Generational Perspectives on AAPG’s Future

American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG)

Nick Lagrilliere: Through the Young Professionals Committee’s polling, it is apparent that the value proposition of the AAPG to its YP members is far from clear – yet, despite this lack of clarity, YPs are deriving value from AAPG through the networking opportunities initiated by the YP Committee.

The latter’s success has been demonstrated by the large crowds drawn to the YP reception at the AAPG Annual Convention and Exhibition in Pittsburgh, as well as to many similar activities organized locally by the worldwide network of YP chapters.

In order to demonstrate the value proposition of AAPG to the YP population, we must acknowledge and address the changing face of our membership. The future success of our organization relies on our ability to develop a strategy that effectively bridges the generational gap within the industry.

R. Randy Ray: There is a lot of discussion about the value proposition of AAPG to YPs. As a volunteer-driven organization, the more you invest yourself in AAPG activities, the more valuable the return.

Why? Because it is a multi-faceted experience.

Of course, there are monthly publications targeted to petroleum science, and educational events and webinars focused on improving skills necessary for success. But there also are technical sessions and networks to industry experts at all our meetings, access to perspectives from the global community – not limited to a single corporate viewpoint.

There is no replacement for working with experienced professionals as part of your career development. I hope AAPG membership helps to make that connection for our YPs. Personal mentorship is beyond any value proposition – it’s priceless!

Being active in AAPG also provides perspectives of the greater issues beyond the science – like the world energy equation, governmental regulations and a general business sense to recognize petroleum geology in a global context.

As a geologist’s experiential knowledge reaches maturity, performance elevates to activities like Discovery Thinking when working in new play areas. I doubt there is a computer app for this.

The Social Network

RRR: The YPs are a powerful emerging force as AAPG heads toward the second century mark in 2017. Although they currently represent about 10 percent of AAPG’s membership, they are a growing and energetic part of AAPG.

Since they are linked-in to instantaneous communication via the Internet and social networks, they can exercise a disproportionate influence in a positive way. In my mind this is the real distinction between YP’s and older professionals-their connectedness.

NL: The Young Professionals bring a perspective that differs from that of some of the more experienced members of the Association.

For many of us, our career needs are being met by our companies, either through internal training courses or by external training providers. Publications are available through corporate subscriptions and countless other technical resources exist online.

Our generation’s intimate link with social media and technology sets us apart from previous generations. We are constantly “linked in.”

All of these factors result in the feeling that the AAPG is neither relevant for the YPs nor necessary to further our careers.

This feeling, when combined with the perception of the AAPG as a bit of an “old boys’ club,” results in the inability to attract and retain younger members.

RRR: If you are not at your computer screen daily, even hourly, you are not connected to the YP generation.

They are generally masters of computer technology, since they grew up with a computer from the beginning. They have the ability to handle large datasets, perform interpretive actions, create valuable maps and reservoir simulations while simultaneously receiving an email or text message during the workflow – to which they can respond immediately and then continue working.

They do not need to make telephone calls – too slow, too unreliable, too expensive.

Remember when we said, “Being there is 90 percent of life”? Today, being connected is 90 percent of life – whether you are actually there or not.

Rules of Engagement

NL: It was quite baffling to us that attempts to give the YPs a stronger identity as a group in order to make the AAPG more welcoming were perceived as divisive. This was a main reason our previously proposed “special designation” was not considered by the House of Delegates.

Consequently, we will now be pursuing the approval of Technical Interest Groups (TIG) and Special Interest Groups (SIG) by the HoD.

A Young Professional SIG would allow us to achieve our goals, being a “softer” way of creating a community.

It is not our aim to be exclusive – but the reality is that the YPs right now feel excluded; not being provided with the tools necessary to attract and serve our younger members; and hence, do not join the AAPG.

RRR: Although recognizing a YP with a colored ribbon on the nametag at events is helpful, they need to become an integrated part of the whole program – and not isolated as a separate demographic group.

In some ways, being specifically designated as a YP can be counter-productive to full participation.

There are many arranged activities for YPs, but we need to make certain they do not become barriers to their involvement with the rest of the members.

As for myself, I thought it might be inappropriate for me to attend a YP event because of the age gap. Similarly, I might guess from their view a YP might be hesitant to be part of some AAPG committees or groups.

In fact, YPs are participating on committees at all levels – including those of the highest level, like in the House of Delegates and on the Executive Committee – and are making their voices heard.

AAPG has helped launch them. Now let them continue to increase their involvement in an organic way, growing in number and influence.

NL: It is true that we have seen increased involvement of YPs in the day-to-day running of the Association. YPs currently serve as HoD delegates, committee chairs and on Section/Region leadership.

While we celebrate these successes, these individuals are a small subset of the total YP population.

The harsh reality is that most young people are hesitant about volunteering – and want to see value for their investment of time. That is where AAPG sometimes finds itself, in stark contrast to our peer societies. For instance, the Society of Petroleum Engineers have well-developed and well-funded YP programs, and the Young Professionals in Energy (YPE) provide a forum for networking and career development for young professionals, primarily non-petrotechs, in the global energy industry.

A Two-Way Street

RRR: If you want to be part of the conversation in any or all of these aspects of AAPG, join and maintain AAPG membership and participate.

Nick and I both would like to see more mixing of the membership age groups in all of AAPG’s activities. It is happening now and will continue with the passing of time.

You do not want to be left out of the bright future that geologists are creating for an environmentally responsible, energy-driven world!

NL: We are keen to help this Association thrive, grow and be relevant in its second century. We believe there is a wealth of experience and resources in the AAPG we can harness.

However, if the AAPG wants to embrace the younger generation, then respecting the differences between generations has to go both ways.

We respect how things were done in the first 100 years of AAPG. In return, we ask that members of AAPG be flexible and open to changes in the next 100 years. The AAPG has to evolve into an organization that the younger generation also can identify with and make its own. Otherwise, the YPs in the industry will find other organizations that serve their needs – and many already are doing so.

We therefore hope that the AAPG membership will embrace upcoming reforms, simplify its membership criteria and modernize its governance structure. By doing so, it can evolve to be an open association with an international outlook, focused on being a career partner.

Only that will result in a growing membership.

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