni Paccaloni, SPE Director for the North Sea Region Leo Roodhart, and Editor Thomas  Bruni. Pictured here are, from left, Bruni, Paccaloni, and Becci Elson, the magazine’s Coordinating Editor. Attendees of the workshop were given preliminary copies of the magazine and, at the end of the presentation, the editorial committee of The Way Ahead presented Paccaloni with a framed photo of the cover of the first isue for his support for the magazine and other YP activities. 


Former SPE President Giovanni Paccaloni was the inspiration and motivation for the start of many SPE YP programs. He brought YPs together and challenged them to try new things and excel at them. You have all worked closely with him. What was it like to meet him? How was the energy when you started these new programs?

Léon Beugelsdijk: I was the first chair of the committee trying to coordinate the global YP workshops, TWA, and other events. These were just growing at a stellar pace and cascading over the globe full of energy. Very, very exciting times back in 2003 to 2005. I first met Giovanni when he invited us over to the Eni headquarters in Milan to prepare for the Stresa workshop. After all, Milan is just 30 km away from Stresa, and that's where we had our first program committee meetings. That was just the start. Meeting him and his mentorship has been an integral part of my professional development and SPE career.

Hernan Buijs: I met Giovanni when I first joined SPE, but afterward I kept in touch with him mainly through email. What I liked about him and the YP program was that we were encouraged to think differently. He wanted new ideas. That allowed us to test our capabilities and leadership skills in a lower-risk environment. We could make wrong decisions because that helped us work out what was right.

I got to work with him on multiple initiatives in places like Latin America, Europe, North America, and Asia. His energy and genuine love for SPE was so contagious that I managed to find the time and energy to serve SPE relentlessly. This led me to have opportunities to serve on multiple standing committees, including the Student Development Committee and the YP Coordinating Committee—both of which were merged into the current Young Member Engagement Committee.

Giovanni was the best friend I could have ever asked for. He was always there to help me figure things out and make the right decisions, opening a world of possibilities and challenges to me. He changed my life, made me a better person, and took me to places I have never, ever envisioned.

Josh Etkind: It was not the first time I met him, I think I had met him a couple of times before, but I remember seeing him at the YP workshop in the Hague in 2004. My wife and I arrived after having traveled through the night, but our room wasn't ready yet. Giovanni was standing at the front desk and greeted us as we arrived. He could tell that we were a bit haggard and wanted to freshen up before the meetings started in a couple hours. So, he kindly offered the key to his room and invited us to shower and if desired, to take a nap in the extra bed in the room. He was infinitely generous. That was the beginning of me getting to know Giovanni on a more personal level, and it was such an incredibly warm experience. He remained a mentor and friend since.

Loris Tealdi: I met Giovanni early on in my career after I joined SPE. And what I learned from Giovanni was that everything was possible in SPE because it just depended on you. That is not true in a company because in a company you have limits and boundaries for what you can do as a new joiner. SPE gave me opportunities to try new things and meet new people.

I will say that 99% of my career progression has depended on the people that were motivated to work with me. Being able to work with people, taking opportunities when they come up, and developing new skills are what enabled me to take the next step in my career. Giovanni put in my mind that excellence is a choice and that everything was possible. There are no limits if you put the maximum effort in whatever you do. That is what has kept me intrinsically motivated at each place I have worked—and that all started with Giovanni.


Léon Beugelsdijk is a frontend development manager and benchmarking delivery lead for Shell, based in the Netherlands. Beugelsdijk is an SPE Distinguished Member and has held several volunteering roles in SPE on both local and international levels. He served on the SPE International board as Regional Director North Sea and was the first chair of the Young Member Coordinating Committee. Beugelsdijk is the recipient of the SPE Distinguished Service Award, the SPE North Sea Regional Service Award, the SPE International and the North Sea Regional Young Member Outstanding Service Award. He holds an MS in mining engineering from the Delft University of Technology.

Hernán Buijs is Wintershall Dea hydraulic fracturing subject-matter expert. He served on the SPE YP Coordinating Committee from 2009 to 2012 and Student Development Committee from 2010 to 2013. Later, he was a member of the Production & Operations Advisory, Forum Series Implementation, and Completions committees, and was the chair of the Business, Management & Leadership Committee in 2018. Buijs is the recipient of the SPE Young Member Outstanding Service Award, SPE Distinguished Service Award, and SPE Completions Optimization & Technology Award for the South, Central and East Europe Region. He holds industrial engineering and petroleum engineering degrees from the Institute of Technology of Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Natalie Chadud works for Origin Energy in Brisbane, Australia and is currently seconded as a senior petroleum engineer to the Technical Assurance and Collaboration Team in Australia Pacific LNG. Chadud has been an active SPE member throughout her career, serving in various positions in the Queensland, Aberdeen, the Netherlands, and Copenhagen SPE committees, as well as on numerous YP committees at international level. She is the past chair of the SPE Queensland Section and the Queensland representative on the SPE Australia-New Zealand-Papua New Guinea Council. Chadud is a Chartered Professional Engineer (Engineers Australia) and holds a BE in petroleum engineering from the University of New South Wales.

Josh Etkind is the Shell Gulf of Mexico digital transformation manager with a background in subsurface, wells, innovation, sustainable development, and major project delivery. A petroleum engineer by background and a certified Sustainability Practitioner, he concurrently serves as CEO of Sanitation for All, and as chair-elect of the SPE Gaia Initiative, and chair-elect of the SPE Sustainable Development Technical Section, both focused on sustainable development in the energy industry. Etkind chaired the  YP Coordinating Committee from 2006 to 2007, served on the SPE Board of Directors from 2007 to 2010, and is an SPE Distinguished Member. He holds a BSc in petroleum engineering from Texas Tech University.

Loris Tealdi is the president and CEO of Eni in the US. An SPE Distinguished Member since 2013, Tealdi has a long SPE record. He has held several leadership roles at regional and international levels in several committees and boards. He was one of the founders and co-editor of The Way Ahead, and 2007 SPE YP president. He is the recipient of SPE Young Member Outstanding Service Award, the SPE Africa Region Distinguished Service Award, and the SPE Distinguished Service Award. Tealdi holds an MSc in environmental and mining engineering from Polytechnic of Turin, MSc in petroleum engineering and reservoir management from the Imperial College of London, and an executive MBA from the University of Bologna.