In the early summer of 2010 I was putting the finishing touches to my thesis when I got a phone call letting me know I would be offered a place on a graduate programme in the oil and gas industry. After five years as a student I couldn’t have been happier at the prospect of a well-paying job that would also give me the opportunity to relocate from the UK to Denmark with potential for further travel. I had been keen to get into the energy industry after graduating and this fit the bill.
However, the back drop of unfolding news of the extent of the damage caused by the Deepwater Horizon incident and the fact that I had spent previous months reading the IPCC’s reports on the impacts of climate change as part of my thesis on concentrated solar power plants gave me pause for thought. Ultimately, the draw of learning from working on some of the world’s most challenging infrastructure projects was too hard to ignore and my thesis had confirmed to me that although renewable technologies were rapidly developing they were still not being deployed at the same scale as established fossil fuels.
Working within offshore oil and gas was exciting. Within my first two years I had been on an offshore platform in the middle of the North Sea, worked as part of a site team at a construction yard in Egypt and been part of a megaproject team in the US.
After moving back to Denmark following my rotations it was impossible not to take notice of the increasing number of vessels sailing wind turbines out of Esbjerg harbour, while the drilling rigs increasingly came into shore as the oil prices dropped. The fishing town that became an oil town was now branded as an “Energy Metropolis” with the standing of offshore wind being given increasing significance. As redundancies, reorganisations and cost-cutting seemed the new norm in oil and gas, it became increasingly common to hear senior colleagues reminiscing of more enterprising times.
In the meantime, offshore wind farms were getting bigger and the number of friends and colleagues that had already made the switch kept growing. At the end of 2019 I left my job in the oil and gas industry and embarked on part time studies while I reflected on my next move. Almost as though fate intervened, one of the very first readings for the very first module was a report on the scaling up of offshore wind projects.
Making the change wasn’t easy. I was lucky enough to have started my job search before the full impact of COVID-19 hit. However, despite the obvious transferable skills it was still a challenge to stand out in a crowded job market. Although the industry was growing and it seemed like there were many jobs to apply for, I had probably underestimated the competition, many of whom already had direct experience on one of the many offshore wind farms installed in the North Sea over the past decade.
In order to better understand the industry I completed an online introductory course to wind energy and reached out to people in my network who had already made the transfer. I also spent time researching prospective employers and the projects they had undertaken. This was invaluable at interviews to allow me to discuss some of the technical challenges but also to demonstrate my commitment to make the change. Understanding how organisations and projects are set up was also important. Even though there were many similarities to my previous experience, roles had slightly different names and responsibilities that sometimes only became apparent at the interview stage, so the process of applying for jobs and taking part in interviews was key to understanding the right role for me.
I am delighted to have the opportunity to join the Sofia project and RWE Renewables. As with any new job in a different industry there is a transition time to “learn the language” and all the abbreviations and acronyms that come with it, but in general I have observed more similarities between the two industries than differences. A key difference is the ambitious growth path that feels more like my former colleagues stories of how the oil and gas industry used to be. I feel like I have benefitted from my time working for oil and gas companies with many years of experience of designing, building and operating offshore infrastructure and I believe there is a lot that offshore wind can learn from oil and gas, both from a technical perspective but also in areas such as safety and project management. Ten years on, the technologies to deploy renewables at scale are here and I am motivated to be a part of it.