Interview with Chiara Aruffo
"I imagine the “geologist of the future” from a technical point of view is a person with a solid technical foundation, able to communicate and integrate with other disciplines in the subsurface and surface space and capable of processing large amounts of data in a relatively quick time, to provide effective business solutions."
EAGE Education Committee and YP member
Could you give a brief introduction of yourself?
I am a Production Geologist at Shell, working in the New Business Development department in Rijswijk (Netherlands). We work on growth opportunities (e.g. bid rounds) and occasionally we are involved in divestments. It’s a hectic environment where everything happens very fast – we are often asked to turn data around within a few days. It is a great place to learn the key elements that really matter for field evaluation. I was also lucky enough to work on an exploration project and to complete a wellsite assignment in Western Siberia. All great opportunities for a curious person like me! Before joining Shell, I obtained a PhD in Reservoir Geomechanics at TU Darmstadt (Germany) and I did an internship at the Schlumberger Geomechanics Centre of Excellence, in Bracknell (UK). For my BSc and MSc in Geosciences I studied at “Roma Tre University” and spent a semester as an Erasmus student at the University of Leeds.
After pursuing a PhD in Reservoir Geomechanics, you entered the O&G industry in the middle of the downturn. Can you tell us a bit about both worlds and the differences you experienced as a young professional transitioning from academia to industry?
It was indeed a difficult time to join the industry, I was involved in some recruitment processes that were suddenly interrupted due to the drop in the oil price. Nevertheless, there were still projects to work on at Shell and I immediately dived into a bid round study. Generally speaking, academia and industry differ in terms of liberty and timelines. At university, you are free to direct your research in the direction that is most interesting and timing depends mainly on the availability of funding. That said, in academia you can’t have a direct impact on business decisions. On the contrary, in industry, where you are closer to the centre of action, you can drive the change and see how your work steers the business development in a more profitable and less risky direction. In this case, the timeline is dictated purely by the business needs and that could also involve scope creep. From a personal perspective, my transition from academia to industry was quite smooth; truth to be said, my PhD thesis was an integrated project starting from seismic interpretation and resulting in a coupled flow and geomechanical simulation, therefore it shared many similarities with the typical “industry job”. A fundamental difference is that while during my PhD I was working alone, in Shell I was suddenly part of a team - which is much more fun and gave me a lot more learning opportunities.
You recently joined the EAGE Education Committee. Can you explain what the duties of the committee are and your role within this organization?
The Education Committee provides advice on the content of the education program of the EAGE, for example which courses are featured at the Education Days, the Distinguished Lecturer Program and the EAGE short courses. The Committee works closely with the main and regional offices of EAGE to tailor the agenda of education activities to the specific needs of the region in question and makes sure that all events organized by EAGE appeal to the participants. The Committee also introduced interviews for the short courses to ensure that the content is relevant to our audience. It is a great opportunity to get a sneak peek at the lectures of some of the top experts in the industry and academia, and at the same time, get a feel on how the lecturers would interact with attendees. Although there are no special roles assigned to the members of the Education Committee, except for the Chair, I was asked to join in order to bring in the perspective of young professionals – most of the other members are in fact renowned and seasoned experts. Furthermore, the majority of my colleagues in the Committee have a background in Geophysics, therefore I have as personal objective to ensure that Geology is well represented in our courses (e.g. the Distinguished Lecturer Program).
Education and continuous learning must be something you really care about. What skills do you think a young professional should be developing these days and how can the EAGE Education Committee help us strengthen such skills?
Historically, the role of the geologist has evolved following changes in technology, therefore the ability to adapt quickly and flexibility have always been key skills. This is still valid in a changing environment such as the O&G industry. The way I imagine the “geologist of the future” from a technical point of view is a person with a solid technical foundation, able to communicate and integrate with other disciplines in the subsurface and surface space and capable of processing large amounts of data in a relatively quick time, to provide effective business solutions. EAGE offers many opportunities to reinforce technical skills by organizing dedicated technical workshops and short courses, but also the E-Lectures are a great way to discover new topics. The Education Committee plays a fundamental role in this context: by advising on the content of the education program, we can lead the EAGE members towards the “hot topics” out there.
Finally, what advice would you give to someone starting out in the O&G industry?
After a few years in which the number of projects has fallen, the workload is now increasing and this translates into learning opportunities for graduates and young professionals. My advice would be to jump on every opportunity and not to be afraid of working outside your area of expertise – you might discover very stimulating topics in unexpected places. Furthermore, working in an environment in which most projects are integrated, it is crucial to understand the contribution of all disciplines to the final product. Personally, I consider myself very lucky to have had the chance to work on diverse projects in both production and exploration, as well as on a rotational assignment at the well site. However, the best advice I ever received is “you need to work hard to get lucky”!
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