Veterans Can Make First Drilling Jobs Learning Experiences
It’s end of the year and typically work slows a little as we head into the holiday season, giving us time to reflect on our work and the people who have helped us make it through another year. When I think back on the 30 years that I have been in the drilling business, I am grateful that the individuals who have been my boss have been willing to share their experience with me.
Over my career, I have had many bosses and mentors. My first several years in the industry were spent in the field working on drilling and pump service rigs. My supervisors on the rigs were sometimes not much older than me and sometimes old enough to be called “grandpa.” Their formal education was almost always less than mine. However, I very quickly learned that a degree in science or business was not needed to work safely and productively in the drilling field. I was the new “college kid” from the office and took the time honored ribbing that the new guy endured. (I think my favorite was pipe dope on the inside of my hard hat, under my truck door handle and on the back side of the steering wheel—all in the same day). I marveled at how they worked hard and solved problems day after day, in the rain, snow and heat. By asking questions, observing the operations and working side by side with the crews, I gained an understanding of how the drilling business worked, literally from the ground up.
The best education for young drillers often comes from mentors and supervisors in the field. Source: iStock
My “office” bosses were no less diverse than the supervisors I had in the field. Keep in mind, when I finally ended my field work assignment, I was then a “project manager.” As a project manager, I was supposed to meet with clients, develop proposals/bids and manage the field crews while they executed the projects.
My first boss, was a lifelong contractor whose passion for the industry rubbed off on me immediately. He seemed to know everyone and understood that how we treated our clients allowed us to build long-term relationships. Be on time for meetings and provide the clients with a proper, well thought proposal were two early lessons I learned. Another one of my early bosses taught me that good proposals and being on time were important, but at the end of the day we had to make money and we should not be ashamed of profits. The money the company made allowed us to buy new and upgrade
existing equipment. Profits also provided for raises and bonuses to the employees. This was something that was not taught in my geology classes, and at first seemed somewhat foreign; not only did I need to solve problems for the client, but I needed to make money doing it. Profits added an interesting perspective to the whole project manager thing—a balancing act with the client, estimating process and management of the field crews. But while profits were important, I was also taught that integrity was paramount. We could not make money by cheating the clients with poor materials or shortcuts in the field.
The next boss I had wanted to move me from a project manager to sales. Sales? To me, a geologist and project manager, sales seemed like a bad thing. How could I help clients solve problems and the company make profits as a salesman? I asked my supervisor that simple question and his reply was, “think about it: until a sale is closed, no rigs move from the shop and no field crews have work. The sale is the starting part of the entire process.”
That made sense to me, and off I went boldly into the world of selling. After several years, I moved into a management position and had a team of professionals working for me, selling drilling services. This presented a couple of challenges for me: how to manage a team of salesmen and how to report data up the chain of command. Luckily, my boss had experience and was willing to pass that knowledge to me.
The first thing he explained to me was that, although I had a team of salesmen all working toward a common goal, their different backgrounds would force me to manage them as individuals, focusing on the strengths they developed from their experience in the drilling field. I could not manage a salesman with a background in geology and consulting the same as a chemist who worked his way up from a helper on a rig. They each would approach a sale from a different angle, based on how they viewed the client from their own experience. Once I understood that each individual salesman would need specific guidance and support, the job became much easier.
I have had many bosses over the last 30 years. While I learned something different from each of them, they all had one thing common—passion. Passion for the industry and the people who work in it. Each one was willing to pass their experience along to me, allowing me to grow and learn. I’m not sure I will be working in the drilling industry for another 30 years, but I hope I’m able to pass my experience along to others. What experience will you pass along today, tomorrow and the rest of your career?