Interview with Stephane Rousselet, WPC Young Professionals Committee Chair

Stephane Rousselet is the Chair of the World Petroleum Council Young Professionals Committee since July 2017, French representative since 2013 and strategy consultant with years of experience in the energy industry.

At the 22nd World Petroleum Congress in Istanbul in July 2017, you were affirmed as WPC Young Professionals Chair for the 2017 – 2020 cycle. How do you see the role and contribution of the Young Professionals Committee to the global WPC agenda and your priorities in this 3-year cycle?

Since the organization was founded back in 1933, the World Petroleum Council has always played a central role in promoting the sustainable supply and efficient use of oil, gas, and other energy resources, connecting public and private leaders of our industry. I believe our generation should contribute to this vision and these three years will focus on shaping the global energy future by bringing together the passion and talents of industry students, young professionals and energy leaders.

To achieve this goal, our committee, representing around 30 countries, works around 5 priorities:

  • Connecting future leaders together and to current industry leaders via forums and congresses, such as the Future Leaders Forum in Saint Petersburg in 2019 or the Tomorrow’s Leaders Symposium that we host for the third time in Belgrade this year.
  • Sharing our passion for the industry and energy-related issues. Our magazine published alongside the main events of the WPC is one of our channels to reach out to students and young professionals around the world.
  • Bridging geopolitical boundaries to foster new relationships. Our national committees are working on developing local and regional initiatives to create networking and knowledge sharing opportunities.
  • Integrating global young professional perspectives to the energy debates by favoring the participation of our generation to the major industry events or surveying the career expectations of students and young professionals globally.
  • Favoring leadership skills today to serve the future of the industry via our mentoring program, for instance.

Your career is very impressive and motivating for fellow young professionals. What have been the key achievements and milestones in your professional path? How would you advice fellow young professionals to actively and consciously direct their career development?

When I look backward, my journey may be a good example of what our industry can offer to students and young professionals willing to contribute to one of the major challenges of our time: bringing energy to the world.

Although the road is still long as I am still at the early stage of my career, I would like to share three main pieces of advice.

Be an active listener and a constant learner. I started 7 years ago with TOTAL Exploration and Production after graduating from a business school and an apprenticeship in a small engineering firm. During three years, I worked on reshaping the ways we were managing our supply chain by infusing new processes and technologies, such as industrial mobility. I got the chance to be surrounded by extremely experienced individuals from various background: purchasing, logistics, drilling, field operations… Listening to these experts and asking questions continuously helped me better understanding the complexity and beauty of the industry.

Consider working abroad and on the field to discover the world and build your own career path. After these three exciting years in the headquarters, I was pushed outside of my comfort zone and invited to join our Nigerian affiliates to supervise the logistics operations in the main oil and gas harbor of the countries, in Onne. I was 26, and although I traveled in different countries I had never been to Nigeria and had never worked abroad. It was a life experience, a radical transformation of my personal and business lives. I learnt a lot of the local culture while managing a team of 50 Nigerians, got a better understanding of upstream operations and developed new soft and technical skills in an area where movements are restricted and the operational pressure is constant.

Finally, and my answer to your first question already illustrates it, I invite all the students and young professionals of our industry to proactively seek for knowledge-sharing and networking opportunities by getting involved in professional societies. The World Petroleum Council gives me this chance every day to develop my skill set and broaden my knowledge thanks to various friends and business relationships in many countries, that are also talented individuals coming from all the parts of the industry value chain.

Based on your previous experience in chairing the French WPC Young Professionals Committee and your engagement in leading the WPC global network of young professionals, how would you advise national Young Professionals Committees to contribute to tackling joint challenges in the industry generation gap?

The generation gap is one of the key challenges for the oil and gas companies globally. After the period of dwindling oil prices, many companies limited their recruitment and had to cut jobs. In parallels, many experts are reaching the end of their careers. We should ensure that this precious expertise is not lost as we are constantly pushing the boundaries of our industry (new frontiers, new energies, size of the projects for instance).

Although this challenge should be primarily tackled by the companies themselves, the WPC YP committees are committed to support the inter-generational dialogue and knowledge sharing. Our mentoring program, for instance, connects students and young professionals with experienced senior leaders of our industry. Through calls and get-together meetings, the students and young professionals can develop their understanding of the industry, build expertise in their areas of interest and be exposed to the leadership. At the same time, it is also the opportunity for the mentors to interact with the new generations, understand and discuss concrete solutions to meet their expectations.

The National Petroleum Committee of Serbia is very proud to host in Belgrade the 2018 Tomorrow’s Leaders Symposium, as part of the WPC event series targeting young professionals in the oil and gas industry. We are also very happy to have you as moderator of the “Innovation transforming the society” panel. What are your expectations from the Belgrade conference and message to participants?

I want them to be proud of what the industry they are working for and be fully conscious of its exciting future. When I joined the industry, I feel like we were going to the moon every single day. This feeling is still very vivid. Look at the major upstream projects today: we drill at more than 2000 meters under the sea, process oil and gas on the seabed, store and export thousands of barrels a day from massive production units floating in the middle of the oceans. In the refining and distribution, we keep pushing the boundaries to produce more efficient sources of energy and distribute them all around the world. We still have almost 1 billion people without proper access to energy – this gives you an idea of the challenges ahead of us! And we will have to do it mitigating our impacts on the environment and the communities!

In addition, I think the Tomorrow’s Leaders Symposium should act as an eye-opener. The oil and gas industry is not self-standing, many changes are occurring in the energy markets and their adjacencies. Look at the transportation for instance, one of the major consumer of oil and gas products. Cars are getting electrified – tomorrow they will also be autonomous. This will impact not only the demand but also the way downstream companies will serve the customers. Those changes will also certainly impact the types of skills required and the career path. I hope we will get the chance to debate these transformations and think about what their meaning for our generation.

Finally, the Tomorrow’s Leaders Symposium is also a lot of fun. The two first editions in London and Budapest highlighted how this event can provide the participants with networking and knowledge-sharing opportunities while exploring amazing European cities. The program elaborated by our Serbian friends for this year TLS is exciting and I look forward to meeting you all in Belgrade!