Career development

A Tribute to Giovanni Paccaloni. Part 2—A First and True Mentor for Many SPE Young Professionals

Former SPE President Giovanni Paccaloni was the driving force behind launching many of the SPE YP programs. Founding YPs of those programs share their memories working with Paccaloni and their advice to YPs of today on how to get involved in new opportunities.

Paccaloni giving a lecture on matrix acidizing to the SPE Abu Dhabi Section in 2019.

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 the interview below, they talk about the importance of mentorship in career development and offer their advice to today’s YPs. (Read Part 1  for a discussion on how they joined SPE and their experience working with Paccaloni in founding the SPE YP programs.)

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

An underlying theme for all SPE YP programs is mentoring. How has mentorship affected your career and your involvement in SPE? What was your  experience in having Paccaloni as one of your mentors?

Natalie Chadud: I'd have to say Giovanni was one of my first true mentors when I was working in Europe. During that time, over a 3–6-year period, I got very involved in SPE. I knew I wanted to make a noticeable impact on SPE, but I had little idea about how to go about it. When you talked to Giovanni, he had these grand ideas and great visions for YPs, and I thought okay, so here's an opportunity to become more active. He gave me the encouragement and support that I needed to start on my journey.

Beyond Giovanni, I've had several other mentors in my career—often they've been people I've worked with. They are people I've admired for something they've offered. It could be technical expertise, the way they manage people, or how they treated and supported their colleagues through tough times and good times. These people are the ones whose honest opinions I really value. Mentorship has helped me navigate the tougher times in my career, so I haven't had to deal with things on my own. My mentors did not just tell me what I wanted to hear, they have changed the way I have operated and how I've approached my career.

Hernan Buijs: It has been huge. Early on, I was always looking for a mentor and an opportunity to nurture new relationships. SPE has changed the equation for me by giving me access to knowledge and friendships wherever I went, and it has had a tremendous impact on my professional life. I have learned a lot from many informal mentors over the years because I was always asking questions and willing to listen, taking every opportunity to become a better professional.

Giovanni was the closest relationship I had to a formal mentoring program. I was blessed with the opportunity to learn, work, and have fun on multiple SPE initiatives. He selflessly spent time to help me become a better person, teaching me that I should always put people first and help them become a better version of themselves. He solidified my values on honesty, humility, and hard work. His lessons on doing the correct, right, and wise gave direction to my career.

Léon Beugelsdijk: Mentorship has been very, very important to me. I try to be a mentor for people around me, including those more junior or even at a peer level. At the start of my career as a research student, I received a lot of mentoring and coaching. Both of my jobs I've ever had I got through SPE. The first was after presenting my research material on hydraulic fracturing at a SPE local section meeting. A local SPE board member was at the meeting and said, ‘There's this job out there for this company that might be of interest for you,’ and I actually landed that job. Later, after a while being in that job and being active in the local section, another local board member provided me with an entry into Shell, where I still work. So, it's all true that SPE networks and mentors are people who can look out for you and help you in your career and personal life.


Paccaloni was recognized with the Young Professionals Champion Award during the 2013 SPE Annual Technical Conference and Exhibition in New Orleans.

Your backstory in launching the SPE YP programs is one of success. What advice do you have for YPs starting their careers today? What are some ways you recommend for getting involved in new opportunities?

Léon Beugelsdijk: So obviously I'm talking to the converted when I say you should be in SPE and an active part of this family, and part of this passionate group of people in the industry. We are in a very rough period of time for oil and gas companies, but there is always a place for people that are intrinsically motivated and driven, and that have the right energy and skill set to deliver on a daily basis. By being positive, motivated, and out there taking the chances, there will be new opportunities.

Another piece of advice that I got from Giovanni was that if you want to become a technical expert, start reading one SPE paper per week from OnePetro, so in a year's time you’ve read 50-odd papers on your subject. You will find that very few other people around you in your discipline will do that and you will have more knowledge,  skills, and insight about what's out there on your discipline. That will set you apart from your peers. It doesn't give you the experience—that will come with time—but it will give you the background and knowledge to succeed.

Hernan Buijs: I think Léon pretty much said it all. You're talking with some SPE evangelists here, right?

I was born in a very small place in the northern part of my country and I was one of the first people in my family to go to university. Getting my degree and joining SPE has opened the whole world for me over time. I did not realize it at the very beginning, but as I think about it now, the challenges and opportunities I had through SPE allowed me to make this journey. It just takes a little bit of time and energy from you, but the rewards are priceless.

I would advise YPs to take a step forward, sign up for a real challenge, and invest some energy in something bigger than themselves by being active in SPE. In return, SPE will provide you with leadership opportunities, knowledge, and friendships that will shape your career. It's a rich and valuable experience that I will recommend to anyone, especially during the early stages of their career.

Natalie Chadud: SPE offers unique opportunities and freedom to play an active role in a very large international organization. It provided me with visibility and leadership opportunities earlier than I received in my technical career. Regarding SPE involvement, I think it is important to be selfless—to be willing to give up your personal time for the greater good. You shouldn’t ask what is in it for you because you will find out as soon as you start getting involved. I have found with volunteering that you get back many times more than what you put in. I think it is also important to start volunteering early in your student or professional career whether you volunteer for your student chapter committee or work closely with your local section. The people you meet and work alongside will be valuable contacts throughout your career.

SPE offers many varied and exciting opportunities to contribute and be part of something huge, but you need to seek out and accept responsibility and opportunities without overthinking if you can handle it. You can work that part out later; otherwise great opportunities might pass you by. If there is an SPE member or leader that you admire or want to work with, don't be shy—take the initiative to approach them about collaborating on a paper or planning a conference. Stay active in SPE by attending section events and conferences and read lots of papers. That is how you learn and develop.

Josh Etkind: I have really enjoyed having the opportunity to learn and try things out—different leadership styles, different communication styles, different engagement styles, and being able to do that in a learning environment like SPE. It really helps you develop professionally, and it’s something I encourage everybody to give a shot. The investment of time and energy volunteering pays huge dividends throughout your life. I'd say that probably 80% of my major career progressions have had some sort of connection to SPE. I have many close, lifelong friends through the SPE. 

I have always remained active in the SPE. Some of my managers really got it and they encouraged me, while others expected a singular focus on delivering in my role. I’ve found that active involvement in the SPE gave me opportunities to develop myself that my job didn’t. Eventually all those capabilities added value for my employer.

I think we must all continually learn new technical and soft skills. Our industry is rapidly changing—stakeholder expectations are changing overnight, our industry’s license to operate is being challenged, and you also have the rapidly accelerating energy transition and digital transformation. So, there are many emerging opportunities that require you to continue adding to your repertoire of skills to remain competitive. YPs can leverage SPE to augment their skills and provide them with valuable experience that may not be accessible at work.

Loris Tealdi: The beauty of being involved as a YP in SPE is it is one of the first opportunities that potential leaders have to try out being a leader. As I said earlier, in SPE you can do almost anything because there are no limits. Trying to do that in a company is impossible—you start as a reservoir engineer, then become a senior reservoir engineer, and then maybe a principal reservoir engineer. Before you know it, you are old.

This is not true in SPE—you can get involved early and take on leadership responsibilities. If you are intrinsically motivated, SPE allows you immediately to be recognized as a leader, because there are no rules and you develop yourself as quickly as you want. It is an opportunity to grow your interpersonal skills, your leadership, etc. Probably the best investment that a YP working in the oil and gas industry can do for himself or herself is to invest in his or her own career and development early on. After years of investing in your career and being active in organizations like SPE, taking on greater and greater roles, you will be recognized by your company that you are a step ahead. And you will continue to grow as the company gives you more and more responsibilities that you couldn't have imagined a few years earlier.

Getting involved requires commitment and energy, but there is nothing that would be better for your career. I remember when I was younger, I was working at my job, getting my MBA, working on TWA, and writing SPE papers. I was waking up early and I was going to bed late, and all this energy was coming from the flame that Giovanni put inside me. You can always accelerate whatever you do by working harder—excellence is a choice. So, my advice to YPs is to keep working hard and invest the time in building your skills now because it will pay off in the future.


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.