Friday, March 6, 2015

3 months unemployed.

"If the wind will not serve, take to the oars." 

On November 14th of last year, I took a big leap of faith by putting in my letter of resignation. This leap was even bigger than my change from the architecture industry to oil and gas back in 2012. In my role at Kinder Morgan as a drilling technician engineer, I felt as if I was no longer getting the career development I needed. How was I supposed to tell people in the field what to do, if I did not have much experience being out there myself? I needed to be out there in the elements, with the equipment, with the hard working people that physically get the job done, facing the problems and the stress first hand, and not being behind a desk.

That’s when I saw an opportunity. I could start a company with one of my safety consultants to provide services to Kinder Morgan. This would give me as much field experience as I wanted, I could continue working for a great operator, and I would get firsthand experience in running a business. It could be the perfect combination. Don’t get me wrong, it would have been tough. It would have kept me away from my wife for possibly months at a time, but it would have been worth it to get this off the ground. Meredith and I had been very smart with our finances by making sacrifices over the years, because you never know when your opportunity comes up. I was sure this one was mine. After talking it over with my manager, I also got his support. He did warn me that nothing was guaranteed, and that he probably wouldn’t have had the guts to make that kind of move. I was fine with that. I calculated the risks. I knew we would be fine if it didn’t work out, but there were risks I had to be comfortable with. I was in a secure job that was paying me the most money I had ever made, while being at a company that I highly respect to this day. I took the chance, and submitted my resignation for December 5th.

Fast forward two weeks to Thansgiving. While most people are giving their thanks with friends, or family, I couldn’t help but have my thoughts focused on the OPEC (Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries) meeting. OPEC decided to keep their oil production stable, causing a massive slide in crude oil pricing. It immediately gave me a knot in my stomach. When I submitted my resignation, the price of oil was about $80. This OPEC decision instantly dropped the price to $65 going into my final week at work.

The night of December 5th was a hard one for me. What sticks out in my mind from that evening was walking out of the office after sending my “best wishes” email. Just like leaving Dillon Kyle Architecture, it felt like leaving my family behind. In my career, I have been lucky to always work in a job that I wanted. I put a lot of my heart into work, and always ride the brand. I just kept reminding myself that I was doing this to continue working for the company that gave me my first shot at O&G, it would just be in another capacity. I am usually a pretty positive person, but I was nervous as hell. That’s where Mere really helped me. She believes in me so much, and apparently, so do many other people. I can’t even begin to thank everyone for their support.

By the time we (Elk Creek Energy Services) submitted our bid in the middle of December, the crude oil price had fallen below $60 per barrel. This obviously makes everyone in the energy nervous, especially someone that just quit their job in the industry. In January, I finally got the call I had been dreading. Kinder Morgan had decided to put a stop to drilling operations in the field we had bid on, as oil companies big and small were frantically cutting capital expenditures. What makes the situation worse is that most energy companies began announcing the layoffs. Schlumberger with 9,000, Halliburton 6,400, Baker Hughes 7,000…the numbers by the thousands are found daily on the news. If it’s not on the news, you better believe in Houston you hear the numbers by word of mouth, before they make any headlines. After hearing my own sentence, I had to start applying quickly, but it was pretty much too late. Most companies had already started hiring freezes. If you do not have a chair when the music stops, best of luck to you. My passion for this industry is still burning, but I don’t have a chair.

I’d be lying if I said my days are easy breezy. While we do have it lucky to be financially stable with only one of us working, I miss contributing. Each job that I apply for but receive nothing, feels like a slap in the face. I start doubting myself. My worst case scenario thinking can take over. I just want to show someone how much I put into my work, and that I really do care about this industry. It’s not just a job to me. It’s what I do after hours, and on the weekends. While I knew the risks, it still sucks to experience the bad. We all want things to work out, but unfortunately they have not for me.

So, where does that leave me now? Obviously I will be trying to find a job, but my main goal is to do my best to remain positive. I’m going to keep busy by doing things I didn't have time to do while working. I am going to do my best to spoil my wife rotten. I am going to practice woodworking. Hopefully, I will get back on the bike again too, and actually enjoy it. This time must be used to my advantage. A lot of people do not get this chance, so it can’t be wasted. I need to remember that the chance I took is still going to be worth it. Sitting comfortably behind a desk and not pushing myself will only make me complacent. The company might not work out, but I need to pick myself up, dust off, and get back on the horse. I learned a lot while setting up my first business, and nothing can take that experience away. If I had not taken the chance, I would always wonder what could have happened.