If you missed our interview with James Gordey (Episode 2 of The Global Energy Leaders Podcast), here is a transcription below.
Ryan Ray: James, good to have you on the show today, how’s it going man?
James Gordey: Thanks so much for having me, it’s a pleasure to be here.
Ryan Ray: Let’s get right into it, you are in the API Young Professionals, and you founded that or co-founded that? Kind of walk us through that story.
James Gordey: Okay. I graduated from LSU with an engineering degree in May of 2015, on May 15th. Three days later, I moved to Houston, eager to start my career in oil and gas. About a month in, I discovered Oil and Gas This Week, Mark LaCour and James Hahn’s flagship podcast. I reached out to both of them. I had all this energy and I was looking to channel it, so I inquired about how to get involved. Mark had recently started a young professional group inside of his API Houston group to sort of offer a platform for young people to progress their career, and to get involved and learn more about the industry from a broader perspective, and use the existing API connections to leverage that and empower it. Basically, we started with a core group of about 7 people, sort of the co-founding group. We’ve grown it to about 300 members between now and then. All just organic growth and doing events. Basically, we just want to do the Young Professionals Organization, so we offer a lot of really specific and targeted industry exclusive events; not just happy hours, but things where you can really learn and progress your career. We toured Honeywell’s Customer Excellence Center, and we actually toured an off shore rig that was dry docked in Baytown here in the Houston area. We’ve toured Phillip 66’s new state of the art world headquarters. We’re having an upcoming event with Halliburton, which probably will have happened by the time this is released. Really, these aren’t just fluff events or having events to get together and drink beer. We do that as well, but we want to provide you with things that you couldn’t get normally, and expand your horizons, and get some learning from that.
Ryan Ray: One of the things, when you look at the oil and gas industry is this last downturn, we’ve lost a lot of jobs. A group like this is, it seems like trying to work towards building the next generation of people who can take the torch and do the work of the next 10, 15, 20 years. What is it amongst young professionals right now; what’s the mood, what’s the spirit? Are they excited about what they’re seeing in the oil and gas industry, or are they nervous? What’s the general temperament?
James Gordey: Sure. I’d say about 5 years ago people were pretty excited, and then it goes without saying, the downturn occurred. We belabor, “Oh, we’re so worried about the Great Crew Change and all this.” I have, and I know personally, tons of people that graduated with engineering degrees that are very bright, have worked all the summers in college with internships, or people that have even worked in the industry. They have wonderful GPAs, they’re very bright, they have great interpersonal skills, and they don’t have a job. They can’t get a job, it’s very difficult to do so. I’d say that there’s quite a bad taste in addition to, if you want to get into it; all the climate change, and the oil and gas not using social media. I’d say that they haven’t done themselves any favors in the past few years, especially with the younger demographic.
Ryan Ray: You mentioned social media, one of the things that in my experience has been, oil and gas seems to lag behind in technology; whether it is something like social media, or even some of the more intricate systems that we like to use in GIS or whatever. I know there’s a lot of discussion going on right now about how does oil and gas make itself relevant again, and how does it use technology moving forward? Do you think the oil and gas industry is becoming more open to technology now, or is there still a big resistance to it?
James Gordey: Anyone who’s tried to start a business or sell innovative products and services in oil and gas know there’s a tremendous resistance to change, due to the massive scale and complexity of the projects that they operate within. There is a resistance to change, that’s precedent across the enterprise. I think they’re being forced to adopt technology, maybe not even by choice, but really their hands are getting forced. Oil prices were low, and they had to shrink their break even costs. This isn’t a technological problem. Let’s just say in some sort of utopian world, oil and gas companies are like “Okay, we love technology. Let’s do it, let’s figure it out. Let’s get moving here.” They could drastically improve and change their businesses, the technologies exist. These companies in California, and Texas, all across the world have created an incredibly innovative technologies, but it’s a people problem. We’ve got to get people to buy in, and implement, and be willing to change how they do things. Due to a lot of the forces at hand in the market, people are being forced to do so. That’s a good thing, whether or not they’re willing to admit it.
Ryan Ray: One of the things we see when we talk about downturns is companies look to increase efficiency. With a lot of these, even on your podcast, I’ve seen there’s some pretty exciting technology that’s coming out there by some young entrepreneurs that are coming up. Do you think as we go through this downturn and as prices have finally leveled out a little bit, do you think that the entrepreneurs are being successful in convincing these companies that, “Hey, there is newer ways. There’s more effective ways to do what we’ve done for a lot of years, but do it in a better way.”
James Gordey: It’s entrepreneurs, but it’s also a lot of the big technology companies. A lot of them have set up shops here in Houston and abroad. Microsoft, and IBM, and also some really great startups; they have answers to these problems and they’re starting to penetrate more markets, but they don’t really understand the business, so there’s a bit of a learning curve there. We’re working on it, but I wouldn’t say that we’re there yet. There’s a whole lot of work to do, and this is just the beginning, just the tip of the iceberg. If you let your mind run and think about it, there’s truly some incredible possibilities, but people have to be willing to implement them in their business to drive real change and improve their business for the better.
Ryan Ray: We’ve mentioned the downturn a few times, and got a report the other day that the storage increase was greater than expected. What are you hearing out there for 2017, as far as the price goes? Will it stay 40-50, or are you more optimistic to that maybe $60-$70 range?
James Gordey: I don’t profess to be an expert at all, Mark LaCour is pretty successful with his suggestions. He says that we’re going to have a steady increase over time. We are in the information age, we’re in the age of hydrocarbon abundance. As the demand increases, there’s tons of technology in place to sort of turn that on with the shale plays. We’re going to start taking with technology, we’re going to transfer that knowledge over to the next generation and abroad. That shale, the geology, isn’t unique to America. Other countries in other parts of the world are going to turn that on as well. I’d say that it’s going to be a slow increase. I think we’re on the upward trajectory, but $100 a barrel, that’s not happening right now or really in the near future at all; pending something catastrophic, which I don’t ever wish to happen.
Ryan Ray: Right. I don’t think $100 oil is in the future either. I’m not even sure, from someone who’s kind of experienced these downturns; $100 oil, when it crashes, it hurts a lot of people. It could be very volatile to get that price, and then you got down to $20-$30 oil. Next thing you know, people are losing jobs. I’m definitely enjoying stability of the market because volatility, while it can bring a lot of money, it can also bring a lot of hurt. A lot of people lose jobs, and I’m sure you’ve got friends who are out of the industry now, just because of what’s happened over the last two years.
James Gordey: Either they’re out of the industry, or they were never allowed to the chance to enter, so they were forced to go off into other things.
Ryan Ray: When we look at the people we’ve lost over the past few years, and this group of people who are getting out of college or going to college; how do we as oil and gas professionals or energy professionals in general, how do we market ourselves as a viable industry for people to come into? Something that technology is kind of a hot and trendy thing, we need engineers, we need IT folks, we need people of all different disciplines. How do we take the marketing aspect and say, “Hey, we need you in our industry.” What do we need to do to bring them in?
James Gordey: Oil and gas companies have quietly ignored this for a long time; the internet, and social media, and public perception from technological standpoint. That’s what young people, that’s how we access information. I’m not going to call someone or try reading a book, I can literally press a button on my phone and ask a question, and it will present all the information to me that I would ever want. The way we access information is drastically different, so oil and gas companies and big enterprise in general is just now figuring out that they need to have a plan in place to do this. From that perspective, obviously the high salaries are very attractive. Again, there’s that lingering notion out there that people don’t want to get burned. Earlier on in this year, the top five companies, as far as revenue goes, were all technology companies. There’s tons of exponential growth there. I was at a presentation here in Houston yesterday where when you search oil and gas worker, it’s a bunch of roughnecks out on the rig in grease. Then you search tech worker, and it’s a person at Google and they got all the drinks they want, and they’re hanging out on the lawn. It’s a very different perception. That’s how technology is used today, and that’s how young people use it. They’re really going to have to implement action plans there. Also, not just public perception, they’re going to actually have to be open to new ideas. All these people are about to retire, the Great Crew Change, it’s here right now. These people are leaving the workforce at a rapid rate. They’re going to need these young people to come in and solve these problems. I work in technology, specifically in the industrial world, I think technology can help with a lot of these problems. These companies are going to have to embrace it, or they’re going to be asleep at the wheel.
Ryan Ray: You mentioned the big change that’s coming up here, are you seeing that companies are doing a good job of prepping their workforce of all this knowledge that’s leaving the industry? How to maintain what they’ve done, what they’ve done well, all their lessons learned; so that when then the next generation comes up, they have a training manual, if you will, to how to go forward?
James Gordey: There’s definitely a lot of man hours, and management discussions, and things like that on the how to solve this problem. I would say that some of the more nimble companies probably have solves this. Let’s not kid ourselves, oil and gas company, they’re very intelligent. There’s a lot of engineers and smart people in the industry; they’re working, and they can solve these problems. I’d still say that there’s a lot of work to be done there. The answer’s kind of open ended. I think they will figure it out, but it’s going to be pretty painful. That process isn’t going to be very fun for those that have to sort of program manage that, I would say.
Ryan Ray: A few quick questions, and we’ll let you get off here. The first thing is, since you are with the Young Professionals and that’s really your kind of forte with your podcast and API; what’s the number one thing that you would say to someone who listens to this and says, “Hey, I want to get into the oil and gas industry.” Where should they start? Should they start going working in the field and then go back to college? Do they go to college? Maybe there’s a training resource, networking. Where would you advise a young person who wants to get into the oil nad gas industry, where should they start?
James Gordey: I would say a college education is extremely valuable. That sort of gets you at the table for the discussion for most high paying jobs. I think a college education is a necessity in today’s world. Other than that, when you’re trying to figure out what you want to do, I would say look for areas of growth. If there’s parts of the industry that aren’t growing … Look for the growth trends and what are people going to be focused on. What are they going to be hiring for? What are they hiring for right now? Target your efforts towards that, ride that upward wave. You yourself, don’t go in an area where it’s shrinking. You’re not going to change the tide, so look for the tide, and find out how you can ride it up. Networking is very important, it’s still a business of doing business with people. I would say networking is important. You reach out to people, you get involved, you start meeting all these people, and you sort put them in little pockets in your brain. Then you start helping out other people that you meet. Then it sort of spindles out from there, and people start to know who you are, and respect your authority, and know that you’re a good person and you can help them. They would try to do the same for you, it’s really about helping people. It’ll get paid forward to you at the end. Look for areas of growth and relationships are still important.
Ryan Ray: Absolutely, they are. Tell us a little bit about, before we let you go, the API Young Professionals in Houston. First off, is there other young professional organizations in say Dallas, Fort Worth, or Oklahoma City, or Tulsa or is it really just based out of Houston? The follow-up to that is, how can people get involved?
James Gordey: API-YP, the Young Professionals Group, we’re a subdivision of API Houston. As of right now, we’re only in Houston. SPE, I know that’s the other sort of blue chip oil and gas organization, they do a wonderful job, internationally even, of really involving young people. They have young professional specific groups, so I’d say that’s a really great place to get involved. If you are in the Houston area, I would say to reach out to myself or the core team. You can find us on API-YP.org. Also, if you’re looking for any of my contact information, you can find it on my personal website, jamesgordey.com.
Ryan Ray: Okay great. Final question for you, if you had to tell someone what is one resource about the energy industry they should go and read, or maybe a lecture or a presentation; for me, there’s a few books I can name. Do you have a resource that you would give someone and say, “Hey, this is a good resource to start in the oil and gas industry, or the energy industry in general, to go and learn from.”
James Gordey: I’ll cheat a little bit on this. I would say, as far as one resource goes, I’d say Mark LaCour’s Oil and Gas This Week is a wonderful resource. He does a great job of keeping you up to date on the news once a week in podcast form. He’s a wonderful guy, he’s one of the nicest people I’ve ever met, knows everyone. Also, they just break things down in layman’s terms. Also, I want to encourage people, I’ve touched on this a lot, but I really want to make sure I emphasize this to young people; technology is the future. It might seem scary at first, but this is an area of growth, this is going to drastically change how the industrial world and oil and gas does business. It’s also pretty fun, and you can be a part of something where it’s not so stagnant, it’s willing to change. You can also solve problems in the big industrial world. When you talk about things like autonomous drill rigs; yes, you literally can feed in all the Legacy data for a drill rig and make it autonomous, and make it drive safety and efficiency gains. You can present information to people in the field, or you can find trends that drive … I just can’t emphasize enough, technology is the wave of the future. Even if you’re a petroleum engineer, or you’re in marketing and sales, or whatever you’re doing, procurement supply chain, HS&E; look at the ways that you can make changes for these companies, and sort of offer your perspectives then. The older generations, they know that they have problems and they’re always looking for ways to fix them. They know there’s this technology stuff or this computer stuff, and the millennials are coming. They just don’t quite understand it, so sort of work with them to show them how this will help them, and help their business, and make their life easier, and make change for the better. I think if you come in with a humble mindset, that really goes a long way. I can’t stress that enough; just be humble, come in ready to learn. Then when prompted or when you see an opportunity to make a positive change with a new idea or a fresh thought, I think that will be well received, if you put it on the right plate.
Ryan Ray: Good stuff. James, thank you so much. The Oil and Gas Young Professionals Podcast, API Young Professionals, your website, all that stuff will be in the show notes. Anything else that you want to plug or mention before I let you go today?
James Gordey: Yeah. We haven’t touched too much on my company, it’s called Realware. You can go to realware.com. We make head mounted tablets that clip into your hardhat, and you speak to like you speak to Siri or Alexa. They’re explosive proof, class intrinsically safe for oil and gas, explosive environments, plants, off shore, everywhere. The way to get what we do is summarize it, it’ll make your workforce faster, safer, and smarter. Visit realware.com or reach out to me personally if you’d like to learn more.
Ryan Ray: We’ll put a link to that company’s website in the show notes, along with your LinkedIn, and your personal website as well. Thank you so much again for coming on. I’ll talk to you later.
James Gordey:Thank you so much for having me, a pleasure.