Stephen Boyce graduated from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University’s Daytona Beach, Florida campus in 2011. Selected to the ERAU Honors Program, Stephen received his Bachelor of Science in Engineering Physics with a minor in Mathematics. Registered as a Professional Engineer in his home country of Canada, he currently works as the Artificial Lift Account Manager for Schlumberger, the world’s largest oilfield services company, based in Port-Gentil, Gabon in Sub Sahara Africa.
Tell us about your career progression since you graduated from Embry-Riddle.
Following graduation from Embry-Riddle in May 2011, I joined an oilfield services company called Schlumberger and have been working with them ever since. Since joining Schlumberger in 2011, my assigned locations have been Canada (2011-2014), Scotland (2014-2018) and now Gabon (2018-present). During these assignments, I have been fortunate enough to have a variety of training and business trips in Canada, USA, England, Scotland, Wales, France, Netherlands, Turkey, Iceland, Italy, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, Singapore, Malaysia, Cameroon and Gabon.
I started with Schlumberger as an Artificial Lift field engineer, installing, commissioning and troubleshooting Electric Submersible Pumps (ESPs). My goal was to use my engineering skills developed at ERAU, as well as my professional experience, to make a positive contribution to Schlumberger’s performance in Canada. My long-term goals included being selected to Schlumberger’s international mobile staff and managing global sales accounts.
Following three years in Canada, I relocated to Scotland to continue as a Senior Field Engineer. I eventually joined the sales team as a Sales Engineer, then eventually Account Manager, where I had sales responsibility for 70% of the Artificial Lift business in the United Kingdom. After four enjoyable years in Scotland, I relocated to Gabon in 2018 to assume sales responsibility for 100% of the Artificial Lift business in Gabon, as the Account Manager based in Port-Gentil.
What made you decide to choose a career with Schlumberger?
Coming from an Aviation/Aerospace focused university, I had never heard of Schlumberger. My main interaction with the oil industry was filling up my tank at Shell, Chevron or other gas stations where I could find the cheapest price. Then by chance, I had a discussion with a family friend who had worked as a contractor for Schlumberger for several years. He explained how he travelled the world working a variety of different jobs and really enjoyed it. I ended up applying, and after a phone interview with a recruiter in Houston, Schlumberger invited me to fly to Alberta for a 3-day technical interview.
Schlumberger was an attractive employer to me for many reasons. First, the company is a performance-based company. Promotion within the company lies directly in your performance and motivation. In addition, the career progression steps are clearly mapped out, so I understood how to be promoted and achieve my professional goals. During my internships outside the oil industry, I saw colleagues who were in the same position for many years without knowing how or when their next promotion would come. Having that clarity attracted me to Schlumberger. Due to the sheer size and diversity of Schlumberger, it is possible to change your career multiple times, while staying in the same company. My decision was also based on the opportunity to be mobile and travel the world. The compensation and benefits at Schlumberger also played a large factor in my employment selection. It was important for me to choose an employer that has options for investing in the future. Schlumberger promotes investments through retirement savings plans, profit sharing and flexible stock options. In addition, Schlumberger handled shipments, taxes and customs implications during each of my relocations, making my transfers a lot easier. I also like how Schlumberger promotes health and fitness. We are allocated funding for gym memberships each year, and have regular health checks that can be monitored through a smartphone app. In Scotland, we even had a massage therapist come to the office to give neck and shoulder massages.
In terms of the product line, I chose Artificial Lift partially because I believed it would be a successful product line throughout the ups and downs of the cyclical nature of the petroleum industry. To explain my view, there are over one million oil and gas wells producing in the world. A small percentage of those wells produce naturally for a long time, if at all. Therefore, operators often rely on Artificial Lift to increase or maintain production, which in turn supplies cash flow to their operations. I figured the Artificial Lift business was a good place to be, since even in industry downturns, where exploration and drilling budgets are often cut, Artificial Lift would still be required to produce existing wells. In good times, operators would also find Artificial Lift attractive, since using Artificial Lift would enable them to recover the hydrocarbons faster and get the product to market while the price of oil is high.
What do you like most about your position and working for Schlumberger?
I love the diversity within Schlumberger and the opportunity for professional growth and world travel. Just as an example, on a typical morning in my office in Gabon, my colleagues and I are from Canada, Nigeria, France, Gabon, Russia and China. This strong, diverse team enables me to learn new things while also becoming stronger together by sharing our experiences.
I love being in Account Management because I get to work with customers. Oil companies are the reason companies like Schlumberger are in business, and being close to the customers enables me to be close to their decision-making process and project planning. I enjoy working with customers to align with their business needs and help them achieve their project objectives like production, cash flow generation and depending on the customer, their stock market performance.
I appreciate that Schlumberger will challenge you personally and professionally, but reward good work. Recently I was able to provide a solution to a customer that solved their technical concerns and achieved their operational objectives. This particular scope of work resulted in the client receiving an industry-recognized award, while we secured new business by displacing a competitor. As a result, I received a recognition award from the President of our product line. He travelled from Houston and delivered it in person.
What is it like being an ex-pat? In what ways has it shaped you as a professional?
From a professional standpoint, I have learned that it is important to step outside your comfort zone to realize your full potential and to experience life to the fullest. Living and working outside of your home country can produce high-pressure situations in challenging environments. At the same time, I have built friendships and created memories that will last a lifetime. Being an expat has also instilled in me a confidence to be able to handle any situation.
Being an expat has been extremely rewarding. Working abroad and experiencing new countries and cultures has afforded me countless opportunities and experiences I would have never had otherwise. I have visited nearly 50 countries and I continue to love traveling for work and pleasure. Now living in Port-Gentil, Gabon – my 5th city and 3rd continent – it is interesting to live and work in a different country, different culture and different language than I am used to. Despite a very dynamic working schedule, I always make time for fitness and personal interests. Living in a tropical beach environment certainly helps, as I find I have much more energy in a hot sunny climate.
What has been your most exciting post or trip so far? What did you love most about it?
While some of my favorite work trips have been to Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Singapore, Netherlands and Turkey, my most enjoyable trip so far was when I had a unique and exciting opportunity to work in Iceland, marketing our products and services to an industry completely unrelated to oil and gas production.
Iceland is a country complete with volcanoes, geysers, hot springs and lava fields. I travelled to Iceland numerous times to develop new business there, eventually worked with a company called Veitur Utilities. Veitur Utilities is the biggest utility company in Iceland, distributing electricity and hot water throughout Reykjavík and the rest of the Nordic island nation. Their distribution system is extensive; pipes and cables total 9,000 km in length, corresponding to the distance from Reykjavík to Shanghai. In collaboration with the Schlumberger team, Veitur installed and started-up their first ever Schlumberger Electric Submersible Pump (ESP) in December 2018. During my time in Iceland I was able to visit a number of Geothermal and district heating pumping stations, as well as take in the scenery of the Blue Lagoon, geysers and waterfalls throughout Iceland.
I also had the opportunity to host Veitur in Scotland at our Assembly, Repair and Testing (ART) Center. While in Aberdeen, we had the chance to experience Glen Garioch, one of the oldest Whisky distilleries in Scotland, dating back to 1797. Due to the success of the project, we have submitted a joint industry paper to be presented at the World Geothermal Congress in Reykjavik, Iceland in 2020.
While I was living in Scotland, my main customers were located in Aberdeen and London, so this is where I spent most of my time. Additionally, most of Schlumberger’s customers in the United Kingdom are in the business of producing hydrocarbons. As a result, our business strategy in the UK was to supply our products and services to oil producing companies. I greatly enjoyed this post, since I was able to visit London on a regular basis, but also enjoy the beautiful landscapes and countryside throughout Scotland, as well as the plethora of world-class golf courses in Aberdeenshire and surrounding areas.
What advice would you give to students who are attending ERAU but are interested in working in a field outside of aviation/aerospace on how to market themselves?
I would advise students to get as much work experience as possible prior to graduation. Not only will this make you more attractive to the employment market, it will also help you understand if you really want to be in that particular field. It is important to build your personal and professional network throughout your career. If looking for work in a field outside the aviation/aerospace, market the skills you have, with examples, that are attractive in any field, like the ability to adapt to new situations or your ability to learn new skills.
If interested in a career in the oilfield, students can browse the Schlumberger careers website for more information. There you can find opportunities for students, recent graduates and mid-career professionals. As a military friendly employer, Schlumberger also offers specific opportunities for former military personnel.
Learn more: https://careers.slb.com/