Have you ever heard the story about the frog in boiling water? It’s often said that if you put a frog in hot water, it will jump out immediately to escape the heat. But if you place the frog in cool water and slowly raise the temperature, it won’t realize the danger until it’s too late and it gets boiled.
While this story may not be entirely true, it serves as a powerful analogy for reservoir engineers who overlook the importance of continuous learning and embracing new methodologies. Just like the frog, they may fail to notice the subtle shifts and advancements in the oil & gas space.
Reservoir engineers play a crucial role in the ever-changing oil and gas industry. However, failing to adapt and evolve can lead to a stagnating career. To ensure long-term success, reservoir engineers must recognize the need to stay relevant and continuously learn.
In this blog post, we’ll explore the significance of the “boiling frog” metaphor in the context of reservoir engineering. We’ll discuss common challenges such as sticking with outdated practices and neglecting the importance of ongoing learning. But don’t worry, we won’t leave you hanging. We’ll also provide practical strategies to help reservoir engineers adapt and thrive in this dynamic industry. So, let’s dive in and discover how reservoir engineers can avoid being boiled alive in their careers.
1. Surviving the Evolving Engineering Landscape
After graduation, you may have joined an oil & gas company where your knowledge and skills were up to date. However, as time passed, a new generation of engineers started to emerge, introducing innovative approaches that challenged the established methods you were familiar with.
As the industry embraced new techniques and technologies, you knew you had to step out of your comfort zone and embrace them too. This is exactly like staying in the water until it reaches the boiling point and it is too late to leverage new technologies and approaches.
This is not an isolated story. Similar stories are unfolding and affect individuals across various industries. The pivotal questions arise: What actions must we take? Which psychological biases are preventing us from embracing change and why has the acquisition of up-to-date skills become imperative for our professional lives?
To make sound decisions about our careers and professional growth, it’s essential to recognize the cognitive biases that can influence our thinking. By being aware of these biases, we can strive for a more objective mindset, ensuring that our choices are rational and minimizing the chance of making poor decisions.
For example, when it comes to choosing new things, people often stick with what they know. For instance, if you’ve been a loyal iPhone user and your old phone stops working, you might naturally lean towards buying another iPhone. This tendency to stick with familiar options is a common aspect of human behavior. However, it raises the question: why do we tend to prefer what we already know?
There are several mental traps that can influence our decision-making, and two of these traps are the status quo bias and confirmation bias.
2.1 Status Quo Bias
Status quo bias is a cognitive bias where we unconsciously prefer to maintain the current state and resist change. This can lead to overlooking better alternatives simply because we are accustomed to a particular option or tend to follow the default choice. It embodies the mindset of “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it.”
There are two important ways our minds can influence how we see and react to the way things are:
- Loss Aversion: When we evaluate a situation, we tend to give more weight to potential losses than potential gains. In other words, the fear of losing something is often stronger than the desire to gain something.
- Mere Exposure Effect: The longer we are exposed to something, the more it becomes familiar and comfortable to us. This sense of familiarity often leads to a preference for what we know. Similarly, there are outdated analytics software programs that have been in use for many years, despite their inefficiency.
These two cognitive biases, loss aversion and mere exposure effect, play a significant role in our tendency to stick with the status quo. Familiarity and stability are powerful psychological factors that prevent people from deviating from what they already know even if it hasn’t been producing satisfactory results.
For example, your company might want to continue using an inferior oil & gas modeling platform, not because it performs better or has better data or features, but because they are already familiar with the process involved, and its capabilities. Their decision to stick with the current solution is driven more by their comfort with it than by any objective evaluation of its performance or features.
When reflecting on their decision, people often focus more on what they might lose by changing, rather than the potential gains they could achieve. This reinforces their inclination to maintain using “Traditional” software & workflows and resist making changes.
2.2 Confirmation Bias
Confirmation Bias is a common tendency among oil & gas engineers to give preference to information that aligns with their existing beliefs or attitudes.
In simpler terms, we tend to listen and pay more attention to things that support what we already think or believe. We have a strong desire to validate our own ideas, to the point that when we encounter new information or approach that contradicts our beliefs, we often ignore it or actively search for evidence to disprove it. This is exactly what has been happening with using machine learning in oil & gas forecasting.
3. Avoid ending up as a boiled frog in your career.
Our brains are wired to respond to sudden and dramatic changes, which can help us take decisive action in times of crisis. However, it’s the subtle, almost imperceptible changes that we should watch out for.
To stay relevant and competitive in reservoir engineering, be aware of the small, incremental changes that may go unnoticed. For instance, emerging technologies such as machine learning/data science, changing industry trends, or the evolving expectations of the industry. By staying informed and adapting to these changes, we can position ourselves for success and avoid our skills being obsolete. Just like the boiled frog, we need to remain vigilant and responsive to the changes happening around us.
How do engineers avoid becoming boiled frogs? First, we must become proactive in monitoring and reflecting on the long term forces that are impacting the oil & gas industry and our profession. We will explore below how you can minimize risks and safeguard your career.
- Build soft and core technical skills
To succeed in a rapidly advancing industry, reservoir engineers must stay current with the latest technology. Familiarity with emerging technologies such as machine learning and data science is also highly valuable. By continually expanding your skillset, you position yourself as a valuable asset to any oil & gas company.
- Network and join communities
Networking with industry professionals is vital for staying informed and connected. Engage with like-minded individuals by joining industry communities and attending conferences, such as those run by SPE. A favorite conference of ours is URTeC! These opportunities offer skill development, industry updates, and potential job connections.
- Continuously learn and develop
Stay current in reservoir engineering by prioritizing your professional growth. Attend training, earn certifications, and read industry publications to expand your skills. Pro tip: ChatGPT is actually really good at helping you learn.
- Work for the right oil & gas company – How do I know that?
Thoroughly research potential employers before making a job decision. Seek E&P companies that prioritize innovation, experimentation, and technology adoption. Some of red flags to watch out for when considering a company to work for may include:
- Poor company culture and high employee turnover rates
- Lack of career growth opportunities or employee development programs
- Resistance to technology adoption and innovation
- Negative employee reviews on online platforms
By adopting a proactive approach to learning and development, networking, and staying informed, you can safeguard your career and stay relevant in the ever-changing engineering industry.
In conclusion, when building a career, it is important to recognize the potential losses of sticking with the default and not embracing emerging technologies. By considering the possible consequences of inaction, we can make informed decisions that lead to personal and professional growth. Embracing new tools and approaches not only enhances our competitiveness but also expands our problem-solving abilities and opens doors to exciting opportunities.
So, let’s be proactive, adapt to change, and strive for continuous growth in the dynamic world of emerging technologies.