From Aberdeen to Shell Global Chief Petroleum Engineer - Iain PercivalIain Percival

BSc (Hons) Geology and Mineralogy, 1973
From Aberdeen to Shell Global Chief Petroleum Engineer

Your Time at Aberdeen

Why did you choose to study at Aberdeen?
At the time I had aspirations to work as a geologist for a mining company and after some research decided the teaching of geology and mineralogy at the University of Aberdeen would be ideal.

Why did you choose your particular course?
The course then taught was ideal preparation for a career as a mining geologist.

What did you most enjoy about your time at Aberdeen? Did you have any particularly memorable student experiences?
I played rugby in the First XV and was a member of the team which won the Scottish Universities Championship for the first time in 20 years.

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?
In my role as a member of the Student Representative Council I was the bookshop convenor for a year, responsible for running the second hand bookshop, organising the rota of bookshop assistants and handling the purchase then sale of a large number of text books.

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?
In addition to working/studying diligently, get involved in the running of one of the many clubs and societies active in the University. The University has on offer some of the best sports facilities to be found anywhere in the UK. Make use of the facilities as there is a lot of truth in "healthy body, healthy mind".

Your Time After Aberdeen

What was the title of your first job after graduating from Aberdeen?
Wellsite Petroleum Engineer at Shell International Petroleum Company.

What did your first role involve?
I was responsible for monitoring a wide variety of activities in the drilling and completion of oil and gas wells.

What is your current job title?
I am now retired. My final position with Shell was Global Chief Petroleum Engineer.

Please briefly describe the journey from your first job after graduating to where you are now.
I spent a total of 34 years working around the world with Shell, working in Africa, Oman, Malaysia, Brunei, the USA and in The Netherlands. The journey took me from the hands-on job of supervising contractor personnel on a number of drilling rigs through a wide range of technical, supervisory and leadership roles in the company. The positions ranged from building reservoir models to guide the development of oil/gas fields, manager of production geology/geophysics, leading technical evaluation of new global business opportunities, Vice President subsurface R&D, Vice President global reservoir evaluation to eventually the Shell Group Global Chief Petroleum Engineer.

In my last few years with Shell and since retirement I have assisted the University in the development of the Petroleum Engineering undergraduate degree, giving guest lectures in the schools of geoscience, engineering and business. I was instrumental in establishing the Shell/University Campus Ambassador scheme. Since 2016 I have been a member of the University Court.

Was your degree at Aberdeen essential for getting to where you are now? If so, in what way?
Interestingly, my degree in Geology and Mineralogy was not particularly relevant to the oil and gas industry. However, the way the subject was taught with an emphasis on "reading around" the various topics, challenging conventional wisdom, discussions in class etc. was ideal preparation for the challenges presented in the industry I joined.

One Top Tip

The university has a highly diverse student population. Make it your business to get to know students from ethnic backgrounds other than your own. Today's world is a complex and difficult place in which to live and work. Much of my work in Shell involved managing teams of many nationalities, ethnicities and beliefs. Developing an understanding of what made these colleagues "tick" was a hugely enriching experience and one which develops an understanding of the world around us in contrast to the stereotypes sadly present in much of the UK.