Change, Challenges and Cultures: An International Career in Geology
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Geology alumnus Ravi T. Venkateswaran ’76 shares experiences from his career which has spanned five decades and three countries. Hear about the changes and challenges facing Geologists and how he has benefited from being a continuous learner not only in his subject but in a wide variety of things including ‘culture’, people and management. Venkateswaran will describe the need to grow and evolve and share stories and knowledge from his career.
About Me by Ravi T. Venkateswaran
My interest in geology dates back to attending a small boarding school in the Colorado Rockies near Glenwood Springs. A class in Geology with frequent trips to the field to study examples from the textbook made me decide to take up Geology in college and as a career. I went to Columbia University where I graduated in 1973 with a degree in geology. Detroit had become my hometown, I decided to return to study Geology at WSU for a master’s degree. My field thesis was the study of the Glen Rose Formation in central Texas and spent a summer in the field. My three years at the department were meaningful with good interactions and support from the faculty. There was a group of 7-8 master’s students. I remember courses in groundwater with Prof. Mozola and volcanology with Dr. Parsons – they were excellent instructors. I used to play squash regularly with Dr. Furlong as well as our group ping pong in the basement where students and faculty gathered for doubles. Our group worked hard but also had good camaraderie in the department. It was an enjoyable 3 years. I graduated in 1976. I subsequently obtained an MBA from Oklahoma City in 1985.
My first job as a geologist was with Schlumberger Analysts in 1976 as a well site geologist, working in the Gulf of Mexico. Subsequently, I got a job with Gulf Oil at Gulf R&D in Harmarville, PA in 1977. I was part of a multi-disciplinary group that evaluated geochemical prospecting methods for oil and gas exploration. I organized field surveys in many western US basins, Appalachian basins, and Africa. Survey data were analyzed and I wrote technical reports for use by the exploration department. Significant leads came out of these studies and showed that a multi-disciplinary approach is necessary.
Subsequently, in 1980, I was transferred to an operating office in Oklahoma City where I worked on hydrocarbon prospect generation with geophysicists. With the industry under stress with declining oil prices, the exploration department was closed and staff moved to Houston in 1983. I continued working in Houston as an exploration geologist and developed a new project and exploratory drilling in the Palo Duro Basin of southern Arizona. In 1985, Gulf merged with Chevron and the oil industry crashed due to low oil prices. A large number of Gulf staff were laid off. I decided to move back to India to continue to work as a geologist – the only place where I could find work. Amongst other jobs, I joined the first private sector oil company in India Hindustan Oil as a geologist and manager. The company became successful. Progressively, my jobs were in senior management. I subsequently joined Hardy Oil and Gas plc (UK) as its India exploration manager. My last assignment in Hardy was the country manager and director in Nigeria for a number of years. The Nigerian experience was interesting as we had a number of local Nigerian staff, also closely worked with Nigerian partners and interactions with the communities in the oil field area. There were cultural and commercial challenges to learn and manage.
After moving back to the US, in 2014, I was a co-founder director of a small production company Triumph Oil & Gas, and helped to raise funds to acquire some small producing oil leases in Oklahoma. Unfortunately, the sharp drop in oil price rendered operations unviable. More recently, I have been an advisor and director in Ocean Exploration and Development Co. (Nigeria) to help them in acquiring a Nigerian oil field.
Besides being a proud alumnus of Wayne State University, I am also currently a trustee and past president of the board of trustees of Colorado Rocky Mountain School.