International Exploration Leader

International Exploration Leader

From Aberdeen to International Exploration Leader - Emily FergusonEmily Ferguson

MSc Petroleum Geology, 2002
From Aberdeen to International Exploration Leader

Your Time at Aberdeen

Why did you choose to study at Aberdeen?
I chose Aberdeen because in a brief visit the year before leaving school, it immediately felt welcoming. The compactness of the campus and the cobbled High Street gave it a homely sensation. Not to mention the University's educational reputation put it to the top of the pile.

Why did you choose your particular course?
I started reading geography as an undergraduate, and all that I enjoyed about physical geography led me on a natural path to geology and where my passion lay. At the end of my first year I switched degrees and have never looked back. After completing my BSc Hons in Geology & Petroleum Geology in 2001, I saw the Masters programme as an opportunity to further my studies on a well-renowned course and targeted to the industry I was pursuing. Going straight into an additional, intense, year of study presented challenges at times; however looking back it was so worthwhile.

What did you most enjoy about your time at Aberdeen? Did you have any particularly memorable student experiences?
It was the friends made. Study was important to me, and so was having fun. I think as a geology student you learn the importance of playing and working hard early on. There are so many memories, like Amadeus at the beach; however I think all our field trips bring back fondest memories. Not only for the geology and the occasional mischief (sorry to our professors), but of course the weather - I remember experiencing truly horizontal rain on our Arran field trip in second year! It was almost a class protest in going further and instead we ran back to the coach in search of dryness and warmth. During our Masters, the field trip took a new high visiting Utah and Arizona in the USA. The rocks were spectacular and even today going back to that area, I can see us walking along the road cuttings wearing white hard hats and yellow vests - spot the geologists!

If you were involved in any clubs and societies as a student, what did you enjoy most about them and what benefit do you think they have for students?
Being part of groups away from my studies like the lacrosse club and Aberdeen University Royal Naval Unit (URNU) brought a further network of friends and experiences. The URNU was especially rewarding, not just for being paid to participate and getting summer trips away on the ship, HMS Archer, but it also brought skills in navigation, leadership and discipline. The benefit was a development and broadening of me, plus creating fantastic memories.

If while at Aberdeen you benefited from a scholarship, what difference did it make to your time at Aberdeen?
I received a scholarship for my undergraduate degree. It helped with the topping up of living expenses, and I was just proud to get one.

If talking to a group of prospective students, what advice would you give them to help them make the most of their time at the University of Aberdeen?
University is an opportunity - it is between the constraints of school and before the world of work. Your studies and grades are important, and so is gaining all the experiences you can. What you do in addition to your studies will likely form the differentiator as you go out to the workplace looking for a job.

Your Time After Aberdeen

What was the title of your first job after graduating from Aberdeen?
Graduate geologist at Kerr-McGee North Sea UK Ltd (a former American Independent Oil Company).

What did your first role involve?
I joined into Kerr-McGee's two year graduate training programme, which entailed spending six months in different aspects of the North Sea E&P business. One my first roles was doing seismic interpretation on the Gryphon Field in the Northern North Sea, and looking for near field exploration opportunities. I found myself reading papers by my Aberdeen professor, Prof. Andrew Hurst on sand injectites!

What is your current job title?
Area Exploration Manager Central North America for Total E&P.

What is your current role?
I am responsible for our conventional exploration activities from offshore Mexico to Canada. The teams I lead are focused on looking for prospectivity in our held acreage and new opportunities.

Please briefly describe the journey from your first job after graduating to where you are now.
I was set on joining the oil industry because it allowed me to follow my passion and get paid to do so. Chance played a role in the early part of my career when a colleague left the company and I was pulled off a graduate training programme and appointed the project geologist drilling wells on a field re-development. Rather than stepping back due to the fear of not achieving, I learned quickly and asked for help along the way. From there, confidence in my abilities grew and I spoke up about where and what I wanted to do next. This moved me abroad and eventually my progression into management. I still loved geology and being close the technical work, and I like people, therefore I saw management as a way I could continue doing both. Of course, not everything goes to plan and with any set back, I tried to take it as an opportunity to learn and grow from. As in the quote by Soren Kierkegaard "life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards."

Was your degree at Aberdeen essential for getting to where you are now? If so, in what way?
My degree and learnings at Aberdeen is what I still use every day in my job. It is not always the case that you study exactly what you then do as a career, and as a hobby. I know that even if I was to choose a career path away from the petroleum industry, a degree in Geology & Petroleum Geology can give so many options.

One Top Tip

Say yes! Take part in activities, clubs and societies and challenge yourself to step out of your comfort zone, whilst keeping in mind you are there for your degree, so do not let that go at the expense of other things.