Geologist Peter Evans decided to ask for a mentor through AAPG's mentoring program last February as a way to help boost his career.
"I recognized the fact that networking was really important, and also that there was a large gap between the kind of people who are already in the industry and the new people coming in," Evans said. "There's not much out there bridging that."
Now a geologist for BP Petroleum in Houston, Evans, 31, had just completed graduate school at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff.
AAPG's new mentoring program matched Evans with Dave Callaway, a retired executive from Arco.
"We started off meeting for lunch about once a month," Evans said. "He put together a lot of typed notes, sort of like 'Tips 101,' so I got the technical side, which was very useful."
Because Callaway had been in management at Arco, he was able to give Evans a glimpse of senior level positions.
"He gave me a conduit to this level that I know nothing about," Evans said. "He gave me tips on how to dress at work, office politics and how to deal with people. It was very useful.
"It inspired me with respect to the potential for management," he continued. "He had that background toward the end of his career. It was interesting to see someone who was technically competent who had gone into that position."
Sometimes Evans asks his mentor to explain in more detail about work techniques that he feels awkward about asking co-workers.
"Maybe a guy at work had explained it twice," he said, "and I didn't really get it."
A Real Turn-On
Callaway, 69, retired first in 1991 and then retired from another company a few years later. At Arco he was the Gulf Coast regional exploration manager, and later became distinguished exploration advisor.
"I went to every convention there ever was and heard all the papers," Callaway said.
He responded to AAPG's call for mentors, which was publicized last fall in the EXPLORER, since he had already had experience advising younger geologists. He was matched up with Evans; and as for the lunch or dinner meetings, "we alternate who pays," Callaway said. "We just talk about whatever his interests are, and I pass on a lot of things that I did as distinguished exploration advisor.
"We talk about management, relationships, whatever his need is."
Although Evans has worked for a few years, he is still young in the industry, Callaway said.
"I've been all the way up and down the ladder ... We talk about general geology, whatever grabs him," he added. "We spend about three hours at lunch. His boss lets him do it -- his boss used to work for me."
Callaway, who spent 48 years in the industry, said he enjoys working with Evans because the young geologist is eager and interested in all aspects of the business.
"That turns me on," he said. "I'm kind of like a teacher, basically."
Tricks of the Trade
AAPG launched the mentoring program in the fall of 1999. In Houston, where it was originally concentrated, there are about 20 pairings at present, said Bob Shoup, vice-chair of the AAPG mentoring committee.
Shoup said there was a need for the program from a student's perspective as they launch their careers, since the industry no longer promotes mentoring as it once did. Also, geologists are so busy today that few mentoring programs are available on the corporate level.
"We felt that we had a lot of students who have the learning foundation of oil and gas but aren't getting any exposure to the tricks of the trade," Shoup said. "The program is intended to provide that exposure to students."
The mentoring program also is intended to better utilize the resources of older members who saw no need to retain their membership after retirement.
"We're hoping to get some of these retirees to become mentors and stay involved that way," Shoup said.
Currently, mentors in the program offer a variety of backgrounds and most have at least 10 years of experience, he said. Most of the students are graduate students from universities all over the country.
Shoup himself is a mentor to a graduate student, Andre Klein, at Rice University in Houston. Klein works part-time as an intern at Samson Offshore, where Shoup is the offshore team leader.
"We needed an intern here so we were able to hire him," Shoup said. "We've been able to give him a couple projects to bring his skills up on log work or log correlations. Lately, we've been doing some 2-D seismic and teaching him how to interpret that."
The Match Game
John Adamick, a member of the AAPG mentoring committee, also serves as chairman of the mentoring program for the Houston Geological Society, which was launched at about the same time.
"Last year AAPG started putting together an initiative on this and at the same time, the Houston Geological Society approached me about doing a similar thing in Houston because I have worked with a number of student groups," Adamick said.
The Houston organization and AAPG then joined forces to create the mentoring program.
Because of the duplication of efforts, most of the mentoring pairs are concentrated in Houston, he said. Currently, there are about 20 matches.
Steve Sonnenberg, Denver, chairman of the AAPG mentoring committee, said he is working to develop some matches for students at the Colorado School of Mines in Golden.
"There is some informal mentoring elsewhere, but Houston is where it's all starting," he said.
"We started from ground zero in August (1999) and got most of the placements made in the first part of 2000," Shoup said.
Students have come mostly from the Texas area and attend Rice University, Texas A&M, University of Texas, Sam Houston State University and Stephen F. Austin University, he added.
"Some of them have initiated conversations with their mentors by e-mail or telephone," Adamick said, "but the goal is that there will be a series of face-to-face meetings.