Rising stars in Pipeline: Marguerite Forde from YPPE
In the latest instalment of our popular rising stars in Pipeline interviews, we spoke to Marguerite Forde from the YPPE (Young Pipeline Professionals Europe), to find out what the organisation is hoping to achieve, the main issues young pipeliners currently face and how the YPPE is trying to reduce the skills gap.
Interview with YPPE’s Marguerite Forde
First, what was the catalyst for forming the YPPE and how did you go about setting it up?
YPPE as an organisation is not yet even a year old. About February last year, in the run-up to the PTC conference, experienced members of the oil and gas community highlighted (not for the first time) that, although there are YPP organisations already well established in Canada, USA, Brazil, Mexico and Australia, there was no European equivalent. So a group of young engineers in ROSEN were approached and formed YPPE. What started as a small group in a single company, has grown in less than 12 months to represent more than 50 companies across 14 EU countries and more than 100 members!
What’s the professional background of the core founders and how did they get into Pipeline?
The group of active members at the moment is comprised of various engineering disciplines (mechanical, chemical and civil) who work as integrity engineers, corrosion engineers and business development roles. This variety makes for different perspectives and great constructive debate! While some of us went from degrees into pipeline masters courses and set into the industry on purpose, many of us fell into jobs that developed into great careers!
As with many of our peers, pipelines may not have been the career we studied for, but there are some fascinating stories about how we got to where we are now
Has the industry supported the new group?
We now represent young pipeliners from a large group of companies, across various disciplines, even competing companies in some cases. I think the cooperation between these young engineers for the common goal of closing the generational skills gap within the pipeline industry has set a clear message.
And the industry has been unanimously positive, not one person has said it is a waste of time and pretty much everyone has said they would be willing to get behind us and help however they can. But we are always looking for more technical experts and experienced pipeliners who can give up some of their time to support knowledge sharing activities like events, demonstrations and webinars.
In addition to this, the other YPP organisations have been a great support; they are great models for us to follow, and we are hugely grateful for their guidance.
What do you think are the main challenges for young professionals in the pipeline industry right now?
Young pipeliners face a number of interesting challenges at the moment, but one of the big ones is the current economic climate in oil and gas. In particular, when budget restraints have to be implemented, one of the first things to suffer is the training/support budget, so younger pipeliners can face a steep learning curve seemingly unsupported. Budget restraints can also lead to cutbacks in the workforce in two ways:
1) there are fewer new jobs, so fewer young people joining the industry too
2) senior experienced colleagues have less time to provide guidance and transfer knowledge to the younger members of staff
While some of us are lucky to have experienced good training programs, or very supportive colleagues, we know that not every young pipeliner does – the YPPE wants to provide learning opportunities at a time and platform that is flexible for them around their daily work.
What advice would you give to anyone eager to progress in their career in Pipeline? What skills have been most useful for your career development?
Tran Mah-Paulson, President of the Canadian Young Pipeline Association, mentioned in his previous interview with ABN Resource that hard work and persistence is key to succeeding, but also taking opportunities that aren’t just confined to your paid job. We would add that sometimes pushing yourself out of your comfort zone makes you stand out and grow – put yourself out there to present papers, speak to people at exhibitions, participate in industry events.
While it sounds cheesy, I once heard the phrase “it is not a ‘problem’, it is a solution opportunity”, and I think applying that outlook to your work can help push yourself every step of the journey.
Another thing young professionals looking to develop their knowledge and career can do, is find a mentor. This is not always an easy task, and you need to be sure you find someone you respect and trust, someone you would be happy to emulate. Once you find someone you work well with, it can be a very rewarding relationship for both involved!
What are the most surprising aspects of working in the pipeline industry, which you weren’t aware of before you started your careers?
I think the sheer volume and vintage of pipelines across the world and the variety surprised me – we deal with both new and very old pipelines, carrying not just oil and gas, but also water, brine, chemicals, slurries etc. Considering all that, it shouldn’t really be a surprise that no two pipelines are the same, each one has is quirks and challenges, so every day is different. It’s a worldwide industry, you can travel far and wide, Aberdeen to Azerbaijan, Newcastle to Nigeria – I still get surprised where we and our colleagues travel to for pipelines.
Do you think the industry will be quick to adapt to new technologies over the coming years? How important is the role of young professionals in helping the industry adapt and move forward?
Young professionals can often bring a fresh pair of eyes to older problems, or are more likely to question why something is done the way it is. They also tend to pick up new technologies easily or see the possibility of applying old technology in new ways.
Not only this, but the very experienced members of the pipeline industry, with many years of skill and know-how behind them, can’t continue working forever – training replacements is an essential part of any career (in any field) to ensure continuation. So young pipeliners are not just important to helping the industry adapt and progress, they are essential to the survival of the industry.
Is the YPPE concerned about the potential skills gap in the industry?
Absolutely – it’s main reason behind the groups inception. One of the YPPE’s main aims is increasing knowledge transfer and sharing from more experienced members of the pipeline community and the fresh faces coming in. Young pipeliners can be seen as a “silver-spoon” generation – not willing to put a lot of effort into their own development. But we know, looking around us, we are surrounded by pipeliners looking to ensure the future of pipeline integrity is maintained. We want to listen to our members needs and support them as best we can.
Again, looking at our YPP counterparts, they are proven, successful models of what we want to achieve and they are already reversing the trend of a skills gap in their areas.
How can the industry better attract young professionals into Pipeline careers? Which Pipeline companies do you think do talent attraction well?
Pipelines might not be the obvious choice for a lot people attending university – that’s why we have already met with students and lecturers at Northumbria University. This is a key area the YPPE want to explore and we are looking to plan similar events with other universities so a career in pipelines is more visible.
Tran’s interview went into great detail about attracting young professionals into the pipeline Industry, but we also believe that interesting, varied work with career progression and a good work/life balance is the way to keep young pipeliners. Considering the variety of pipeline issues worldwide, the interesting and varied aspect isn’t difficult to satisfy! While career progression and work/life balance changes from person to person, I know that when these are achieved, you end up with satisfied, motivated staff.
I am obviously a bit biased here, but I think ROSEN has done a good job in this respect, hiring many young professionals and graduates, but also encouraging non-job activities like the YPPE – pushing and supporting us to be more than just our desk job.
What can we expect to see from YPPE over the next year – what are you most looking forward to achieving?
We have kicked off 2019 by setting ourselves big targets for this year, to grow the YPPE for our members and supporters across Europe. We will be presenting at PTC in Berlin in March but we will also be setting up industry talks and webinars to provide training and networking opportunities. We produce a quarterly newsletter, which members can contribute stories /case studies etc. to help increase their confidence in writing skills!
We have had really promising meetings with prominent industry groups to find more ways of getting young pipeliners involved – we can’t say too much at this stage, but WATCH THIS SPACE, it’s going to be a very busy year!
Thank you to Marguerite and YPPE for taking the time to speak to us – it’s great to get further insight on the challenges faced by young professionals in Pipeline and how the YPPE supports them.
If you haven’t already – then please fill out our young pipeline professionals survey, aimed at further understanding pipeliners and looking at ways to improve their working experience – our very own recruitment director James Leigh will be on stage at the Pipeline Technology Conference in March, discussing the results of the survey. Make your voice heard – take the survey here.
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