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Rising Stars: Searching for Oil - A Challenging Job in Energy & Utilities

By Erdin Beshimov

As oil becomes more and more scarce, William says that drilling wells in the Gulf of Mexico is the toughest test of his knowledge so far. The excitement of this challenge, as well as being part of a supportive environment that helped him overcome the damage of Hurricane Katrina, are what's great about his career.

Name: William Langin
School: Princeton University
Major: Geology
Years Out of College: 5-10
Title: Geophysicist
Company: Shell Exploration and Production Company
First Steps

William's first job was as a summer intern with Schlumberger Oilfield Services in Midland, TX in 1998, between his junior and senior years in college.Says William of that experience: "I learned a tremendous amount about working in the energy industry during that internship.The technical aspects of the work were extremely challenging and exciting.Although I really enjoyed the work I did assisting Wireline Logging Field Engineers, I chose to enter graduate school after completing my senior year of college in order to increase the number of career options available to me."

From Then to Now

"After graduating from college with my geology degree, I started graduate school in geophysics the following fall.Since I was moving into a more quantitative realm, I had to take a few extra math classes, which I actually ended up really enjoying.In graduate school I focused on earthquake seismology and plate tectonics.?

At first I really enjoyed the research aspects of the academic setting and thought that I would stay in academia, either as a professor or researcher, upon finishing my degree.The longer I was in academia, however, the more I began to realize that I wanted to be in a more applied setting.

After interviewing with Shell early in my last year of graduate school, I was invited to participate in a one-week business challenge that gave students an inside look at working in the energy industry.That experience was extremely enjoyable and convinced me that the energy industry was where I wanted to begin my career and was definitely the defining moment for my career path to date.After going through the final interviews, Shell offered me a job in the Gulf of Mexico exploration group, which was based in New Orleans at the time.I readily accepted the position and worked hard to finalize my PhD. dissertation over the next few months.

My wife and I moved to New Orleans, and I started my job with Shell in September of 2003.For me, the applied, fast-paced environment was a welcome change from academia.The transition into the industry was extremely challenging, but I had the benefit of having a mentor who had worked for Shell for nearly 30 years.His wealth of experience and overall industry knowledge was an invaluable resource for me.Eighteen months into my career at Shell, I was asked to contribute to a high-profile project that had immense support from the upper management level.I was given the opportunity to perform some critical work on this project and received significant exposure within the company.In my career at Shell thus far, the chance to contribute to this important project has been my big break and has led to additional important projects."

Challenges Faced

"Applying geophysics to hydrocarbon exploration is extremely exciting and, due to complex geological settings, extremely challenging.Because my academic training was not specifically aimed at industry-style applications, translating my skills and training to this new environment took a little bit of time.??

Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans in late August of 2005.?My wife, son (who was only 5 months old at the time), and I evacuated to Boca Raton, Florida, where my wife's parents took us in for 5 weeks.We returned to our home in early October and found moderate, but repairable, damage.?I reported to work in Houston the following week and continued to work 4 days per week in Houston and return to New Orleans on the weekends.My wife and son spent most of their time in New Orleans working to get our house repaired.During the recovery process from the hurricane, Shell supported us and allowed whatever time needed to take care of personal affairs.Overall, it was a very difficult time, but I learned a lot about myself, my family, my colleagues, and that Shell is a tremendous company to work for."

My Experience

"I typically arrive at work at approximately 7 AM.My day starts so early because Shell allows employees to opt for a schedule in which employees work 9 hours on most days and receive every-other Friday off.I spend the first 15 - 45 minutes checking my calendar and e-mail that I have received since leaving the previous day.

My schedule varies dramatically for the rest of the day.If I am actively involved in drilling a well, I'll spend anywhere from 30 minutes to a few hours examining and interpreting the most recent well results. This data can come in many forms, from electrical measurements taken below ground to fossil information from the cuttings generated by drilling to geochemical information about the types of fluids encountered while drilling.I'll then integrate the latest information into our assessment of the subsurface environment and prepare a summary of the most up-to-date information for management.I will also spend a significant amount of time interfacing with colleagues from other disciplines such as drilling engineers, petrophysicists, and geochemists to make sure that we are ready for the upcoming parts of a well.?

When I am not actively supervising the drilling of a well, I focus on either evaluating other potential drill sites or analyzing areas that will be open for bidding in upcoming offshore lease sales.When evaluating sites that Shell currently has the right to drill on, I work with others to determine if we think there is a good chance of finding a large enough accumulation of hydrocarbons to justify the large investment required to drill a test well and, given success, appraise and develop the hydrocarbons in that area.When evaluating regions that will be available for bid in upcoming lease sales, we try to determine if we think there are hydrocarbons and the possible value to Shell.The lease sales occur twice per year, usually once in the early spring and once in the late summer.All bids are submitted a few days before the results are announced and the right to drill in a given area is awarded to the highest bidder.All bids are final and cannot be increased after the fact.These lease sales are very competitive and winning the desirable areas is a key component to future success in the Gulf of Mexico.

Several things excite me about my job right now.First, drilling a well is the ultimate test of applying your training and experience and, as I said before, the applied nature of my job is very rewarding to me.Also, oil and gas fields are getting harder to find and more expensive to produce, however the potential reward is extremely high.The possibility of finding a large field is extremely exciting and drives me to constantly look for new opportunities for Shell.

In order the successfully explore in today's environment, basic geology needs to be combined with cutting-edge geophysics.As a geophysicist, I am provided with the best technology available to do my job.I have tremendous software, computing power, and support staff to help me perform better.Knowing that I have the best possible resources at my disposal really gives me the feeling that I can succeed."

Next Steps

"So far I have been primarily involved in the technical realm of the energy industry.I am really looking forward to gaining more exposure on the business side of things."

Did I Ever Think I'd End Up Here?

"Yes, it is a somewhat common career path."

Advice for Others

"A leader is not a supervisor, manager, or boss. A leader is someone who has followers."

"This statement was made by a vice president at a conference for newly-hired employees.I attended this conference about 3 months after I started with Shell.When going to work for a large company, the corporate structure can seem daunting.However, there is room for each of us to be a leader in our daily activities.If you provide high-quality work, communicate effectively, and produce results, you can be a leader, no matter what your official title may be.I think about this statement almost daily and it inspires me to constantly improve, not only my own personal work, but also to improve the quality of the work produced by my team, my region, and the company as a whole.The same type of thinking can be applied to any group setting.In order to achieve the best results, you need to improve both your own and the group's performance.??

I cannot say that there is much I would do differently next time.Like most people, I'd try to take a few different classes in college, but overall I think my path thus far has been a good one.

I believe that it is a very exciting time to be in the energy industry.I think students in any of the sciences or engineering should consider a career in the energy industry.You can work almost anywhere in the world, have the best resources at your disposal, and have an exciting career that can grow and change with you."

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