Creative. Dynamic. Innovative. Passionate. Exceptional.
These are some of the words used to describe Victor Ramirez, father, friend, exploration geologist and current president of the AAPG Latin America Region.
At first glance, the 47-year-old, unassuming Colombian may not seem like one of the senior leaders of a national oil company. But spending five minutes with Ramirez explains why this passionate individual is one of Colombia’s industry leaders who is leaving a lasting legacy for AAPG.
Ramirez grew up in Manizales, Colombia, a beautiful town in the slopes of Ruiz Volcano, which erupted in 1985 and killed 30,000 people. The tragedy sparked an interest in understanding the earth and its natural phenomena.
Ramirez entered the geology school at the Universidad de Caldas in Manizales and later transferred to Colombia’s National University in Bogotá. Studying at the National University exposed him to a broad range of political and social ideas as diverse as Colombia itself. This rich environment fueled his education, as did relationships with talented colleagues and professors, many of whom are influential players in the Colombian geology community today.
“I was lucky enough to have really smart classmates, and now dear friends, who always offered a stimulating learning environment,” Ramirez said. “Besides that, some of the professors were leaders and pioneers of different topics of Colombian geology during the second part of the 20th century, and it was a privilege to be one of their students.”
Petroleum geology professor and AAPG member Orlando Forero encouraged Ramirez to join AAPG as a student member in 1993.
“Professor Forero pointed out the importance of being part of a technical organization, first the local association and then AAPG,” Ramirez said. “He even allowed some students to use his credit card to make the payment!”
First Steps: Ecopetrol
Ramirez joined Ecopetrol, Colombia’s national oil company, in 1997, and as a junior geologist he immediately began participating in the company’s lead technical initiatives.
“From the beginning I enjoyed working with very experienced people, with access to the best technical data base in Colombia,” Ramirez said.
Before long, he was leading teams of colleagues in exploring several Colombian basins. In his current position as offshore exploration superintendent, he leads a team in exploring Colombia’s Caribbean offshore, a frontier basin that holds great promise of future hydrocarbon resources both for the company and the country.
During his time at Ecopetrol, Ramirez watched the company transition from a 100 percent state-owned entity and regulator to a public capital company accountable to stakeholders other than the Colombian government. Throughout the changes and his 17 years at the company, Ramirez remains satisfied.
“Ecopetrol provides to its employees plenty of development opportunities,” he said, “and the dynamic of organizational change represents a challenge that I am still living as a rewarding career path.”
A development opportunity Ecopetrol offers employees is the chance to study abroad, a benefit Ramirez took advantage of in 2005. Following the lead of several National University classmates, he enrolled in the University of Alabama’s graduate program in geology, working under AAPG member Ernest Mancini.
Mancini served as AAPG’s elected editor at the time, and he invited Ramirez to be an associate editor, a position he held until 2010.
Ramirez described Mancini as friendly, stimulating and approachable and said that, despite being very busy, Mancini took time to discuss projects on a daily basis. Ramirez appreciated how Mancini granted him access to Department of Energy projects and allowed him to work on a project in Colombia.
But what Ramirez most appreciated about Mancini was his integrity.
“Besides his technical excellence, [Mancini] stands true to his ideas of making an honest contribution to our science without merchandising the knowledge to fulfill temporal agendas,” he said of his mentor.
Mancini also appreciated working with Ramirez.
“Victor is exceptional,” he said. “He came to the UA to earn an MS degree and be back at work with Ecopetrol in a managerial position in two years. He was focused, committed and hard working.
“He accomplished his goals,” Mancini added. “I never had any doubt that he would.”
Mancini said that Ramirez’s multidisciplinary thesis, which involved sequence stratigraphy and petroleum system modeling, was “outstanding,” and his contributions to the university’s Center for Sedimentary Basin Studies were “many and significant.”
Ramirez also contributed to several articles on Little Cedar Creek Field and Mesozoic deep gas reservoirs in onshore GOM basins, which were published in the AAPG BULLETIN.
Mancini also noted that, in addition to his studies, Ramirez showed dedication to his family.
“His son was into Spider-Man big time when he was at the UA,” Mancini recalled. “I think Victor enjoyed that. Victor is very committed to his family. This is important.”
Ramirez has two sons, now 11 and 8 years old. His wife Luisa is a veterinarian, and the family lives in Bogotá. One of Ramirez’s favorite pastimes is taking them to visit natural attractions, an activity that combines his passions for geology, science fiction and his family.
“I enjoy the vision and understanding of time factor in nature, in a scale of millions to billions of years,” Ramirez said, “and being able to talk, especially with my kids or youngsters, about several topics like dinosaurs, earthquakes, evolution, volcanoes, planets and energy.”
Ramirez’s love for geology and helping other geologists make him a respected and effective leader in private industry and in geological associations.
AAPG member Helga Niño, a sedimentologist with Ecopetrol, met Ramirez in 2003 while he was studying well cores at the Colombian Petroleum Institute in Bucaramanga where she worked. Ramirez encouraged Helga to transfer to Ecopetrol in Bogotá, and she followed his advice some years later.
Niño worked on Ramirez’s team for three years, and she said she deeply appreciated the way he recognized and valued her experience in the Colombian Caribbean.
“He has always recognized me for my work, and his confidence has always been very important for me,” Niño said. “Victor always asks my opinion, he is very open to dialogue and new proposals and on top of everything he is fun and is a great human being.”
Niño added that Ramirez’s willingness to listen, learn and try new things has been an important part of giving him a key role in making progress toward offshore exploration in Colombia.
“I think the best way to find different results is to do things differently,” she said, “and Victor is always open to new ideas that can be applied to successful operations.”
Time to Volunteer
Ramirez’s knowledge and personality helped land him a leadership position with Colombia’s Petroleum Geologists and Geophysicists Association (ACGGP), an AAPG affiliated society.
“I was invited to give a lecture about my master’s research in the ACGGP monthly meeting; then I was proposed as candidate to the technical vice presidency for 2008-2009,” Ramirez said.
The following year, Ramirez was elected as ACGGP’s youngest-ever president.
During that tenure Ramirez became increasingly involved with the AAPG Latin America Region, particularly in planning for the 2013 AAPG International Conference and Exhibition (ICE) in Cartagena, Colombia. Ramirez served as ACGGP president and AAPG Latin America Region secretary-treasurer simultaneously and worked to smooth out differences that existed previously between the two societies.
Enhanced collaboration between ACGGP and AAPG is a direct consequence of Ramirez’s work, said Miguel Ramirez, AAPG Latin America Region past president, who describes Ramirez as an “even keel, calm guy who is fun to be around and is always ready to help.”
AAPG member German Bayona, a contemporary of Ramirez’s at Colombia’s National University, has worked alongside Ramirez in both the ACGGP and the AAPG Latin America Region. He said Ramirez’s dedication to both organizations is inspiring: “It is incredible how he enjoys working in professional associations.”
As AAPG Latin America Region president, Ramirez focuses heavily on increasing membership and engagement throughout the Latin America Region.
“Many of our efforts are focused on developing new leadership and promoting ‘active’ membership,” he said, “not in a sense of a category, but as in a feeling of belonging to an organization that can give a lot but needs the contribution of its members.”
His efforts are paying off.
Since becoming Region president in July Ramirez has overseen several successful events, including ICE Cartagena; a Geoscience Technology Workshop in Trinidad & Tobago; a Regional Student Leadership Summit; the launch of new communications vehicles, including a new regional website, newsletter and social media sites; and the formation of four new student chapters and two young professionals chapters in the region.
Ramirez said he still has a lot to learn about being Region president.
“I am still learning the complexity of an organization as big as AAPG. Being president represents a big responsibility for promoting our science, particularly toward the general public and the new generations of geoscientists,” he said.
Forming the next generation of geoscientists is a responsibility this young president takes seriously. He often visits student and young professional groups and talks to them about some geoscience career challenges and the importance of being involved with AAPG.
“The message I give them sounds like a commercial, but it’s true,” he said. “Join us, meet people who can share your interest, have access to world class information and world class professionals, and develop your career skills by belonging to one of the most respected geological organizations.”
If Ramirez’s reaches students like others reached him, the industry and science of the Latin America Region has a bright future indeed.