Alex graduated from the Jackson School of Geosciences in May 2012 with an M.S. in Geophysics. He began working at Devon Energy in September 2012.
Describe your job in simple terms.
I work with geologists to find places that they want to drill using seismic data. We get seismic data by vibrating the ground and recording how the sound waves come back, and from that we can infer what happens in the subsurface.
What size company do you work for, and what are the pros/cons of a company that size?
Devon Energy is one of the largest independents, which means that we find gas and pull it out of ground and then sell it to refineries. A pro of working for a company this size is that you can have an impact from day one. You are given responsibility right away, since there are fewer employees. The majors, which are completely integrated, excel in training programs.
What does a typical day look like for you?
I work in an office on a team with other geologists. I interpret seismic data, look at it in 3D, and make interpretations about the subsurface. While interpreting, I’m documenting and making a case for why I think I’m right. Conveying what I see is a big part of the day, which includes making maps. I work on a team with other geologists, and we work together to understand the part of the world that we are looking at and what is possible and not possible. I work by myself on what I’m doing, but I’m constantly seeking other opinions and clarification from others. I go on several field courses for training purposes, which equates to about 2 weeks per year. Occasionally I visit drilling sites.
How often do you change projects?
I currently work on a team that works on the Rockies. I have worked 4 different basins in the Rockies during my time at Devon. For the first 3 years at Devon, you change groups each year. In January I will be working on a new geographic area.
What is the average education level of your colleagues?
Everyone that’s a geologist or geophysicist at Devon has a master’s degree.
What traits, skills and experiences do employers in your field look for in candidates?
Devon recruits heavily out of intern pools, and it’s good to understand the overall process. In general, it looks good to be able to do a project with minimal supervision. You can’t just be a technical guru, you have to be able to communicate. For students in geophysics, it helps to learn the software tools. Computer science and math are useful for geophysics, and put me ahead of others when I was interviewing. I also took an undergraduate petroleum economics course, which has been really great to understand the engineers. If you want to be a manager, economics is very important.
Any other advice for students at the Jackson School?
Find out which company suits you best. Would you rather have a structured environment, or feel uncertain but empowered to make your own decisions? Most companies have great training, but if you don’t fit in there you won’t absorb any of it. When you are considering a company, ask who is in management. Is it engineers or geoscientists? This will determine what is emphasized. Also, ask about the ways that the company divides teams. Some companies have teams of geologists, in which case the geophysicist would rotate groups each week. At Devon the teams are geographically separated, and there are geophysicists on each team.
-As told to Chelsea Ochoa