In mid 2013 I was faced with an important decision in life. Where do I want to work? What do I want do do with my life?
I studied geophysics and geology and I was in the midst of my master thesis and I finally saw a light at the end of the tunnel. That light at the end of the tunnel also comes with a certain uneasy feeling… What now? So I was asking myself a question: Not whether or not I wanted to become a geoscientist, that decision was made way earlier. But what specific discipline? The E&P industry, as so many others, is an extremely wide field with a myriad of potential career paths. The paths we take in our lifes are often nothing more than the sum of chance and coincidents. Often more guided by random external factors like an ad for a flat we see on a blackboard at university or a random acquaintence we meet.
In 2013 I decided to make a plan, and pursue it actively. As a student I had the luxury to see and experience a lot of different aspects of the geoscience world. I took part in many extracurricular activities, got to go to excursions, worked with hydrogeologist, volcanologists, worked as an intern for one of the major geoscience contractors at the time (programming) and much more.
During my last year of study I applied to an E&P company as a student assistant. I liked what I saw but I knew that it would probably be very difficult to land a job there straight out of university. They usually hired experienced people who had worked in the industry before. In Germany there aren’t any major oil and gas operations. There are german operators (two bigger ones, DEA and Wintershall) but they don’t have big scale exploration in Germany. Not that there are no hydrocarbons to be found in Germany, there’s plenty, but the market, taxes and regulations make it very difficult. Combine that with a deep seeded hatred for all-things-hydrocarbon that is very popular with all Germans and you get a very unattractive market. So naturally all bigger companies explore elsewhere including the German ones, they make their money overseas or in smaller assets in Germany back from when it was less unpopular.
So when I thought about where I wanted to live it became quite clear that I couldn’t stay in Germany. The biggest hydrocarbon provicen (by far) in Europe is the North Sea. Billions of barrels were found, produced and sold over the last 40 years and craddled a global industry that creates enormous value out of very little. Often only an idea. Something that fascinated me since a long time. So naturally I gravitated towards the exploration side of the E&P business.
The majority of the North Sea oil is focused in the British and the Norwegian continental shelf but Denmark, the Netherlands and Germany have oil and gas field in the North Sea as well. So my decision was guided by geography rather than language, skills or anything else.
I knew I wanted to work in E&P, I knew I wanted to stay in Europe and from my university days on Svalbard I had friends in all of the countries neighbouring the North Sea. So I took a rather weird approach of finding a job: I applied to companies in all countries around the North Sea and waited and see which company would react first. I applied to companies in the UK, the Netherlands, two in Denmark and two in Norway.
As fate had it, the first call came from Norway. Problem was… I missed that phone call… Before I finished my master’s thesis I wanted to travel a bit and see the world. So after applying to all these companies I travelled to Nepal for over a month and hiked the Annapurna Circuit. You can see all the photos from that trip here. And I thought that was a great idea because the deadline for the jobs I applied for was months ahead. Well,.. Turns out the people responsible for hiring you screen the CVs and applications the day you submit them. They called me up weeks before I was back. Problem however was that I was in the middle of Nepal at the time. Poor cell phone reception, and rarely internet. Occasionally I would turn my phone on for an hour or so and hope for a signal in one of the bigger towns along the hike. And one night I actually received a text message from my provider saying I had missed several phone calls with a Norwegian caller ID. Naturally I got pretty nervous and tried to call back, didn’t get through for several days because of bad reception, our hiking schedule and the time difference. After we got to a bigger town I found an internet cafe and I had a call via a satellite phone. Turns out they don’t work as well in high mountain areas so the quality was absolutely awful but I got my message through: “Yes, I’m still interested in the job.” Two or three weeks later after I got back home I arranged further interviews (Skype) and ultimately got invited for in-person interviews a couple of days later.
I’m not the kind of person that believes in fate, but a lot of people I tell the story of my job interview(s) say something along the lines of: “well, then it’s meant to be…” I’ll write it all up in my next blog post but the short version is: higher powers interveened and messed up one of the interviews but ultimately the two interviews resulted in three job offers. I had to decide within a week and in the end I went with the company where I just felt more welcomed. I regret nothing. Turns out that was a really good idea. 🙂