Can you tell us about your journey that ended up in Chief Executive Officer of the Oil & Gas Technology Centre?
After reading chemistry at Queens University, Belfast, I found myself unexpectedly hired by the oil industry – it found me rather than the other way around. My first role with BP brought me offshore as the only woman on a North Sea platform. It was the start of a journey that took me from the North Sea to Algeria, Kazakhstan, Norway and the US. My roles spanned technical areas such as new field developments and technology development through to leadership roles at asset and country level. In 2012 I returned to Aberdeen to lead Centrica’s E&P business in the UK and The Netherlands for several years before becoming the CEO of the Oil & Gas Technology Centre in late 2016.
Digitalisation has been a hot topic for many years but seems to have lower penetration in the oil and gas industry versus other industries – do you believe this statement to be true or not and why?
The huge potential of digitalisation is increasingly well understood in the oil and gas industry and is being embraced. Despite numerous engineering and technology firsts, the fundamental approach to offshore exploration and production has remained pretty similar for more than 50 years. While other traditional sectors, such as manufacturing, aerospace and automotive, have been forced to embrace technology transformation to survive, our high risk environment means we have been slower to change and to adopt new solutions. But there has been a dramatic shift in the past few years as our industry has strived for innovative new ways to drive efficiency and earn our place as a valued part of the low carbon energy mix for the future. How we gather and use data has the potential to transform how we work and put rich, real-time information in the hands of our offshore teams. Artificial intelligence and machine learning will see remote operations become common place. And Blockchain solutions have the potential to radically change logistics and supply chain management. It is a very exciting time and I’m proud that the Oil & Gas Technology Centre is driving these new technologies in partnership with industry.
What will the market’s best performing companies of tomorrow look like?
The market’s best performing companies of tomorrow will be those that continually innovate. Research shows businesses that routinely invest in innovation deliver twice the value of those that do not. These companies are always looking over the crest of the hill, anticipating change, identifying new opportunities and moving with pace to create competitive advantage. New markets, new societal expectations, new regulations and new technologies – all opportunities for companies to innovate. While there has been unprecedented technology innovation over the past decade, the last few years have also seen radical business model innovation redefine traditional sectors and create entirely new markets. Uber in personal transport, Revolut in banking and Airbnb in accommodation and hospitality to name just a few.
How much do you feel the situation for women in energy has changed over the last 10 years?
At just 22%, women account for a smaller share of the oil and gas workforce than they do in almost any other sector. So, while the situation has improved over the past decade there remains a very long way to go and I’m passionate about creating a truly diverse workforce in our industry. I’m an ambassador for Powerful Women a professional initiative to advance gender diversity within the energy sector. At Davos in 2016 then UK Development Secretary, Justine Greening said, “No country can truly develop if half its population is left behind.” But that’s exactly the situation we have. Women hold less than 20% of the senior management positions in oil and gas, only 7% of oil and gas board seats are held by women and just 1% of the industry’s CEOs are female. The fact is we’re under-utilising a critical pool of talent; we’re missing out on unique skills and insights. Gender diversity brings real benefits to companies of all size and is essential to long-term success. As business leaders – men and women – we must continue to embrace diversity. We must be intentional in our decisions around hiring and promoting and seek to diversify the pipeline more effectively than we have in the past. Now is the time to act.
About Colette Cohen:
Colette Cohen became Chief Executive Officer of the Oil & Gas Technology Centre in August 2016.
The Oil & Gas Technology Centre is a new industry-led organisation based in Aberdeen, backed by the UK and Scottish governments, and working closely with the local universities.
The centre has two goals: to help maximise economic recovery from the UK continental shelf and create a bright future for the northeast of Scotland as a global technology hub.
Colette was Senior Vice President for Centrica Energy’s Exploration and Production business in the UK and The Netherlands until July 2016. Her career began with BP in 1991 and she has worked for companies including ConocoPhillips and Britannia in the North Sea, Norway, the US and Kazakhstan.
Colette is a chemistry graduate from Queens University Belfast and also holds a masters degree in Project Management and Economics. She is a member of the Society of Petroleum Engineers, the Institute of Directors and Chairs the National College for Onshore Oil and Gas.
Colette will be presenting on the Digitalisation panel at the 10th World Energy Capital Assembly (WECA).