OTC gives teens tips on preparing for oil and gas careers

HOUSTON — The dozen or so students crowded into the Saudi Aramco booth at the Offshore Technology Conference to learn  how the giant company explores for oil. While the group of high schoolers from  the Young Women’s College Preparatory Academy were there for insight into the oil and gas industry as part of a Houston-wide outreach program, they also got some great  advice on essential career skills from one of the company’s drilling engineers.

Learn foreign languages, said Keith Rappold, technology coordination chief upstream for Aramco Services Co., the U.S. subsidiary of Saudi Aramco. His company, like many companies,  is global and it’s not enough to know just one language when your co-workers are from Africa, Europe, Canada and Latin America.

Rappold, who said he speaks enough French to “get by,” said that another advantage to speaking more than one language is that you learn about other cultures.

He also encouraged the young women to focus on their writing skills. Too many resumes and reports show up with bad spelling and other errors. Learning to communicate through writing is critical.

So are presentation skills, said Rappold, who said that at one time he was a shy engineer.

“Take every opportunity to get up and talk,” he said.

And focus on technical skills, said Rappold. People with technical skills make more money than those who don’t have technical skills, he siad.

Rappold told the young women how he started out designing oil wells and how his math skills helped him do that job well and helped propel  him forward in his career.

“I can’t emphasize enough the importance of math, physics and science,” he said, recommending that they load up their schedules with those subjects.

“You don’t use the Pythagorean theorem every day,” he said. But learning how to solve math problems is critical to solving other problems.

“Engineering is really just applied physics,” he said. “Take more physics.”

The young women, clad in plaid skirts, white shirts and maroon jackets, listened intently.

One asked Rappold that if he could use just one word to describe his company and his job, what would it be?

“Fun,” he said. “I go to work and I have fun every day.”

Another asked for advice to those who aren’t so good in math.

“Practice, practice, practice,” he said, recalling how he’d do extra problems that weren’t even assigned so he better understood the concepts he was learning.

His one regret? Not taking geography. He travels a lot and knowing more about geography would have come in handy, he said.

The students’ engineering teacher, Astra Zeno, said the magnet school with the Houston Independent School District was able to  pay for a bus for the 21 students who attended the conference  because of the financial support of the Independent Petroleum Association of America and the Petroleum Equipment Suppliers Association.