Career Development

Versatile Oilfield Engineer: Demand for Today’s Oil and Gas Industry

Versatile skillsets can help oilfield engineers ride the waves of the volatile global energy markets.

Oil Worker at a Rig
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Without a doubt, knowledge versatility fits individuals in every puzzle. Someone with a zeal for learning, understands everything coming his or her way, takes pride in learning new things, tackles challenges, and thinks out-of-the-box is a perfect asset to any organization. This formula also applies to an engineer working in an exploration and production company or an oilfield services company globally.

Like in a cricket game how all-rounders (who can bat and bowl) are more valuable than players who can only bat or bowl, an employee with a diverse skillset (expert in one field yet having good knowledge of other fields) is an asset to his or her organization. It is correctly said that everyone is replaceable no matter how hard he or she works, or the time he or she puts in. Nevertheless, one thing that can change the manager’s perspective is the net value that the individual can add to the organization.

A conventional oilfield engineer is one who feels happier working within his or her comfort zone. Such an engineer can spend his entire career majoring within his domain of expertise. While it is great to specialize within a specific domain and gain experience in that field, this can also bring its own challenges, especially during times of uncertainty.

The question then becomes, “What can a ‘conventional oilfield engineer’ do to increase his or her versatility, and what merits would that bring?”

The Features of a Versatile Oilfield Engineer

An oilfield engineer who is passionate about learning can easily adapt to new circumstances and scenarios, creating a positive change within the oil and gas industry and increasing his or her versatility (Anand, 2020). Such an engineer can ride through the ebbs and flows of the oil and gas prices while adding value to the company. He or she is the one most likely to apply advancements from other industries to petroleum engineering (Ighalo et al., 2020), contributing positively not only to his organization, but to the discipline’s development.

Versatility can save an oilfield engineer from the ups and downs in the highly volatile oil and gas industry (Mohanty, 2020). For instance, consider a hypothetical situation where a recent graduate who started working as a drilling engineer finds himself in the bad situation when the local government shuts down all drilling activities. A versatile skillset can enable the drilling engineer to switch to an office position such as reservoir management and avoid unemployment. But this is possible only if a person is not sclerotic in nature focusing on a single area of expertise. In other words, gaining additional capabilities increases adaptability to other subdisciplines of petroleum engineering (Ighalo et al., 2020) and may help an individual “ride the waves” of the volatile global energy markets.

The oil industry is changing at a rapid pace and the nature of the industry is changing with the emergence of new technologies and increased societal expectations. Versatile engineers not only bring in technological advances to the industry but also make it easy for others to them (Ighalo et al., 2020).

Today’s state of the industry demands for versatile oilfield engineers because of the multidisciplinary nature of the business. A competent oilfield engineer can broaden his or her horizons by thinking beyond self-imposed limitations. Professionals should never limit themselves from taking on new challenges (Anand, 2020; Mohanty, 2020); trying to adjust yourself in different roles within an organization ultimately raises your worth.

Here are some practical ways an oilfield professional can diversify his or her skillsets to become a versatile professional in the energy industry:

1. Cross-departmental projects: The landscape of the oil industry is based on teamwork. From exploration to drilling and then to production until abandonment there is constant transfer of knowledge from one team to another. Oilfield engineers majoring in one expertise involved in such knowledge transfers can engage themselves and learn from the other department in more detail. For example, a drilling engineer while handing over the well to the production engineer can learn more on the coiled-tubing or stimulation operations.

2. Cross-functional engagement: Oilfield is one such industry where there is no bar on rising to the corporate ranks if you have the right skills, knowledge, and mindset. Oilfield engineers can engage with other functions in the company to broaden their understanding and skillsets. For example, by moving from the technical field to sales or from sales to marketing or from operations management to human resources. This not only equips the candidate with cross-functional knowledge but also helps gain multidimensional skills that may be beneficial when the candidates take up larger responsibilities in the company.

3. Studying a full-time or part-time higher educational degree: This is a very common approach for highly ambitious people who want to diversify their skillsets and broaden their knowledge outside of their core expertise. Doing a master’s degree in data analytics for a reservoir engineer with a bachelor’s degree in petroleum engineering can open many new of opportunities for that engineer.

4. Broadening the professional network: As it's rightly said, “Your network is your net worth.” The more diverse the skillsets of the people you are connected with, the more knowledge and wisdom you will be exposed to. Having such a network of people can help you inherently develop an interest to gain versatile skills necessary to increase your overall brand value.

In conclusion, it is all about broadening the scope of a conventional oilfield engineer by having an open mindset to becoming a more valuable, more skilled versatile oilfield engineer.