HR ... Why we really do love them.

HR ... Why we really do love them.

Juan Cottier Juan Cottier
Director & Lead Geologist at MMbbls Limited

The days of school children dreaming of being an engine-driver or a fire-fighter are well behind us but, and let's be absolutely frank about this, nobody is sitting in school dreaming of going into HR.


Just as nobody dreams of being a Recruiter, IT Help-Desk Support or an Accountant. But that doesn't mean these roles are pointless or dull ... except maybe the Accountant.

From my observations over 25 years I find that I can be very, very complimentary towards HR. Partly due to the incredibly difficult role they undertake operating within the impossibly shifting, hazy, no-man's-land between Staff and Senior Management, usually with little thanks from the staff and certainly with nowhere near enough thanks from the Senior Management. But also because they provide change, a difference ... diversity.

I am big and genuine fan of diversity. Apparently oil companies are also; doing their very best to prevent the work-force from becoming a drab sea of white, male, 40 something, geo/engineering types.

So you can imagine the nausea I felt when I woke up recently to realise that I myself was a drab, white, 40 something male working within a team of white, 40 something males ... all of us geo/engineer types.

"We all become that which we despise."

In your twenties you're buying Billy Bragg LPs and burning effigies of Thatcher and then without knowing how or why you're voting for Theresa May in your 50s. Like I said; nauseating.

It's pretty common practice in Europe for an oil company to have a snazzy info-graphic somewhere prominent that tells everyone of the range of nationalities that work in the company. usually placed there by HR. I must say, I really do love sitting down at a table and discussing a tech item with a Libyan, an Italian, two Norwegians and a Nigeria. For me that is a quantifiable oil-industry moment.

The thing is ... once you've taken away nationality ... a regular oil company is a very narrow subset of humanity. No poets or artists. No street-urchins or eunuchs. Few communists. Very few handicapped. A friend once told me that "the great thing about the oil industry is that we accept the British working-class and the German aristocracy" ... which is true, up to a point.

Take your average Drilling or Subsurface or Res Eng or Subsea Department ... degree educated in a science, probably a MSc, a scattering of PhDs (more than a scattering at Shell), nobody very young or very old, a horrible demographic peak in the 40s, good income, everyone capable in 2 or 3 languages (excluding of course the Brits and the North Americans).

You can spend a long time scouring a Reservoir Engineer Department and you're unlikely to find someone with a diploma in Modern Dance from the Barcelona Institute of Dramatic Arts. Very unlikely. But go upstairs to HR ... and you can't move for dance diplomas.

That's why we secretly, or subconsciously, love HR. They are different.

The irony is that the very people who are putting up notices telling us how diverse our companies are, are also the people who are providing some genuine diversity. People end up in HR not necessarily by accident, but often via a very long and winding road of arty subjects, switching roles and interesting choices. And as I have spent a bit of time listening to some from HR I can assure you that they make the Geologists' traditional roads sound decidedly dull ... and formulaic.

Photo: "Life" ... infinite choices?

So, to end, a direct request to all in HR (and Recruiters also): after this rambling, rather sweet praise of HR personnel and the unusual, interesting, varied, unstructured routes many have taken to get to where they are now, namely; a fine job with responsibilities taken seriously ... please remember this: when looking at a traditional, formulaic CV which takes an unexpected off-road in 2014 or 2015 and continues through to 2016 or 2017 or 2018: IT WAS NOT A CHOICE.

I used to assume that everybody would understand what a gap or a wobble in a CV meant during this period. The global situation would be understood by all. But there are already anecdotes of people being told that 1 or 2 years out of work makes them unskilled or that they were "not hungry enough". Additionally, in my book, anyone using the phrase "opportunity to remove dead-wood" is both ignorant of how our industry works and heartless towards their colleagues.

2014 to 2018 has forced options, non-options and no options upon 100,000s of oil folk. Geoscientists, Drillers and Reservoir Engineers are oil industry disciplines. HR, IT and Accounting are disciplines used by the oil industry. There is a difference.

We love our industry. It's what we do, it's what we trained for. We are geeks and squares, we love to write code and to lick rocks; genuinely. We don't take sabbaticals, we don't travel to Cambodia to "find ourselves" and: even though we may wish we could be the sort of person who does, we definitely don't do dance diplomas in Barcelona.

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