#FLASHBACKFRIDAY – Future Leaders Look Back on the 2000s
August 24, 2018
by Brandon Mabile and Katherine Maurin (Communications Team)
Join the ECC Future Leaders as we continue our journey through the last five decades of ECC. This marks week four of the Flashback Friday Series where we will take on the 2000s. For many of the Future Leaders, this was the decade that we became “kind of a big deal” and we had the Razor flip phone, iPods and Myspace pages to prove it. In music, the 2000s was the decade that MTV officially quit playing music, we said hello and “bye, bye, bye” to Boy Bands, and American Idol became a weekly fixture. Harry Potter books were flying off the shelf, the Red Sox finally broke their 86-year world series drought, and the world said goodbye to Michael Jackson and the former planet Pluto.
Many of us began our careers and we watched as the digital age took shape and transformed practically everything in the work space. Most of us experienced disruption as hurricanes, the lending crisis and terrorism impacted all sectors of the Capital Projects world.
For this week’s contributors – we have our 2018 ECC Future Leader Liaisons, Eric Moore, Stephen Fyfe and Wendy Turini. Although at first pass, you’d think an Aggie, a Longhorn and a Scotsman wouldn’t have much in common, but these three have gotten along well this year leading the Future Leader program.
All three entered the industry in the 2000s, and much like how they’ve approached this year’s Liaison assignment, their three careers have involved leveraging their unique strengths while collaborating with members of a strong team. Currently, Eric is a Project Delivery Engineer working for Shell’s Unconventionals Permian Asset, Stephen is Project Manager at S & B Engineers and Constructors and Wendy works for Jacobs as the Functional Process Owner within the Engineering Management Community of Practice.
We asked Eric, Stephen and Wendy a few questions regarding the 2000s, helping us to see the 2000s from their perspectives.
FUTURE LEADERS: Share a few memories from the industry in the 2000s including your work life, your assignments, company culture, etc.?
Eric Moore (EM): I graduated from Texas A&M’s Construction Science program about 8 months after the September 11 Attacks. This impacted the global economy and created uncertainty in the graduate hire job market. I was able to leverage a summer internship into my first full time position and spent the first few years of my career in residential and commercial construction project management in Houston. The next disruption occurred in 2008 where a heavy hurricane season and the financial lending crisis made it difficult to succeed in the commercial construction sector. During this season, the price of Oil and Natural Gas was rapidly increasing, and I found an opportunity to transition into the Upstream energy market by beginning my career with Shell in a field-based construction management assignment in a remote (and cold) part of Wyoming. The first decade of my career was full of disruptions, but these highs and lows helped me establish resilience and adaptivity.
Stephen Fyfe (SF): I graduated from Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh Scotland with a BEng Honors Degree in Mechanical Engineering in June 2000. I spent the first two years of my career as a Mechanical Design Engineer for a large GSU Transformer OEM. From there I moved to Wood Group based out of Aberdeen Scotland and started my project management career. I spent the next stage of my career on planes to Saudi Arabia and helicopters to oil platforms in the North Sea and I can tell you all, it was not as glamorous as it sounds!
Wendy Turini (WT): I graduated from The University of Texas at Austin with a Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering. During my college experience, there were a number of world events going on that lead industries in different directions – September 11 attacks, Space Shuttle Columbia disaster, Enron “busting”, founding of Facebook, and hurricane Katrina (to name a few). Some of these events lead to some job market uncertainty, which made it difficult to find a job in the “traditional” engineering role (in a plant or engineering firm). I was fortunate to find a job shortly after college, and I relocated to Florida to work on a project at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station doing Process/Systems Safety. I gained a lot of experience during this time, and I still “carry” a lot of it with me today – the importance of safety in and out of the work place, and how one minor change can have “rippling” effects. I took this knowledge and experience back to Texas with me to work at a chemical plant as a Process Safety Management Engineer, where I continued to hone this safety knowledge, as well as really get to see the importance of safety in the industry… it is not just words, but behaviors. After some time of “boots on the ground” in a plant, the job market shifted, so I explored opportunities to work in Processing Engineering at an Engineering and Construction company. From there, I furthered my technical experience, while learning how projects are executed. All in all, my early career had a few different adventures in the work place, but I learned everything I could while in the roles that I was in, and I continued to expand my “knowledge tool kit” (whether technical or non-technical related) in order to adapt for the role I was needed in.
FUTURE LEADERS: Share a memorable challenge in your early career that helped make you better.
EM: In my first year in the “real world,” I approved a concrete pour before checking all of the dimensions, resulting in a mistake that needed to be fixed. My boss at the time requested that I put together a short presentation on what I did, what I should have done, and what I will do next time. He helped me and the company get better by requesting that I present this in the morning tailgate meetings across the companies’ jobsites over the summer. Most of the men that I had to “explain” my experience to were 20+ years older than me, and few had a college education, which opened me up to quite a bit unsolicited opinion sharing. In the end, I’m thankful that my manager took the time to let me learn by sharing my mistakes with others.
SF: During my time at Wood Group I was responsible for project management and coordination of turbine outage TAR work for our client Saudi Electric Company. Like any TAR projects, these were extremely time sensitive and stressful - it was a steep learning curve! On one specific project we by-passed set procedures that were in place for the removal of transportation welds. This resulted in the outage being extended and the process plant losing revenue. My management at the time requested that I travel to the site in Riyadh and help the crew remove the welds. This gave me firsthand experience where a split-second decision can cost a project significantly.
WT: After college, due to the job market uncertainty, I went to work in an industry that I was unfamiliar with – the aerospace industry. With a degree in Chemical Engineering, I had more familiarity with Oil & Gas and Refining; however, I knew I had to be adaptable, and take on the role as a learning opportunity and see how I could use it to better myself, as well as my career. My Lead had a “see one, do one, teach one” approach, which helped build my confidence of doing the various activities on my own. I still try to leverage this technique as it helps to “teach people to fish, not fish for them” (if you do it for them, then you are taking away their ability to learn and grow).
FUTURE LEADERS: Since your career began, what within our industry culture has changed for the better? What has changed for the worse?
EM: For my corner of the industry, I’d say that we have a much more competitive mindset than the years that I started. We still care about achieving Incident Free project delivery, but we all work together to find cost and schedule improvements that help improve the bottom line. The dip in the price per barrel of oil helped “inspire” us all a bit to dig deep over the last five years, and I hope that we can keep some of the good habits that we developed in the next market up-tick. As for what’s gotten worse, communication is continuing to be a lost art. Our day can involve countless emails that keep us glued to our screens and devices, but we miss out on face to face dialogue. Even in our down-time, we are getting more comfortable scrolling through a news feed than we are at investing in each other in a meaningful way.
SF: Safety practices have greatly improved in the industry over the past two decades. We are now much better at reporting and striving for safer solutions to issues. When I first started my career, I feel the solution was to sweep issues under the rug and hope they did not happen again, now we as an industry are working better and smarter to ensure our people stay safe – at work and at home. Regarding what’s gotten worse, as technology advances, important daily communication is being lost or taken the wrong way. It’s far too easy for us to type an email or text a message. We need to make a concerted effort to ensure our communication remains strong.
WT: Technology and technology. It has rapidly evolved over the past decade. It has allowed us to communicate more effectively on global scale, as well as gain access to information with a “click of a button” or a “swipe of a finger”. In the industry, we have been able to better integrate systems in order to share pertinent data across various software platforms (still lots of room for growth) to serve engineering, procurement, and construction. I can only imagine where the next decade will take us. On the other hand, technology has caused people to be more disengaged with face-to-face contact. Virtual meetings have become common place for communication, and it has become way too easy to send a text or email than pick up a phone. This causes it to be difficult to tell if people are truly engaging in the conversations or picking up where something left off, causing more effort in repeating information (sometimes on a global scale). As an industry, we need to remain diligent in utilizing the right communication method to ensure that the message(s) are “heard” as they are intended.
FUTURE LEADERS: What advice would you give to the Future Leader community of today?
EM: A couple of things: Find something that’s important to the world that most people don’t enjoy doing and get really good at it. AND The most important project that we are assigned is our own personal development and the building of our legacy. We all only get two to three decades where the world really cares what we have to say, don’t waste the years where you have the most influence on those around you. And remember that our most important stakeholders are the ones that we will have in our life well past our last day at “work.”
SF: Make sure you have an open mind and listen. Part of being a great leader is listening to others and their points of view. We are not experts in every field – listen to your people and let them help you make decisions!
WT: Don’t be afraid to say “yes” to opportunities that are outside of your comfort zone. People often get “stuck” in the thinking of how their career path should look like, when in fact, it is yet to be “written”. Seek roles that could really grow a skill set that you do not have (or think you need). This will help “build” your “toolbox of knowledge” that you can continue to grow in future roles.
- $/Barrel of Oil: Low $15.54 (2001); High $128.08 (2008)
- Minimum Wage: $5.15 (2000); $7.25 (2009)
- Average cost of a new car: $21,047 (2000); $23,252 (2009)
- US Population: 281,421,906 (2000 Census)
- 2000 The Y2K Scare fizzles. Nothing blows up.
- September 11, 2001 Hijacked airliners crash into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and a field in Shanksville, PA, September 11, 2001.
- 2001 Apple Computer unveils the first iPod.
- 2002 PC sales pass the one billion mark.
- 2004 The social networking website Facebook is launched.
- 2005 Hurricane Katrina became the most destructive natural disaster in United States history. The hurricane curtailed almost all oil and gas production in the Gulf of Mexico and south Louisiana. Many gas processing plants were damaged while several refineries were flooded with the damage to the state infrastructure hindering repairs. Hurricane Rita came ashore less than 30 days later.
- 2005 YouTube posts its first videos.
- 2006 The International Astronomical Union decided that Pluto is no longer a planet.
- 2007 Apple Computer releases the "iPhone." In just over two months, 1 million iPhones are sold.
- 2007 The seventh, and final, Harry Potter novel is released with an initial press run of 12 million copies in the U.S. alone.
- 2008 Hurricane Ike kills 100 people along the Texas coast, produces $31 billion in damage, and contributes to rising oil prices.
- 2008 U.S. oil prices hit a record $147 per barrel in the wake of—among other factors—international tensions and the falling U.S. dollar vs. the Euro.
- 2008 A global financial crisis begins as the stock market crashes. In response, U.S. President George W. Bush signs the revised Emergency Economic Stabilization Act into law to create a 700-billion-dollar Treasury fund to purchase failing bank assets.
- 2009 Pop icon Michael Jackson dies, creating the largest public mourning for an entertainer since the death of Elvis Presley.
ECC Conference Themes:
- 2000 E&C Contracting for Optimum Business Value – 2000 and Beyond: Trends, Visions and Winning Strategies
- 2001 Driving the Bottom Line: Managing Risk and Improving Financial Results
- 2002 An Industry in Challenging Times: Unlocking New Opportunities
- 2003 Getting it Right…Upfront!
- 2004 Beyond Borders: Bring Home the Benefits of Globalization
- 2005 Future Shock: Shaping the Future of the Capital Projects Business
- 2006 Thriving: Today and Tomorrow
- 2007 Redefining Our Industry: Solutions through Collaboration, Innovation and Organization
- 2008 LIFTOFF! Launching our Future Today
- 2009 The Perfect Storm: Navigating through the Turbulence of Risk and Change