I started as a Physicist working for Visuray on our pioneering downhole X-ray technology with a wide variety of responsibilities including: performing experiments and developing models for X-ray scattering in fluids; developing requirements and specifications for engineering and manufacturing of our wireline tools; and working with our sales and marketing teams to articulate the value of our products for our clients. Today, I lead a team focused on connecting client needs to our technology development and have additional business development responsibilities.
My training and background is as a soft condensed matter physicist, so at first it seemed a little strange for me to work in oil and gas. However, when I was looking for new opportunities after my post-doctoral fellowship, I found that my experience working with X-ray scattering in soft materials was highly relevant to many problems currently being researched in oil and gas, from borehole imaging to production engineering and flow assurance.
Without question, the first commercial application of our VR90 Downhole X-ray Diagnostic Service. It was amazing being able to incubate the technology in the lab and take it all the way to solving a real problem for a client in the field. A close second is being able to travel the world and see how dynamic and connected the global energy industry is: I find that really invigorating.
Being faced with the worst downturn in oil and gas in a generation has no doubt been a huge challenge. It has been doubly hard for a new service company launching new technology. Personally, I’ve had to transition very quickly from an academic mind set to one where I am highly focused on addressing critical customer needs. In a downturn, providing superior value to the operators has to be the top priority for everyone at a service company. Learning how to prioritize this way was not a challenge I expected to face as a physicist, but it is one I have thoroughly enjoyed taking on.
I’ve been supported by amazing scientists and business leaders for my whole career back to when I started working in research as an undergraduate. Without those mentors who encouraged me to pursue my passion for solving challenging problems, I wouldn’t have had the amazing opportunities I have been afforded so far.
My advice to anyone looking to get into the industry is to develop their technical expertise and credibility – it is the universal currency in oil and gas. Beyond that, never pigeon-hole yourself and don’t be afraid to jump at opportunities that appear interesting - you never know where they’ll lead.
I think the market has made oil and gas operators too conservative and risk adverse over the past decade, and that is showing up in a slow pace of technological change. New technology is vital to bringing down break-even prices in all production environments, and will be a key differentiator for companies chasing higher shareholder returns during the next commodity cycle. While there is a lot of talk about the benefits of new technology, operators will only realize these benefits by having earnest discussions about their pressing business challenges with technology providers such as ourselves. Many companies are starting to do this, and some are doing it quite well, but open discussion of challenges needs to become the norm.