Graduate | Master of Business Administration
Senior Reservoir Engineer, Baker Hughes RDS
After undertaking an MBA at the University of Adelaide Business School, reservoir engineer Craig Flavel experienced a transfer to the Strategic Projects group at one of Adelaide’s largest companies, Santos, followed by international employment with a multinational firm. Not to mention the vital skills and knowledge he gained along the way.
What is a reservoir engineer?
Well firstly, it’s not about looking after the fish in the Hope Valley reservoir. After a brief stint as an underground mining engineer, I joined Santos in Adelaide as a drilling engineer, designing well bores to extract gas from a geological basin stretching between South Australia and Queensland. The role gave me great exposure to field work, however I was curious to understand the subsurface in more detail and more about other disciplines, so I transferred to a role of reservoir engineer after three years. The job requires me to lead teams of engineers to gain approvals for technical projects such as drilling wells and laying pipelines, in collaboration with geophysicists and geologists. A reservoir engineer estimates the quantity of oil and gas lying up to 5km below the surface of the earth and how likely it is to come out.
I’m now working as a Senior Reservoir Engineer with multinational company Baker Hughes RDS in London.
Why did you choose to do a University of Adelaide MBA?
After five years with Santos, I wanted to develop my personal passion for painting and languages. I studied and travelled through South America, Brisbane and France for a couple of years before returning to the reservoir engineer role with Santos. After this sabbatical, I found I was being exposed increasingly to the cost pressures of the business which required more contact with financial units such as accounts. I also became more interested in who purchased the gas and oil we produced. I enrolled in the MBA to understand other business functions and, after finishing my first subject, I secured a new role as a commercial analyst.
What is the most exciting part of your work?
It was exciting to join Santos as it is the biggest firm based in Adelaide. It was formed through the privatisation of SA’s gas providers. It has assets in the Cooper Basin which continue to deliver energy to SA, as well as growth businesses in the liquefied natural gas business in Queensland. One of the best things about my role was to meet the challenge of lowering costs while thinking of new ways of exploiting the available assets.
This required innovative approaches to complex challenges. One of the highlights was using a new commercial model to appraise gas deposits previously stranded 30 to 90km from existing infrastructure. I combined a knowledge of reservoir performance with practical development scenarios.
In my new role with Baker Hughes RDS I find I am utilising my MBA on diverse projects from India to Russia and from Angola to Brazil. This role involves 25% travel which is exciting, and a challenge in itself with many opportunities for growth.
Was there a particular part of the MBA which stands out?
As a person from an engineering background I found the psychology subjects extremely useful. The Fundamentals of Leadership module enabled me to communicate to other people more clearly while at the same time helping me better understand what they were trying to say. This created a much smoother working environment and when I returned to the technical challenges of reservoir engineering in 2009 I felt I understood people’s needs better.
How important are the relationships/networks that you formed during the MBA?
The contacts made during the MBA allowed me to better understand the business world outside of Santos. As a specialised engineer, employees from KPMG seem completely foreign. The people I met during the MBA showed how my skills could be used in the broader business environment and let me learn about the career choices others had taken. I made some firm friends during the course.
You undertook your final two electives at ESCP Paris in 2010. How was this multicultural classroom experience?
The French multicultural experience differed from that in Australia in that there were many more North American and Eastern European exchange students. The dynamic was very different, as in Australia each culture normally chose to work with their fellow nationals. The courses that I took were in English, however some French students were also there to practice their English. The miscommunications while working in teams due to perception rather than pronunciation were both educational and downright funny.
Many of the students did not yet have the professional experience to leverage what was taught. However, the exposure to European business practises was very educational.
So how do you rate the University of Adelaide MBA experience?
The MBA enables you to come into contact with professionals from a wide range of disciplines. The University of Adelaide Business School provides a safe environment for you to bounce new ideas off peers as well as to have some fun. There are a wide variety of teachers, and students often get to discuss their teaching methods before selecting a class. I think that is really healthy and I enjoyed studying at the School.