The oil & gas industry, enabler of new experiences and new friendships

Every week, I do my best to write articles that I hope will either be provocative enough to generate healthy discussions, or helpful enough that readers can use them to advance their own careers.

This week’s piece doesn’t fall directly into either category.  Rather, I just want to write about a fun experience I had last week, further proof that the oil & gas industry is a great enterprise through which people can come together, while learning and trying new things.

A few weeks ago, someone found one of my articles and dropped me a line on LinkedIn, asking to meet up while they were in Houston completing an internship for one of the “Big 4″ oilfield service companies.  In another context, say online dating, the receiving party would probably feel a little uneasy about such a forward invitation, but in this type of situation I have very few qualms.  Actually, this isn’t the first time I’ve accepted such a request, and I’ve made lasting connections doing so, so I thought: “it’s quiet at the office going into Labor Day, I’ll meet someone new, why not?”

No need to mention his name, but he was Iranian and suggested a Persian place in Houston, off Westheimer, called “Kasra One”.  I might have had Persian food once before in my entire life, I’d never been to that restaurant specifically, so again…why not?

Well, the food was delicious and I took away a lot from our conversation.

Here in the US, we get one view of Iran, but from the (admittedly very few) Iranians I know, that impression of a hostile population that spends its time thinking about nothing else than destroying America, is totally off base.

This gentleman told me about how he was from a nomadic tribe, and that before he came to the US to pursue his studies (a PhD in reservoir engineering) he knew that he would be saying goodbye to his family for a long time.  As of Friday, he hadn’t seen them in 5 years!

We also talked about the weather there (quite varied, with four seasons in some parts, and not hot and dry as in many other parts of the Middle East) and how many Iranians in fact don’t share the same views as their political leaders.  According to my new friend, 70% of Iranians are under 30 years old, with access to internet, satellite tv, and really no desire to be be labeled as international pariahs.

So here we have someone who has not seen in his family in 5 years, who can’t move freely between professional and academic opportunities, or collaborate with other professionals on certain projects because 0f highly restrictive Visa regulations, and yet…he was happy!

Certainly, I’ve worked hard to get where I am, but coming to the US was the result of my father’s work, not mine.  Here in front of me was someone who had made it here, and was navigating it all, by and large by himself.  Despite all the difficulty he faces to do things we all take for granted, not once during our conversation did I think he was bitter at his situation or felt sorry for himself.  He just shrugged it all off and dismissed it, indicating basically:  “it is what it is”.

I came away from that lunch feeling both happy and grateful:  happy that I have maybe made a new industry friend and valuable professional resource should I ever need to consult with someone on the topic of reservoir engineering, and grateful that despite the obstacles I have overcome, there are many more that I didn’t have to face, just by virtue of being born into certain circumstances.

To wrap this up and provide you with something more than a “feel-good” story to take away from this, here are a few parting thoughts:

  • The oil & gas industry seems really big, but you end up seeing the same people over and over again throughout your career.  It is good to meet as many of them as you can as early as possible!
  • Make the time to take a chance.  Sure, my risk here was limited, but regardless, this person was a stranger up until recently, not a long-lost friend.  I could have easily said “I have better things to do”.  Instead, I took the time to meet someone new, and came away feeling like it was well worth-it.
  • Being around different people helps us grow.   I shared in someone’s culture, and learned some positive facts about a country that is hardly presented positively here.  I’m thankful for the different perspective.
  • Always keep your online presence updated and relevant.  None of the above would have been possible had I not had an established online presence.  The internet and social media can, in theory, enable to you to connect with others like never before but…you have to make the effort to use them properly!