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A time when ‘bootleg’ jeans were fashionable

As a young man and recent graduate, I recall being awed and impressed in equal measure by my older, grey haired colleagues who had seemingly been everywhere whilst simultaneously doing everything, all at once. I remember vividly a conversation in which an older contract drilling engineer, who was working for one our clients, telling me that he planned to continue working until he was 70 years old. To a 23-year-old me, it seemed like madness. What made it even stranger was that he’d reached the heady heights of Drilling Manager in a large organisation which, in my mind at the time, was the pinnacle of a drilling career and then he decided he’d had enough, going back to the relative serenity and simplicity of a jobbing SDE.  From my then very junior Drilling Engineer position, this seemed completely inexplicable. In the 20 years since then, I’ve often wondered if he did retire at 70, spending a few more years passing on his approach and knowledge to those less experienced.

I’ve always considered myself to have been fortunate in where I’ve worked and who I’ve worked with and the older I get, the more I reflect on how lucky I was to have been guided by the old-school approach from those days. Gems such as “If you ever answer the phone on the rig, make sure you know what the heck* is going on. You’re not out there to not know…..” and the equally valuable  “You probably think that it’s totally broken* now, but there’s always something more you can do”. Pertinent advice relating to project management and problem resolution.

*insert expletive of choice.

Stewart McGregor offering his colleague some moral support, 2005 featuring ‘boot-cut’ jeans. 

Learning from our own mistakes

Often missing from those words of wisdom was technical support and the knowledgeable guidance; far more practical when planning a challenging project. So, I wonder now who’s giving our fresh-faced, hopeful graduates the same well-intentioned but brusque advice that I used to receive? I wasn’t completely prepared to plan and drill my first “solo” horizontals – who would be?  We did a lot of back-reaming.  Some insightful, external perspective, worked experience and training on the fundamentals of high angle drilling would have gone a long way to help. Given the remoteness of the drilling location and the value to our client, I’m not sure why we didn’t plan for that at the time. Surely as we learn from our own mistakes, We should use this experience to ensure the next generation of Drilling Engineers do not make have to make the same ones.

“Getting together in a group in face-to-face training is the best way to share stories, break down barriers, and pass on the key points we all need to understand to improve the outcomes of our projects”.

With many years of experience gained in the field, I joined Merlin early in 2018. Training forms a big part of Merlin’s business, and it accounts for the majority of my billable time in the company. Getting together in a group in face-to-face training is the best way to share stories, break down barriers, and pass on the key points we all need to understand to improve the outcomes of our projects. The personal lessons we take away from projects around the globe – the good and the bad – we pass on to the next generation, in addition to the tried-and-tested, fundamental requirements for successful high angle drilling. I may be reaching the threshold of being the “older generation” but I’m definitely a bit more polite than some of my previous mentors. Maybe I’ll see you out there?

Written by Stewart McGregor, Merlin Technical Development Director
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