Enter the Young: YPs Making an Impact – NOW

American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG)

Even with its 100th birthday just around the corner, AAPG is looking younger every day.

Richard Ball
Richard Ball

This fact is no more evident than within AAPG leadership, where YPs Helen Cromie, secretary for the European Region; Richard Ball, AAPG secretary; and Catherine Campbell, secretary-treasurer for the Rocky Mountain Section, are working hard to help keep our soon-to-be centenarian Association looking spry.

I recently caught up with these YPs-in-charge to discuss careers in the geosciences, the importance of getting involved and their thoughts on leadership.

Unsurprisingly, they had a lot to say.

Faber: What led you to a career in the geosciences?

Cromie: Geography was my favorite subject in high school. I was not quite so inspired by the human geography side of the subject, so when I spotted a degree course called “Physical Geography and Geology” at Edinburgh University, I jumped at the chance.

My undergraduate thesis was in glacial geomorphology, but it seemed I would need a Ph.D. to move forward in that field – something I was not keen to do. So I decided to apply for a summer internship at a local oil company.

I enjoyed this switch to industry immensely and made the decision at that point to move toward a career as a petroleum geoscientist.

Campbell: Earth science piqued my interest the first time I learned there was an explanation for what happened in the natural world.

In college, I took “Intro to Geology” and was immediately hooked. I remember reading the text late one night and then hearing birds chirping. If a textbook can keep you engaged for that long, it means something!

Faber: Why did you first become involved with AAPG?

Cromie: I was a member of the University of Aberdeen team in the first AAPG Imperial Barrel Award Competition in Long Beach, Calif., in 2007. After the competition I was approached by Connie Mongold, the IBA Committee Chair at that time, who asked if I would like to join the IBA organizing committee.

Ball: I attended the 2003 ACE in Salt Lake City, and right then and there, I figured out that I belonged with such a passionate group of scientists.

Campbell: The University of Wyoming has an active student chapter, and upon entering the master’s program there students are encouraged to join AAPG. Randi Martinsen was our fearless leader, eventually leading our IBA team to the first international contest in 2007.

Faber: How did you arrive in your current position?

Cromie: I served on the global IBA Committee for two years. When the program really started to take off, my colleague, Charlie Hamilton, and I were asked if we could co-chair the rapidly expanding European competition. In this role, I got to know the European Region leadership team well, so when they asked if I would consider running for secretary it seemed like a good idea.

I was initially skeptical that I would make it through the election, but I’m now into my second term.

Ball: I started out as the student chapter chair at Stephen F. Austin State University. When the YP Committee was reactivated, I served as vice chair of the Student Chapters Committee (SCC)/YP Committee. During that time, I started the Student Chapter Leadership Summit program and eventually became chair of the SCC. I currently serve as the AAPG Executive Committee secretary.

Campbell: Two words: Randi Martinsen. After graduating in 2007, Randi called and said the memorable words, “You’ll thank me later.” Suddenly the phone started ringing and committee chairs were thanking me for volunteering to help out with various events.

I ended up as a volunteer co-chair for the 2009 ACE in Denver, chair of the RMS IBA Committee (and ultimately, a member of the global IBA Committee), chair of the RMS Young Professionals Committee and a co-editor of the Outcrop.

Looking back, I absolutely thank Randi for encouraging me to take on leadership roles within AAPG and other organizations such as RMAG.

Last year, Bob Suydam, past president of RMS, nominated me to start the track to become RMS president, thus bringing me to my current role as RMS secretary-treasurer.

Faber: What is the value of being a YP in leadership?

Cromie: Networking! Through AAPG, I have grown a global network of oil industry professionals at different stages of their careers, working different basins and different reservoirs, and with an outlook that is inherently different from my own.

Also, I think entering a leadership role in AAPG has helped me gain confidence in my own organizational abilities and communication skills in a different forum than my technical work. Since AAPG is a volunteering role, I have had to learn to manage my time efficiently to ensure my day-to-day job is not impacted by AAPG commitments.

Ball: For me, it exemplifies that YPs are a ready, capable and dedicated group that will take the reins of this organization in the next decade.

Campbell: You get volunteered to put on meetings in Vegas. Check out our joint RMS-Pacific Section Meeting in 2016!

Faber: What can the Association gain from a “YP perspective” in leadership?

Cromie: I hear often that AAPG struggles to attract and retain younger members while other societies, such as SPE, do not. Who better to suggest potential improvements that will attract the YP demographic than the YPs themselves?

Ball: When I was a student the AAPG invited me to a Leadership Days (LD) to understand what students “wanted.” So I spent five years attending LD working to convey students’ needs. As YPs, our role is different. YPs will be the membership and fill the leadership ranks over the next decade or so. Each of us brings a unique set of ideals and goals. Many of these align with those of our predecessors. A few are different. However, all should be seriously considered as we design this organization for the next 100 years.

Campbell: The Young Professionals are the future of AAPG. With the current bimodal age distribution in membership, we are bringing a new perspective on the science and technology that is the core of AAPG. By engaging young leaders, AAPG is ensuring its success as long as it is able to change and grow with the changing world around it. We are the key to making that happen.

Faber: What advice do you have for YPs interested in leadership?

Cromie: Start by joining a committee that interests you. Meet as many people as you can.

Ball: The bumper sticker on my truck reads, “People who say it can’t be done should not interrupt those who are doing it” (G.B. Shaw). I firmly believe the only way to truly enact change is to get involved.

Campbell: I’ll take my lead from Randi and pay it forward; just send me your email!

Honestly, the doors that have opened because of my leadership roles have been tremendously helpful to my career success. I have made countless lasting friendships and it really is a lot of fun.

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