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People in Energy – Clarke Shepherd, Global Business Development Director, Oil Plus

People in Energy – Clarke Shepherd, Global Business Development Director, Oil Plus


A highly experienced and creative Global Business Development Director who has demonstrated the ability to lead diverse teams to create, close and successfully execute major project level business in the Oil & Gas Industry.

Broad technical and business experience in the industry. Track record of positioning and developing business in new markets in the N. Sea, CIS, N. Africa, Middle East, and Asia. Recognised expert in developing and introducing new business models for integrated projects. Technical strengths in Oil & Gas Filed Developments and Multi-billion dollar Capital Projects with over 20 years in the Oil & Gas Industry.

How did you get into the energy sector and how long have you been working in it?

I was born in Aberdeen, so there’s a lot of exposure to the oil and gas industry from the offset, just due to the sheer significance it has on the city. I would say it was my time at university that helped me get a foot in the door. I was studying for a business degree at Robert Gordon University and during the 3rd year, I went on placement with Shell and worked with them on my first North Sea oil and gas development, from then on, I was hooked.

But as I say, I had a lot of exposure to the industry, so I’d spend summer months helping on asset shutdowns on a sort of labour hire basis and it just went from there. I started working full time in 2004/5 and my career has seen a lot of variation since then, from upstream developments to operations and consultancy and now I’m the Global Business Development Director with Oil Plus.

What does your job involve on an average day?

My role involves a lot of networking trying to bring in business from external clients. We do a lot of work in the Middle East, Far East, Africa and Europe, so there’s a lot of travel involved which can be great! Prior to the pandemic, I would spend the best part of the year travelling around our various locations, meeting with clients, and driving business, but I guess a lot of it recently has been virtual. I’m involved in a lot of the day-to-day general running’s of the business, so I have a lot of involvement in the operational and financial side of things. Dealing with any issues that arise on our live projects, trying to build new business strategies etc. Lots of emails and 6am starts!

What are main challenges for the maintenance sector at present and how can they be addressed?

I would say a main area of focus just now is operational efficiency, we need to make sure assets are up to date with mechanical integrity and maintenance. The industry is currently a huge backlog of asset integrity and maintenance due to the delays and nature of the pandemic. So, with that comes poor uptime, which ultimately leads to production losses across all assets.

We’re trying to take preventative measures to improve operational efficiency and reduce the backlog. We put together a pilot programme that involved onshore and offshore skilled maintenance and vulnerability teams to target more focused areas and be proactive with vulnerability management of assets. But to be able to identify what those priorities are, we have an onshore team looking at all the data within the CMMS then teasing out those core focus areas. So, a lot of it comes down to data management and technology driven solutions.

What are main barriers to international growth for ambitious companies and what advice do you have for them?

One of the areas we suffer from is localisation, not having local boots on the ground and infrastructure in the areas we operate in. Which can be anything from offices, to licensing and regulations. Which is something I think we need to put revenue into to cut out the long processes of getting information back to our UK offices.

My advice for others would be, if you don’t have the right processes in place, you will face challenges financially. It can take a long time to get set up with the financial processes and other aspects set up, so you could be bank rolling a project for 12 months before you see anything come through. So, it’s hard for smaller companies to make that temporary financial sacrifice, to succeed.

What has been the highlight of your career so far?

It’s hard to pick a particular highlight because a lot of the companies and roles I worked in previously, have been a great stepping-stone to get me where I am today.

Moving from Aberdeen to London was a pivotal point for my career, which opened the door to a lot more opportunities in the financial and business development side of the energy transition. After that, I’d say coming into my role at Oil Plus at a time when the business was not performing very well, we then embarked on rebuilding the business, the team, and streamlining our services. Now, five years later, where we're very profitable and growing significantly.

What ambitions have you still got to fulfil professionally in your career?

I don’t think you ever feel fulfilled, I think naturally everyone’s always looking for their next step or their next opportunity. Every milestone is a stepping-stone to the next. However, I’d maybe say the next thing I’d like to do is set up a new business in a new country for Oil Plus, that’s an interesting challenge I’d like to be part of. Or run my own company one day, but for now I enjoy waking up and coming to work every day and I think there’s a lot to be said for that.

Who has been the most influential person in your life professionally?

This would have to be my most recent colleague/boss/mentor and Managing Director of Oil Plus Mark Cavanagh. Mark has had many businesses and built them up from the ground or transformed them into very successful businesses. It’s hard to list all the lessons I have learned from Mark; many are subconscious, and many are from hard lessons of getting it wrong and being told directly and honestly. But most of all being trusted to deliver and implement my own way of doing things is the sign of great leader. I will continue to benefit from these lessons and mentoring and hope that I can carry on the torch of mentoring others in the future.

Given the experience you have now, what advice would you give a graduate just starting his career in the Energy sector?

Best thing I did was say yes to everything. Actively network, meet as many people as you can. Put yourself out there because you never know who you’re going to meet and how they're going to impact your career. Get as much exposure to all aspects of a business as you can, ask questions and don’t be afraid to learn. You never know where your career will take you.

If you were inviting guests to a dinner party, which 3 people would you invite and why?

  • Elon Musk – Maybe the world’s greatest Entrepreneur in my lifetime, who better to learn from!
  • Robert De Nero – Godfather II is one of my favourite films so it would be impossible not to have him, I also like Japanese food….
  • Jimmy Iovine – No dinner party can be without music, and he is a great businessman

Read the latest issue of the OGV Energy magazine HERE

Published: 10-05-2022

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