Bronson Larkins, ICoTA Europe Committee member and Managing Director of Wellvene, started in the industry with one week of work experience at the age of 17. From there, he has built up a career in well intervention which has culminated in him founding design engineering and manufacturing company, Wellvene in 2017 with 3 colleagues who have a strong background in Design Engineering, Manufacturing and Intervention Operations.
We interviewed Bronson to find out more about his experience in the well intervention industry, and here he shares the eight pieces of advice he would pass on to young professionals making their first steps in the industry.
1. Try to experience as many areas of your employing company as possible
“To move forward, it is imperative that we take on young professionals and get them involved in every aspect of our business. This gives them the opportunity to understand how other departments operate. Anyone coming in shouldn’t pigeon-hole themselves into one discipline. I began in slickline but I knew that to progress to well services supervisor or desk engineer I needed to understand coiled tubing, electric line, integrity, completion, drilling, etc. Though you won’t be an expert in all of these, learning about the basics of these elements allows you to gain a clearer understanding of wells and operations as a whole. As well as this, it may also help you in selecting your preferred discipline.”
2. Speak to, and learn from, as many people as possible
“Tying into my first point, it’s also important to speak to and learn from people at all levels and departments within a business. This gives you a greater overview on how a business operates and is great for your own personal development.
“Go for it, engage with people and take advantage of the experience around you. This also helps to build the confidence and skills required to lead a team. You’ll need to be able to motivate people so taking a genuine interest in the work they do is a great place to start.”
3. Remember that you are part of a team
“When I started working at BP, this presented me with a great opportunity to learn from a wide spectrum of industry professionals, who had far greater experience than myself on how an Operator Company worked. My Manager knew the experience that I brought to the table, both my strengths and weaknesses, and even though I was in a consultant role, I always felt part of the core Wells team and the company as a whole. Having grown up in Aberdeen and worked on BP assets for numerous years, it was both an exciting and great opportunity to join the Wells team.
“I was assigned to a platform comprising approximately 40 wells and was the focal point for intervention and integrity operations for that platform. This was understandably daunting at first, but I had a strong supportive team behind me where communication was clear, and everyone was working towards the same goal of delivering safe and efficient operations."
4. Ask for help
“In my role at BP, I very quickly began to understand who the key person was who could help with a particular issue. Though you may feel like you don’t want to bother anyone with questions, it’s so important that you do this when you need to. And one day, you’ll see that you become the key person for another particular issue and soon you’re fielding questions. So it all comes back round.
“Out with any of my roles, I’ve also ensured that I’ve remained heavily involved with ICoTA Europe – attending events and going on to become a committee member. Being part of the ICoTA Europe network as a member gives, essentially, a large panel of experts that you can ask for advice and get feedback on ideas. This was a key element of the success of Wellvene and I got some great, honest feedback on intervention related issues, case studies, lessons learned and new technology requirements etc, which has certainly contributed to the growth of the company.”
5. Pay attention to the questions of others, no matter what their experience level
“The Q&As that take place at ICoTA Europe events, particularly during the conference, offer an opportunity for some great discussions to take place. I think it’s important that young engineers who are attending the conference pay attention to the questions that experienced colleagues are asking. Not only is this a great learning opportunity, it can also give young engineers the confidence to see that not everything in the well intervention industry is black and white. Our speakers face questions on the case histories they present, including how they could have done things differently. By that, I don’t necessarily mean better, but just differently. There is often not just one correct solution.”
6. Consider new experiences within the industry
“When I first started in the industry, I didn’t have an immediate intention to work offshore. However, when I kept seeing the offshore guys coming back and learning about their work, I became more and more intrigued and excited about the prospect of going offshore myself, and building a career in the oil and gas industry. At 18, I started working offshore and even though it was daunting (I was normally the youngest on the platform), it really helped me to understand all aspects of intervention operations, whilst learning the essentials of how a platform operates. When I then transferred to an onshore role, this helped significantly with the planning as I was able to visualise the overall rig up and required operational support. As such, I would strongly encourage any young office-based engineers to go offshore for a period, even if it’s just a periodic visit. There’s no substitute for seeing the operations live.
“I firmly believe you need both types of employee – onshore and offshore – for the most successful well intervention operations and gaining experience of both should definitely be something you’re open to, at the very least.”
7. Build your knowledge of the latest technologies
“The SPE ICoTA Well Intervention Conference is a great source of pride for us as an organisation. It gives delegates the opportunity to see new technologies in our exhibition, as well as hear case studies from Operators and Service Companies on how these are being used to push the boundaries of well intervention.
“Young engineers should definitely take the opportunity to build up as much knowledge of the latest well intervention technologies as possible. Though you may see something that doesn’t feel like it fits with the operations of your company at present, there may come a time that it absolutely does. Being armed with that knowledge makes you proactive and gives you a head-start in working towards a solution.”
8. Be brave and put suggestions forward
“Though you may be the youngest and least experienced in the team, you’ve been employed to work as part of that team. That sometimes means bringing forward suggestions and even giving a fresh perspective on projects which have been completed in a certain way for several years.
“Building up your understanding of the technologies in the industry is a good start. But you should also remember that suggesting changes doesn’t have to mean a complete 180 from how things have been done previously. Small changes to the process or technology used can have much bigger implications on efficiency and cost than you might realise. So if you think there might be a better way of doing something, and you can back that up, put the suggestion forward.”
Posted in ICoTA Chapter News on 29 July 2019