Kevin Lay - Technical Director, Petroleum Engineering, AWT International (Page 1 of 3) 13 Sep 2013

Kevin Lay is Technical Director within the Petroleum Engineering unit of one of the region’s leading suppliers of drilling and subsurface expertise.

Kevin, what is your background, and what helped you map out your career?

I grew up in New Zealand and studied chemical engineering at the University of Canterbury so with that background I had very little knowledge of upstream oil and gas industry, apart from watching 'Dallas' on TV. While at uni, I spent a summer vacation working in the Newcastle steelworks for BHP and learnt that BHP had an oil and gas division based in Melbourne. I ended up applying for a job with BHP and was fortunate to be offered a graduate position in Melbourne, which kicked off my career in the industry.

Within a few years, BHP made some offshore discoveries and developed a few oil fields so I was lucky to be in the right place at the right time. I managed to be involved in exploration well testing, subsea completions, floating production operations and field development planning aspects of those projects which I thoroughly enjoyed. I also spent a short time in reservoir engineering, but found that I enjoyed the more “hands on” engineering and operations work.

So those early opportunities, assignments and projects, along with a few mentors and peers really shaped my ongoing career.

What attracted you into the industry?

I was attracted by the opportunity to learn new things, to travel to other locations and experience different work environments. I saw it as a challenge to move to a new country on my own and take on an unfamiliar role, and from the little I knew about the industry, it seemed exciting. The pay and other working conditions were good compared with working in a process design or operational plant environment that would be normal for a chemical engineer. Also, the prospect of having a predominantly office based job in a major city was very attractive following my experience in the Newcastle steel works environment.

What do you think it takes to succeed in the petroleum sector?

I think you need to be able to work hard and make personal sacrifices, since it’s a 24/7 operational environment that needs to be supported by many dedicated people. Often the stakes are high with significant capital investment that needs to be protected.

I also think you need to have high standards, including ethics, to protect your personal reputation as well as the reputation of your company and the industry in general. Maintaining a sound reputation is critical to success, or at least is for most people.

What do you believe separates high-performing companies from their less successful counterparts?

Over the long term, striking the correct balance between maintaining a consistent approach versus evolving the business in response to changing conditions is important. The ability to recognise industry trends and respond proactively to develop a recognised or dominant market position is a key feature for ongoing success. Conversely, recognising that a part of the business is past its use-by-date and managing business transition is just as important.