Meet Thomas Watson, Senior Drilling Engineer

06 July 2020
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We caught up with Thomas Watson, a senior drilling engineer with Norwell Engineering who has been part of the EDGE story since the start.

He's successfully combined working around the world with studying for an MBA while also competing in international distance running competitions. He's even managed to launch his own start-up company. Here he tells us about why he thinks EDGE is needed and gives us an insight into his own learning journey.


1.  Can you tell us a bit about yourself, where you're from and your professional background?

I grew up in the North-East of Scotland and studied Mechanical Engineering at the Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen.

After graduating in 2007, I started my career as a Drilling Engineer at Peak Group, which soon became AGR. From there I joined Norwell. My professional experience has been a good mixture of onshore and offshore roles.  I've had some great operational roles on interesting projects in a few different countries. 

 My first real overseas posting in the Falkland Islands stands out as a great, memorable experience; I was part of a small operations team that ran a remote operation. I got to see a lot more of the supply chain and logistics side of the industry during that project.

 2.  What's been your involvement with Norwell EDGE?  

I was involved in the content generation phase of EDGE Level 1. This included a big literature review, a lot of discussion on what should be included, then finally writing and refining the actual technical content.

3.  What is it about EDGE that makes it different from other training out there?

EDGE is the only upstream training programme I'm aware of which is open to everyone, affordable, and accessible to anyone with the internet. 

4.  Other than EDGE what other projects do you work on?

I'm involved with Norwell drilling operations. Right now, I'm based in the Mumbai office, supporting a deepwater development campaign.

 5.  Is working in the industry how you expected it to be?

Not at all.  The oil industry is a complex world which often requires much more than simple engineering skills to navigate and succeed.  It's been a constant learning process, one that would take a career to master. 

Also, it's been said before, but the oil industry 'community' is surprisingly small - it's surprising how often you meet people you've worked with before.

6.  What have been the main challenges you’ve faced?     

Early on in my career, the main challenges were in learning. There is a lot to learn when you first enter the industry, and a lot of places to look for knowledge. I think the two biggest issues people face are locating credible information sources and identifying what information is relevant, useful and applicable.

7.  Are there any opportunities that a career in engineering has given you that you might not have had otherwise?

The industry has given me opportunities to live overseas and experience other cultures while also maintaining a career. That has been personally very rewarding.  For example, I’ve spent some time working in India in the last few years – it has served as an excellent opportunity to explore the country and region during my time off.

8.  You were you one of the original team who was put through their paces with Norwell Engineering’s internal version of EDGE - how did you find it?

Although I'd completed training in my previous role, I also went through the internal Norwell material. I found it to be very comprehensive, and it was a great starting point for what became the EDGE journey.

9.  Do you have any tips for keeping motivated and getting the most out of EDGE?

Yes - like any learning experience, try to not do the course in complete isolation.   Discuss the material and the concepts with other colleagues, students or online groups.  If you have access to people with good industry experience, get their thoughts and stories on every subject - that way the ideas will sink in much deeper.

10.  When you're not in the office where are you most likely to be found?

Right now, I'm pursuing an MBA - also mainly taught online - so when not working, my head is in the books!

11.  What' been your greatest achievement both at work and out of work?

At work, I've been lucky to be part of some great teams that have delivered some successful and rewarding projects. 

Outside of work, I've had some success in distance running events, gaining podium places in extreme distance events in places like Cambodia, Namibia and Gujarat, India. I've also had a couple of side projects, including a food and drink start-up with my family, that was very rewarding.

12.  How has your sports background influenced your working life?

There is definitely a correlation between your physical state and your mental state, so from a day-to-day perspective keeping active can help your mindset at work.  Longer term, the 'training' mindset of being disciplined and working hard every day for a far-off goal translates well to a working environment. 

13.  What would you most like to see happen in the oil and gas industry within the next 5-10 years?

Our industry is often driven by the oil price, and some companies are reactive, rather than proactive, when it comes to preparing for possible peaks and troughs. The result is that when the oil price is low, funding for training, R&D, etc may dry up.  It would be good to see companies planning more strategically for the future, which would make the entire industry more sustainable.