Why choose a career in Oil and Gas? What qualifications do you need? Is a university education really needed? Do you need a technical background? What is this industry all about – what you know or whom do you know? What is the story and why is it important to tell the right story about the world of oil and gas? In our Stories That Inspire series, we have with us Justin Gauthier, Oil and Gas Podcast Host at Oil and Gas Global Network (OGGN), and Account Manager at AES Drilling Fluids. In an exclusive conversation with Energy Dais, Justin discusses the various aspects of building a successful career in oil and gas. He shares his motivation for joining this industry and gives us an in-depth understanding of the various roles he has taken up.
In Conversation with Justin Gauthier
What motivated you to join the oil and gas industry?
When I was 18, graduating high school, I really had no idea, what I wanted to do. I had a cousin who was working for FMC, selling well-heads at that time, and his job looked quite luxurious, as a Salesman in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. A lot of his time was spent downtown entertaining customers and doing a lot of exciting things, extracurricular which seemed pretty intriguing to me. So, I asked him if he could get me a job doing sales downtown Calgary, Alberta. He told me to join Drilling Rigs and start off as a roughneck, to be able to prove myself and get the field experience I eventually needed to become a salesman. I didn’t want to go to school right away, by that I mean, further education in the university. I liked to go on the field and really, for me, it was driven by income.
I knew I could make a lot of money without a college degree and so I decided to pursue that and that was the real driving force. It was to get a job in sales in the oil and gas industry and make a great income at the age of 18.
What are some of the roles you have taken up in the industry?
That’s quite a lot to unpack actually. They all are different roles in a couple of different companies. Starting off with a Floorhand – that would be on a drilling rig, an entry-level position, where you spend a lot of time on a drilling rig floor which is where the drill pipe goes in and out of the floor as you drill. More pipes get added to keep going deeper and deeper. A lot of that is labour intensive. You are basically a low man on the total pool on a drilling rig and you do everything from cleaning to working with tools, fixing equipment, connecting drill pipes, disconnecting drill pipes, helping anyone on location with their tools. So, basically you are a laborer on a drilling rig.
Moving on to Well Data Technician, a well data technician is someone who provides technical support from a drilling fluids standpoint. You are collecting a lot of field data, organizing it in a manner, that helps tell a story. You are also gathering data to provide to account managers, and people who are dealing with oil and gas companies – whether its for planning, troubleshooting, operational support. So, you are really the nuts and bolts from the technical standpoint, putting together presentations, looking at offset well information, to help better plan future wells.
Drilling Fluids Engineer – that’s actually a field role. A Drilling Fluids Engineer is someone who works on a drilling rig, that represents a drilling fluids company. They do all the testing and execution of the drilling fluids program. So, they’ll test the fluids multiple times in a day for key properties such as fluid density, fluid loss control rates, and things of that nature. They also deal with the onsite company representative who typically deals with the operator. There’s a lot of interaction to make sure that whatever fluids are on the rig, that are being pumped downhole, match the requirements that the oil and gas companies have set.
Account Manager, that’s my current role, which is mixed a little bit with sales and business development. I am basically the interface between the oil and gas company and Drilling Fluids company. A lot of my time is spent dealing with the operator, which is the oil and gas company, to make sure that everything going on in the field is being executed as per the plan. I also deal internally with my own people with operations to make sure things are going smoothly on the field. I deal with pricing to make sure that all the commercial terms are set properly. I am also responsible for continuing sales and business development amongst the current customers we have, along with any potential customers we see or are in the marketplace that may require our services.
What inspired you to become an Oil and Gas Podcaster?
So, I was always interested in podcasting. The first podcast I listened to was a long time ago, in 2014, and podcasts were more focused on finesse. Health and fitness podcasts were quite popular back then and are even now. I found it fascinating that there was a platform that you could look for free information, and people were ready to talk about topics that otherwise you have to pay for, courses or you have to buy books to learn about. People were openly discussing things so I thought to look up for oil and gas podcasts. I searched and I found Oil and Gas This Week, which is Oil and Gas Global Network’s first podcast that they delivered. I listened to that for quite a while and eventually got to know the gentleman who started that podcast, his name is Marc LaCour. We had lunch and eventually through networking, he offered me a job at OGGN, to be a podcast host. Podcasting was something interesting to me, something I originally wanted to do for health and fitness. But the opportunity came up in oil and gas and I wanted to take this chance.
I felt that it would be extremely exciting to be able to interview folks throughout the industry, have a compelling story. We were willing to provide information along with the ability to network with people and help bring people together and send a message to the rest of the industry, and even outside the industry about all the things we do within an oil and gas base.
How important is storytelling in Oil and Gas?
That’s a very good question.
I think storytelling is more important now than it ever has been.
A lot of that is due to the negative perception that we have from social media and just media in general, even considering Wall Street. Wall Street has pulled out a lot of money that they have been investing in oil and gas, due to our balance sheets now.
Getting back to storytelling, in order for people to believe in an industry, and what the industry is doing, what brings value to our day to day life. On a very fundamental level, how we live our lives day to day, whether it’s striving, the shoes on our feet, the cellphones that we use, anything that we have has a hydrocarbon backbone. It touched basically everything in our current societies. How storytelling is important is really trying to explain how everything is connected. That’s more on the supply and demand level. So again, we have done a poor job in the oil and gas industry, telling the positive stories that we have, that have actually helped the economy and the world advance to where we are today. So I think, the more people tell the positive stories about what we do and not necessarily constantly defending things that may accidentally happen like oil spills, explosions. Every industry has its downfalls.
We have got a bad name amongst a lot of the younger generation, but I think primarily it’s due to the media telling not the full story about who we are and what we provide to the world. So I think, storytelling is extremely important.
I wish more large companies and small ones too, any company for that matter in oil and gas, should be telling their story, and how they are tied into the whole ecosystem, and how we do it safely. Most companies focus on health, safety and the environment but we don’t talk about it that much.
I think we should tell more and we should do more to expose people to more positive attributes in our industry.
If you had to say one thing about the oil and gas industry that is highly unique, what would it be?
What is that one thing about the O&G industry that you find highly unique?
I think we are unique in the sense that a lot of folks who are successful in our industry started off in the mud. And by that I mean, people that don’t have a college degree, really worked their way into high-level positions and have created careers and have allowed their families to reap the benefit of the American dream.
It’s interesting because what you put into it is what you get out. I was 18 years old and my first job was scrubbing toilets and here I am today. At 33 years old, doing things without a college degree and that I don’t think many other people could do in any other industry.
I think we are still a business that really depends on human interaction. We are slow to adopt different technologies and I think that is unique because it creates so much more opportunities for the future.
It’s a people’s business. A lot of it is dealt through handshakes, networking is extremely important in this industry. It’s all about who you know and not necessarily what you know. So, a lot of time and energy is focused on networking and bringing people together.
I have only been in oil and gas and I can’t speak for any other industry. But talking with friends and families, throughout various other industries, I find that’s quite a unique attribute to our industry.
How do you look back at your journey in the industry?
Quite simply, it’s funny how lucky you get if you simply work as hard as you can.
Looking back, it’s been an amazing journey. I have made some extremely tough decisions and I have made some extremely tough sacrifices to get to where I am at. The end result has been extremely gratifying.
I had never thought I would be living in Houston, Texas, growing up in a small town in British Columbia, Canada. It’s been a roller coaster with lots of ups and downs, more ups than downs. And again in life, how much ever effort you put in life is what you get back.
I wouldn’t change what I have done for anything.
It has served me well and for my family. We are fortunate enough to be in the situation we are in. Without the oil and gas industry, I am not sure where would I be today. I think I have capitalized on every opportunity that was presented to me and done extremely well for myself and my family.
(You can connect with Justin Gauthier on LinkedIn and say Hello!)