A Win-Win for Science and Students: YPs Hold First 'One-Day Tech Conference'

“The current industry climate,” “commodity prices” and “how to stand out” are just a few of the phrases commonly thrown around in discussions about the industry. Everyone seems to have their own take on how to navigate this environment.

However, one subject missing from the industry conversation is – not just discussing how to help those colleagues in transition or offering advice to students looking for jobs – but actually doing something about those challenges.

At least, that was the collective feeling at the 2015 Young Professionals (YPs) Leadership Summit.

So, in 2016, the AAPG Gulf Coast Young Professionals and the Houston Geological Society (HGS) NeoGeos decided to tackle two challenges that are close to our collective hearts and minds: showcasing technical excellence and giving back to our community.

First, we wanted to put on an event that would not only increase the visibility of local YPs, but also allow them to demonstrate their technical prowess in a forum that could enhance their career development. We thought this would be especially important for YPs who are between jobs and could use the opportunity to stand out to potential employers.

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“The current industry climate,” “commodity prices” and “how to stand out” are just a few of the phrases commonly thrown around in discussions about the industry. Everyone seems to have their own take on how to navigate this environment.

However, one subject missing from the industry conversation is – not just discussing how to help those colleagues in transition or offering advice to students looking for jobs – but actually doing something about those challenges.

At least, that was the collective feeling at the 2015 Young Professionals (YPs) Leadership Summit.

So, in 2016, the AAPG Gulf Coast Young Professionals and the Houston Geological Society (HGS) NeoGeos decided to tackle two challenges that are close to our collective hearts and minds: showcasing technical excellence and giving back to our community.

First, we wanted to put on an event that would not only increase the visibility of local YPs, but also allow them to demonstrate their technical prowess in a forum that could enhance their career development. We thought this would be especially important for YPs who are between jobs and could use the opportunity to stand out to potential employers.

Our second goal was to offer some financial assistance to students and recent graduates. We decided that, while discussions and sessions with students about to enter the job market are useful, it is vital to attend recruiting events and other functions where there is an opportunity to interact with company representatives. Unfortunately, for most students, the principal barrier to attendance is financial. Since most of us on the Joint AAPG YP-HGS NeoGeos Committee are products of the AAPG Student Expo in Houston, and many of the Student Expos have been cancelled in recent years, we wanted to give back to that program.

The Dilemma

Now faced with the task of organizing an event that was part technical session and part charitable endeavor, we had an admittedly foreseeable, but no less daunting problem. To accomplish what we wanted seemed fiscally intractable, as anything we planned required money and, in the current price environment, it’s in short supply. The challenge then became finding a way to provide a means to allow YPs to get technical recognition as well as financially support students, but without spending any money.

One mechanism to address this issue was my immediate realization that, as an industry, we have a significant untapped research resource in the form of undergraduate projects, master’s theses and doctorate dissertations. Not only am I constantly using these student references for exploration and development projects – they also make up nearly 85 percent of the citations in my presentations.

The unfortunate part was that I knew very few of the referred authors who published their work in industry periodicals and peer-reviewed journals. I did a straw poll among friends and the general consensus was: “I did all that work in school, but after I graduated, it never saw the light of day again.”

In that moment, it became apparent how we could give YPs the opportunity to present their technical work, even on our small budget.

Birth of an Idea

This was the genesis of the first One-Day YP Tech Conference.

We theorized that most YPs, employed or in transition, would jump at the chance to present their university research. We also welcomed any company research being conducted by YPs, but acknowledged the challenge inherent in securing permission to present or publish potentially proprietary information.

With the support of Southwestern Energy, who generously donated their conference space at their headquarters in Houston, and sponsorships from the HGS NeoGeos and individual donors, the One-Day YP Tech Conference was held.

The concept was to have a one-day session where YPs would have 25 minutes to discuss their work. Most of the abstracts submitted were university studies, so management approval was not an issue. The conference was open to everyone, but only YPs could present.

We reasoned that limiting the conference to one day would not only boost attendance, as most people can spare one day away from the office, but also keep registration costs low. In addition, HGS allowed us to utilize their online meeting registration system, which helped keep the cost of attendance to a manageable $80 per person and a discounted $30 for people in transition.

The end result was great! We had excellent participation with more than 80 in attendance and an outstanding keynote address on petroleum economics by Tobi Odumosu of Citi Bank. The event attracted participants from multiple companies and job functions. The YP speakers expressed appreciation, not only for the opportunity to present their work, but to also practice their public speaking skills. Additionally, we exceeded our expectations by donating more than $1,500 to the 2016 AAPG Student Expo in Houston.

Something to Build On

The success of the 2016 One-Day YP Tech Conference has motivated us to continue this strategy by offering another one-day tech conference to raise money for the Student Expos.

Our hope is that these donations help decrease the cost of company sponsorship, allowing more companies to participate and meet some amazingly talented geoscientists. We think this is a good model not only for Houston, but also for other areas. There is a lot of great research out there that could benefit our industry. We aspire to continue to grow this program to include a YP journal that could present short technical articles from YP researchers worldwide.

In the end, our Joint AAPG YP-HGS NeoGeos Committee attributed the Tech Conference’s success to the incredible support of our local society and corporate sponsors, and our passion for assisting students and colleagues in need.

Interested in hosting a YP Tech Conference in your area?

Visit us online at aapg.org/youngpros and contact your Region or Section representative, message us on our Facebook page at AAPG Young Professionals Special Interest Group or follow us on Twitter and Instagram at @aapgypsig.