Preparing for the Future

Like clockwork they go by, marking the years – tick, tick, tick: the AAPG Annual Convention and Exhibition.

I’m just back to Oklahoma from San Antonio after another successful ACE. Each year I spend some time thinking about the event and about what made it different or better from previous conventions and what we can improve for future ACEs.

The application of technology and analytical techniques has always been a hallmark of our profession, but this year ACE had special sessions dedicated to machine learning and AI in petroleum geoscience. The trend toward increased automation and greater efficiency in our workflows will affect how the petroleum explorationist works in the decades to come.

Helping our members prepare for this future is something to which AAPG is committed, and it was the focus of the Division of Professional Affairs Luncheon speaker Deborah Sacrey whose talk, “Re-inventing Yourself to Stay Relevant in an Ever-Changing Geoscience Technical Climate,” recounted her own experience of adopting emerging technology applications throughout her career and using them to successfully reduce exploration risk and thereby generate economic value for her clients and herself.

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Like clockwork they go by, marking the years – tick, tick, tick: the AAPG Annual Convention and Exhibition.

I’m just back to Oklahoma from San Antonio after another successful ACE. Each year I spend some time thinking about the event and about what made it different or better from previous conventions and what we can improve for future ACEs.

The application of technology and analytical techniques has always been a hallmark of our profession, but this year ACE had special sessions dedicated to machine learning and AI in petroleum geoscience. The trend toward increased automation and greater efficiency in our workflows will affect how the petroleum explorationist works in the decades to come.

Helping our members prepare for this future is something to which AAPG is committed, and it was the focus of the Division of Professional Affairs Luncheon speaker Deborah Sacrey whose talk, “Re-inventing Yourself to Stay Relevant in an Ever-Changing Geoscience Technical Climate,” recounted her own experience of adopting emerging technology applications throughout her career and using them to successfully reduce exploration risk and thereby generate economic value for her clients and herself.

Open-Source Data?

Placing these technology developments in context for all of us fell to Arno van den Haak, our All-Convention Luncheon speaker. As head of Amazon Web Service’s oil and gas business development, his talk focused on “Driving Sustainability Innovation with Open Data and Cloud Technology for Oil and Gas Applications.”

My key takeaway was AWS’s focus on open source data and the desire for large technology companies to make available large volumes of formatted data to researchers, scientists and the public, to use and find ways to create new forms of value.

The prevailing attitude in the technology space is that the cost will be more than offset by the benefits of making the data freely available and trusting in the resulting economic value created by using this data in new and unforeseen ways.

It’s an exciting idea, but I’m skeptical that it’s true. And it’s certainly a disruptive trend. As a non-profit science publisher, AAPG feels the pressure of trends to open access publishing that are sweeping the publishing world. And in an industry that firmly believes its proprietary data is the basis of competitive advantage, this approach will require a significant cultural shift.

Arno and I had a stimulating chat during lunch before he spoke, and I look forward to continuing the conversation. This space is changing rapidly, and one reason it was so good that he was at ACE is that we need to understand how it will affect us both individually and corporately.

Engaging Mid-Career Professionals

Another trend underway was discussed in Tuesday’s special session, “The Big Crew Change: Passing the Baton and Challenges Awaiting Mid-Career Geoscientists.” Panelists talked about how they’ve addressed both challenges and opportunities in their careers. They, alongside members of the Executive Committee and yours truly, fielded questions from the audience.

Here’s my key takeaway, one that is blindingly obvious: AAPG needs to do more to directly engage and support its mid-career professionals. We talk a lot about relevance and attracting students to the profession, yet it’s supporting the success of our emerging leaders that will enable the industry to flourish and attract the younger folks to it. This must be a principal focus in the years ahead.

The good news is that the crew change has occurred and next-gen leaders are stepping up: ACE 2019 was led by Lorena Moscardelli and Eddie Valek, our first general co-chairs of the post-Baby Boomer era.

They, along with the organizing committee, worked closely and cooperatively with Alan Wegener, Theresa Curry and our AAPG team. Together they did a masterful job of organizing our flagship event, infusing it with youthful enthusiasm and new ideas. Let’s keep that going!

ACE Going Forward

Another new feature for ACE we’re working on will be behind-the-scenes. AAPG is creating an ACE Global Organizing Committee. Membership in this group will be open to AAPG members from around the globe who would like to get involved in putting together an ACE. The intent is to broaden participation, deepen the network and community of professionals engaged in this event, and help share the workload, regardless of where ACE is located, by working together.

As marketing maven Seth Godin observed in a recent blog post, “Ideas spread from person to person. Horizontally. Because someone who encountered an idea cared enough to spread the word, to talk about it, to insist that friends and colleagues pay attention, if just for a moment.”

That is how we grow community. That is how we build future leaders. That is how we prepare for the future.

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