In Search of the Learning Life
By: John W. Wilson
I came to the oil business thanks to rock and roll. Fresh out of the Navy, after an earlier stint in college ended poorly, I was back in the saddle and in school courtesy of the GI Bill. Needing a little extra cash to feed a young family, I worked at the Houston Chronicle. During the fall I covered high school football and the rest of the time I reviewed rock and roll music. It was a nice gig. Apparently, it got me noticed.
As my collegiate career wound down, I placed my resume with a local manufacturing association. It was seen by the folks in the publication group at Shell who knew my newspaper work, primarily the music reviews. I got called in for an interview, passed, and was offered a job. Those were the days of in-house publications with staffs of writers, photographers, and designers. They were talented. There was an ex-editor from the Philadelphia Enquirer, an AP Bureau Chief from New York, and an artist with pieces in a local gallery. It was fun work, travelling the country, talking to folks, taking pictures, and telling their stories. Over the years, I worked for marketing, the computer center, and finally Exploration & Production.
Eventually, I left Shell for a mid-major, a move that proved it wasn’t always about the money, a hard lesson to learn but one worth having. I soon left for Petroleum Engineer International as the Gulf Coast Editor. It was during my orientation for the magazine that the editor-in-chief, Bruce Bleakley taught me a lesson I’ve always remembered. It was over lunch. We were at his club in Dallas. Part of my new job was to ferret out interesting technical stories and write about them. Bruce gave me some advice to aide me in my search. “John, you’re going to meet a lot of guys who’ll tell you they have thirty years of experience. Your job, will be to determine if they really have thirty years of experience, or if it’s one year of experience thirty times.” It was obvious to me that the former was going to be my best bet at finding something interesting and useful for the magazine. The hard part, as I discovered, was finding the 30-year person.