Sunday, July 12, 2020

Mike Adams is changing upstream oil and gas training as we know it

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At our Energy in the Age of Inclusion event on May 1, we’ll be talking a lot about disruption and who in the industry is turning the status quo on its head.

One of those disruptors is Mike Adams, co-founder of the Norwell EDGE eLearning platform.

Adams saw a problem in available training options for upstream oil and gas and set about fixing it, with a focus on technology, accessibility and affordability. His drive to make an impact is matched only by his insane work ethic, and we are thrilled to have him join our panel discussion at Energy in the Age of Inclusion. R

We managed to steal a few minutes of Mike’s time while he was working in Nigeria to answer some questions about who he is, what he does and why he does it. Read on for more about Mike!

Pink Petro: Tell us a little bit about how the idea of Norwell EDGE came about.

Mike Adams: EDGE came about from the belief that people within upstream oil and gas were simply not receiving enough training — or any at all. Companies had very few options when it came to providing training to staff, and those options were overly restrictive in terms of cost and flexibility.

Following the Deepwater Horizon disaster, the main UK industry trade body OGUK issued a comprehensive guideline on how we all needed to improve upstream training and competency. If we were to avoid something like that again, we needed to give everyone in our sector better, more comprehensive and long-term training.

Both in 2012 when this was published and now, this is simply not happening.

Following the recommendation being published in 2012, we threw ourselves into finding a solution to this problem. We wanted everyone in oil and gas to have the training they needed. We wanted to help create a more informed and empowered international workforce, and we wanted to help those companies who wanted to do the right thing and give their staff long-term support.

That is what drove us to write our multiyear upstream training courses and build an eLearning platform that is open, accessible and affordable to everyone in the industry.

Most companies in the upstream sector shy away from being disruptive. What makes Norwell different?

MA: Creating some disruption has been a result of our vision, not the vision itself. We saw something that we wanted to change, and we looked for the most effective way to do it.

In order to change the way the industry trains personnel, we had to address some of the fundamental barriers to that — mainly cost, a willingness to share information and poor technology.

These are not issues that every industry faces so we looked at ways other sectors tackle these issues. Adopting an open model where access to our software is free and all costs are openly displayed online is something many people now expect from their services. As is our low-cost subscription model. This allows people and companies all over the world to afford our training, no matter what market they are in or how many employees they have.

These were big decisions for us to make, but in the end our commitment to bringing more modern, open and affordable training opportunities to oil and gas was the driving light that made us tackle the problems head on.

You grew up and studied in Aberdeen but have also studied and worked around the world, is that right?

MA: Yes, I was lucky enough to study in both the UK and Canada. I met my wife while at the University of British Columbia. I raced at the elite in swimming and triathlon, representing the UK, before throwing myself into oil and gas.

From almost day 1 of my career I was working in Africa, first on remote exploration projects in the far north of Kenya, and then on to Congo and Tanzania. Seeing these different parts of the world and how many of the challenges we face are the same, shape the EDGE vision.

Did your time as a professional athlete teach you any life lessons?

MA: 100 percent. While I was in high school, my day would start with 5 a.m. swim practice four days a week. We would then go straight from school for more training in the evenings. Education was a huge part of the sport, and we were encouraged to treat the entire day as a training session: Wake up, eat well, train hard, study hard, train hard again, sleep. I carried this through to my university life and now on to my work life.

I have much less time for sport now, but I am in the office before 4 a.m. most days and try to get home for 6 p.m. to have dinner with my family and put my daughter to bed. Last year, I made the effort to get back into the swimming pool and raced at the Masters Swimming World Championships in Budapest. Keeping your body in shape helps your mind!

How did you make the transition from sport to oil and gas?

MA: I was lucky that I had accomplished all that I wanted to in sport and was equally driven to get started in my professional career. I threw all the motivation that I had given to my sport and put it toward work.

In my early days working in the field, this meant I put in some 120-hour weeks, but I just treated it like training. Learn as much as you can and stay committed.

What do you think are the key challenges that the upstream industry needs to tackle to secure its future?

MA: Oil and gas is under threat from a number of angles right now. We must find a way to stay competitive as car battery technology improves. This means finding more efficient and cost-effective ways to extract, transport and process hydrocarbons. Upstream plays a big part in that.

We must also work to improve our practices and image as an industry that lives to excess in the good times, but then cuts deep when times are hard. This is not sustainable and is allowing other sectors to both catch up and attract the best young talent.

Attracting new and fresh blood will be essential to our longevity. If we are to evolve as a sector, we need young minds to help with that. The age representation in the industry was already a challenge prior to the 2015 crash, now its worse than ever. If you go and speak to 20-year-old soon-to-be graduates, they don’t want to work in oil. They want to work in tech, renewables and the life sciences. This is a challenge I think about a lot.

What does the future hold for Norwell EDGE — short term and long term?

MA: In the short term, we are still very much in our launch phase and will be working to issue new courses and software updates throughout 2018. We are working to build our growing base of EDGE users, which already exceeds 3,000, and are in discussions with companies and governments around the world on how we can implement EDGE to benefit employees from China to Cameroon.

Our long-term goal is to democratize training, making it possible to access the best oil and gas training no matter where you live, what company you work for or how many employees you have. We want to roll out EDGE across the industry in every market, working with IOCs, NOCs and universities to both support new graduates, long term staff and those previously unable to access the training they needed. We will continue to launch new courses, system upgrades and move into the midstream and downstream sectors.

Do you have a motto or a saying that guides you?

MA: When I was racing I always lived by the motto that every time you chose to sleep in, miss a workout or slack off, there was someone else out there training harder — the next time you lined up together, they’d beat you.

The underlying message being that, to succeed, you have to work really, really hard. That is a good one to remember.

Mary Johnson
Mary Johnson is a champion of women in business — from innovators and entrepreneurs to executives and nonprofit leaders and founder of Brave New Word.

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