A Day in the Life with…Sarah Chapman

This article is part of a series designed to showcase the diversity of people and roles in our industry. Please click here to view the full series.

Name: Sarah Chapman
Role: Geologist
Company: CNR International
Duration in current role: 3 years
Current work location: Aberdeen, UK

How would you describe your job to a 10 year old?
Oil and gas are stored in rocks deep underground. My job is to help get these fluids out of the ground so we can make plastic, fuel our cars, and supply energy to our houses.

What part of your job do you find most interesting?
I absolutely love how multidisciplinary it is. I work with production engineers, reservoir engineers, geophysicists, drilling and completions engineers (the list goes on!). Any one of us working in isolation would provide no value at all. Working out how to communicate complicated concepts in a way the whole team can understand is my greatest challenge, and keeps work interesting. I also enjoy being offshore. This is not a routine activity for my job, but the few visits I have done have been high on the list of highlights of my career so far.

What part of your job do you least enjoy?
We are so often faced with challenges outside of our control: commodity price fluctuations, changes in legislation, commercial factors (pandemics!) etc.  Given this, the purely technical solution is not always the best solution for the business and in a technical role this can be frustrating at times. Focusing on what I can control is a great solution and something I work hard to embrace.

What inspired you to choose your career?
I grew up on the Jurassic coast in England and was always fascinated by the rocks and fossils you can find down there. A career as a geologist has allowed me to make a living out of this fascination and being able to apply this in a way that provides energy for the world is an added bonus.

What or who has had the greatest influence on your career progression?
The role models in my life have had the greatest influence on my career progression. The specifics of who has been my role model at each stage in my development may have changed, but in each stage I find myself looking towards someone I respect and admire. I then use this to help guide decisions. I have been so fortunate to have been surrounded by role models I respect and can relate to at every stage of my education and career so far.

Name one practical thing we could do in the O&G industry to shift the dial on equality?
On an industry level, I think better paternity leave policies would have a huge impact on gender equality specifically. On a personal level, exploring viewpoints outside of our own is something we should all strive for. In a world of social media, we all live in echo chambers. Taking time to understand the alternative viewpoint is often the uncomfortable option, but is the only way we will move forward in an inclusive way. Practically this can be achieved by reverse mentoring, resisting the urge to unfollow anyone in your social media sphere that you disagree with, and striking up a conversation at the coffee machine when you usually wouldn’t!

What is the last song you listened to? (be honest)
The album Blue Weekend by Wolf Alice is on repeat for me at the moment.

If there was a parallel universe with another version of ourselves, what job would you do there?
In a parallel universe I would have figured out how to monetise living in a campervan in the mountains and that is what I would do for a job.

If you could solve one problem, what would it be and how would you solve it?
Solving world poverty would be the obvious answer here, so here’s my second answer: I would make psychotherapy and counselling services more readily available and not just something to seek in a crisis. We are seeing excellent movement towards this through the appearance of mental health first aiders in workplaces, but accessing this resource is a reactive not a proactive solution. On a global scale, having a better understanding of emotions and why we act the way we do would have a huge impact. I would do this through starting with greater access in schools, including mental health in physical education classes and designated therapists and counsellors available.

Tell us something about yourself that may surprise everyone?
I started off my education thinking I was headed to medical school and stumbled across geology by chance when no other elective modules would fit in my timetable. It wasn’t long before I was reading my textbooks for enjoyment and decided to pursue it as a career. Also, you may be surprised to hear after looking at the pictures that my job is mostly done from my desk. For some reason the fieldtrip and offshore photos seemed more exciting. 

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