Alicia commutes to work by helicopter, flying to a drillship offshore Guyana. What’s that like?
Tell us a bit about you before Schlumberger, Alicia.
I grew up in Guyana and graduated from The University of the West Indies in 2017 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemical & Process Engineering. I joined Schlumberger a year later, in April 2018, as a field engineer trainee. I’m working now offshore Guyana as a Measurement While Drilling (MWD) Field Engineer.
Why did you choose Schlumberger?
Surprisingly, it was because of my interest in the space industry. I’m fascinated by the idea of designing materials to withstand harsh environments that cannot necessarily be replicated on Earth. This was a challenge in the nascent stages of the space industry, and at the time, energy service companies had already developed rugged sensors and technology that could withstand severe vibration and shock as well as temperature extremes.
On a space exploration mission, Schlumberger’s gamma ray spectrometry detector, part of our EcoScope multifunction logging-while-drilling service, was used to analyze the elemental surface composition of the asteroid, Eros.
Learning about this piqued my interest in the company’s focus on technology research and development. When I learned about the diverse work environment, the quality of training and the challenging nature of the job, that clinched it for me.
Tell us about your commute to work.
I commute to a drillship via helicopter to start my hitch—which is what we call the duration of time spent offshore. Hitches are typically around 28 days in this location, but with pandemic protocols in place, they can be longer.
That’s a long haul. What can you tell us about life on a drillship?
A typical day tour starts at 5:30 am with a briefing meeting on the day’s rig operations and a safety review. The managers emphasize teamwork because drilling operations really do rely on efficient, smooth interaction between the drilling contractor, management, and field personnel.
At around 5:50 am, I make my way to the MWD logging unit for a handover with the night-tour MWD engineer. This interaction is critical because rig operations go on 24 hours, seven days a week, and a lot can happen in the 12 hours that you’re off tour.
The MWD field engineer is responsible for monitoring tool data quality, troubleshooting any abnormal events related to tool function, and delivering the data requested by the client’s wellsite geologist. If we’re not drilling, there’s usually tools to prepare for another logging run or for return to the base.
Once handover is done at around 6:15 pm, I head to the galley for dinner.
What can you do on a drillship to unwind?
The rig I’m assigned to has a recreation room with ping pong, darts and video games, so it’s a great space to unwind in before showering and heading to sleep.
At least three days a week, I wake up three or four hours ahead of my tour for a workout. We have cardio and weight equipment. However, if we have ongoing troubleshooting to do for example, I skip the gym, since I can expect to be woken up early to assist.
Overall the workday is almost never the same, and that’s part of the reason why a field job can remain interesting for a long time.
Now that you’ve gotten to know Schlumberger better, how would you describe the culture?
Innovative, for sure. In the approach to technology and to training. Schlumberger has an accelerated training program which requires a lot of focus and the ability to adapt quickly to different challenges.
It’s progressive, because career options are not limited and are based on merit. If you put in the work, you can have an exciting career.
It is certainly multicultural. As a field engineer, you work and train with people from all over the world and get to learn about different cultures, systems, and philosophies.
Are you happy with training and career progression so far?
Schlumberger has a structured training program for field personnel. I’m currently working on earning my second promotion.
The training is comprehensive, intense, and often regarded as the best among energy service companies. I’ve visited the company’s learning center in the Middle East three times already, and met and worked with other engineers from different countries and diverse educational and cultural backgrounds.
As a trainee, I worked on land jobs in Trinidad and then quickly moved to the deepwater rigs offshore Guyana. Fortunately, operations here have provided great exposure to running high tier tools, so that has helped to diversify my job experience.
Has your gender affected your career progression?
Drilling sites are generally male-dominated. However, the crew for the Guyana operations often has a female MWD engineer as the lead hand. The micro-environment on the rig and within the company in general feels progressive. Performance or presumptions about performance are based on proven experience and merit.
Besides the technical training, what have you learned at Schlumberger?
I have learned that I can adapt quickly to situations and environments I’ve never encountered before, helped by a supportive field team. This has happened over time, especially by handling downhole tool challenges. In these situations, you have to remain calm and prioritize troubleshooting steps while you also handle questions from other parties involved in the operation.
What advice do you have for potential new recruits to Schlumberger?
Ensure you do extensive research to find out what your career with the company will look like. If you are applying for a field engineer position, you have to be sure that you’ll enjoy a lifestyle that involves rig rotations, being away from home, and the technical aspects of tool preparation and performance assurance.
Most recruiters will ask if you’ve had any experiences that took you away from home for long periods of time, and how you felt about that. It’s important to consider this question carefully since this is what a field position will involve. If it sounds like an experience you can enjoy and thrive on, then go for it.