Internships in Oil and Gas

I started this piece on December 14th, 2013. I sent it to a couple of acquaintances for them to review a few days later.

Their responses:

I don’t know what’s your intent with this post. Are you writing it just to analyse yourself, or are you doing this to tell other people? Because if it’s the second reason, then it’s not very helpful to someone who doesn’t know your situation. Who’s V? Your girlfriend? What exactly transpired to make you lose your jobs was never really delved into, and instead it sounds like you’re just blaming yourself. For instance, in Failure #3, #3 was “you allowed yourself to get taken for a ride”. Exactly how? It would be better if you wrote things more concisely and left out the things which may not have been that critical to your dismissals, and went deeper into de

But if you’re just writing this for yourself, then I guess it works.

Details on my relationship with V can be found under the Narrative portion of my website, under the heading 2008 – 2010: My First LTR, or My Experience with College Justice

Not sure how to respOnd [sic]. This seems like story telling – no concrete changes or reasons in here man, as far i can see.

I have to agree with my friend. There were no concrete changes.

Without further ado, my Internships in Oil and Gas (originally entitled My Career Failures [To Date])

It has been three and a half years since I graduated from the University of Tulsa’s College of Engineering and Natural Sciences, one and a half years since I took my last final exam at the University of Missouri College of Business, and one a half years since I returned to Houston, TX.

I write now with the serious intent of looking at my career failures to date, as this topic has been one of frequent discussion. I’ve been advised that I may even be out of hope on making it as a petroleum engineer.

Failure #1 – Arena Resources

This first failure occurs in the summer of 2008, the summer following my first year at the University of Tulsa. I was employed by Arena Resources, an independent operator that had been making waves with their work in the Permian Basin. I was young and quite inexperienced, but I did have a certain chutzpah that led the hiring manager, Craig Gaines, to take me in. I’ll always remember the day that I went to the interview. JJ drove me to the office in SM’s car. Craig ended up sitting with us both over lunch after he initially thought that I wouldn’t have the technical strength to contribute value to the organization.

I knew that things were bad when, after my internship had come to its end, someone in HR contacted me to say that my pay was being docked. When pressed for a reason why, this individual informed me that it had come to their attention that I had not been employing myself fully during the time that I was at work.

  1. Arena Resources was a smaller company, without an established internship program, and this meant that the internship was very open-ended. I spoke with Craig every day on the job to ask questions and to get direction on where to apply myself. This probably made me look like less of a self-starter and more of an order-taker.
  2. I had purchased my first car just days before starting work, and the idea of having real disposable income and a money pit to toss it into was eating at me. I spent company time on a car forum learning about my car and what others had been doing with theirs.
  3. Some days, an older guy whose job was to set up and administrate the company’s computer systems would come in. I quickly found him to be an interesting dude, and we would talk whenever he happened to be in the office. Conversation focused on computers and his rock-crawling experiences with his Jeep.
  4. I had enrolled myself in Calculus III during the second summer session at TU, and this led me to working only half days at the company during the second half of my internship. This class was a veritable pain in the ass, and I found myself very stressed leading up to the day of the final exam. To make matters worse, I had scheduled my flight back home to take place on that same day, which meant my final day at work consisted of me showing up to declare that I really needed to review for the final and not a lot else.

I didn’t get called back to work at Arena Resources that next summer, though I would come across Craig again during campus career fairs. I always made a point of dropping by and asking how things were.

Arena Resources was acquired by Sandridge Energy. The announcement of a possible merger was made public on April 4th, 2010.

Failure #2 – Chevron North America Exploration & Production (CNAEP)

In the summer of 2009, I found myself under the employ of Chevron, and I was stoked. The past year of school had seen me taking my first real petroleum engineering classes, and I felt more confident in my ability to produce results. It’s difficult to put it into perspective, even now. I had an intense feeling of purpose upon learning that I would be going to Houston and working for Chevron. Houston, only the oil capital of the world; and Chevron, the company that had acquired Texaco right after the venerable Texas Oil Company celebrated its hundredth year.

My direct report and assigned mentor was Steve Bowman. He is a Texaco alum. His background in drilling engineering started with him working on rigs. My project was to develop a set of recommendations for wellhead protection. It took me a while to understand what this entailed, but Steve was patient in helping me to learn the ropes. The work was easy, the commute insufferable, but the single factor that led to failure was my fear of missing out.

I lost the job after showing up to work late. The day before, Steve had told me that I had better show up on time, or else we would be having a talk with HR. I went to bed sometime in the early morning after a night out, completely sleeping past my alarm. The talk with HR was swift and left me feeling defeated. I remember Steve saying that I had behaved as if I was entitled to the job.

  1. I had feelings of ennui partway through the internship. The intern projects were designed to take up the bulk of the internship duration, but I had arranged to start working at Chevron as soon as I had completed my last exam. I had felt like I had beaten the wellhead protection guidelines project to death – Steve and I had gone over it so many times, and it appeared to be complete. Looking back, I think both he and I would agree that it had a clear solution, and this was it.
  2. Steve helped me to combat these feelings by arranging for me to meet people within Chevron that would be willing to sit down and talk about their careers. I met and interviewed a number of people this way, and it opened my mind to the vastness of roles within the organization.
  3. Chevron’s internship program had several different functions that brought us in contact with more senior individuals within the organization. I decided, after meeting Marcel Robichaux, that I would like to pick his brain and to learn about his career. I unwisely decided to agree to his proposed meeting time, which was set for a time earlier than I was accustomed to arriving at work. When I missed this first meeting with Marcel, I wrote him to apologize. I then scheduled another meeting with him, again at a time that I wouldn’t make.
  4. I had been scheduled to go take a visit to the drill ship that Chevron had working out in the Gulf of Mexico. This event was meant to be one of the highlights of the summer, and I had gotten my HUET and SafeGulf certifications. The plane flight was booked. Steve told me that I wouldn’t be going after I missed the meetings I had scheduled with Marcel. Marcel was Steve’s boss.
  5. Around this time, Steve also told me that he wouldn’t be able to recommend me to return to intern at Chevron again. After my experience from the previous summer, I was feeling pretty miserable. I started to resent him for this punishment.
  6. My relationship decisions were fucked. After V left, I started hanging out with SN, an acquaintance from back in the day. I spent time with him looking for fun and escape from routine, when what I needed was discipline.

I don’t know what led me to bring V with me to Houston in the first place, but that’s a different can of worms. Kind of.

Later, I would have an opportunity to manage my brother. The frustration that I faced in that situation made me realize what it must have been like for Steve to manage me. I have thought many times about writing him. The last time that I saw him was when I was in Houston in the summer of 2010. I happened to see him at The Flying Saucer in downtown Houston.

Failure #3 – Schlumberger Information Solutions (SIS)

My junior year saw me getting deeper in real petroleum engineering courses, but I also started running into the realities of the oil and gas industry. Dr. Sarica helped me by putting me through to Mack Shippen at Schlumberger.

I lost that job in a disastrous incident that took place in the room that Schlumberger was paying to house me in for the summer. I was called in to HR to describe what led to the damage, and was told that I would probably have to find my own place to stay. I got called into HR later that same day to be informed that I was being dismissed from the job.

  1. I was by myself, virtually unmonitored, most of the time that I was there and on the job. The level of autonomy expected of me was high. They had expected that a graduate student would most likely be the one to take on the project. What they got was me.
  2. My relationship with V became a great detriment to my well-being. I should have just turned off my phone and let her know that I didn’t want her around. But again, that’s a story for another time. Kind of.
  3. I allowed myself to get taken for a ride.

Mack stayed with me while I packed up my belongings. The whole situation was so fucking traumatizing that it’s been played and replayed in my head till it all blurs together. Mack shared some of his experience with me. He left me with the message that I needed to get my act together, that it takes everyone time.

I would see Mack again at ATCE in Florence, Italy. I stuck around for his presentation on PIPESIM.

Failure #4 – Helmerich & Payne International Drilling Company

I left Houston and returned to Tulsa with V. Upon my return, my first course of action was to contact Cassy Hendrix in the human resources department at Helmerich & Payne. I had initially been offered a summer job with them that would have had me working on one of their active drilling rigs in a field location. Some of my colleagues in my degree program had interned with Helmerich & Payne in years past, and they all walked away with the ability to say that they had been out there, helping to make hole.

Now with only a month and a half to go before the start of the fall semester again, they weren’t in the position to have me out in the field. I was told, however, that there would be an office job for me.

I wound up in the Safety, Learning, and Performance Center (SLPC), reporting directly to Kevin McMillin. Kevin was project manager. Kevin liked fishing.

My responsibilities were to assist Kevin with whatever work needed to be done. I was also invited to listen in to the morning conference calls, during which time the various drill site managers would call in to the SLPC to report on any setbacks. Most of what I did was to remotely collect data from the computers located on the drilling rigs using SQL. The raw data would be fed in to Excel, and I would filter through it. I generated charts showing various drilling parameters, plotting these against time or total depth. I’d share the massive files with Kevin, who would then give me a new assignment.

The monotony of work was broken up by the conversation that took place amongst those working in the SLPC. The other guys who manned the SLPC were great. I would share interesting stories that I found on new developments in science, technology, and consumer electronics with them. Sometimes I would play a video on the projector that we had in the room. Motorcycles were a frequent topic of conversation.

Additionally, DM was also working at Helmerich & Payne. The two of us would get together for smoke breaks. We’d shoot the shit for a bit, and then head back into the building and up the elevator for another round of productivity.

  1. I was disappointed at the size of the paycheck that I received from Helmerich & Payne. I decided to bring this to the attention of Cassy one day. I talked with her and was told that all interns were paid the same amount. No feather in my cap was gained from that interaction.
  2. My work came to me from Kevin. I had become an order-taker. I would go and ask him questions when I went to visit with him after completing a task. I didn’t manage to establish a deep rapport with him, though I am confident that I did request that he write a letter of recommendation on my behalf, and he did this for me.
  3. I stopped showing up at the morning calls because I felt that there wasn’t anything for me to contribute during these already well-established rituals.
  4. My entering Helmerich & Payne partway through the summer meant that I fell outside of the scope of the normal internship. There was a lack of clarity as to what exactly my role was. I found myself confused about whether I should be learning how to handle the incoming calls for assistance from the rigs. I settled into helping Kevin collect data and analyzing the morning reports to determine the root cause behind performance setbacks for some rigs.
  5. I found myself embroiled in my first civil proceeding. I had to excuse myself from work for that first court date. The papers were delivered by a police office to the building that I worked in.

When the summer finally came to its end, I felt like I had done a good job. I had established myself as having the focus to get through the work assigned to me and walked away with the sense that I had formed friendships with those that I worked with.

One memory does stand out in my mind from that job. One day, a couple of employees that I hadn’t seen before were visiting the SLPC from the rig. I observed one of them struggling with Excel and wound up teaching him the ropes. He and I talked about our cars as well — he had a Mini Cooper S that he’d built up. His name was Justin. I wouldn’t end up seeing Justin again, but I hope that he is better for the years.

I have to go through my emails to see what happened between me and Kevin. As far as I could tell, he was happy with my work. I write Helmerich & Payne off as a failure in spite of the value that I was able to contribute there only because this is how it must appear to the public.

I received no notice of why I wasn’t invited to go back to that company. Reviewing my correspondence with Cassy, she only said that there was nothing matching my skill set. This positively kills me, and I think it’s a load of bullshit.

Anyways, that’s all for now. I’ll write an update post when I get around to revisiting this. Until then,

Alex