In this article, Blair MacDougall, a Canadian-based oil and gas consultant, talks about his experience in making the change from being an offshore well construction consultant to founding his own petroleum consulting firm, Waterford Energy Services Inc. (WESI). As MacDougall explains, in order to succeed as a businessperson in the field, he had to first begin with a love of a challenge: “Offshore drilling and completions is a field that’s constantly evolving and constantly setting its sight on new goals… It’s challenging and exciting, but to be a successful consultant and to move into actually creating a consulting firm, I really think you need to be honest and upfront with people.”

Offshore well construction

MacDougall goes on to recount some of the experiences he had during the first ten years of his engineering career, a time when he was working as a well construction engineer and project engineer for a major exploration and production company. These were years that gave him broad international well construction experience in such locations as the Bay of Bengal, Equatorial Guinea, offshore Ghana, as well as in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland. It was a time that also gave MacDougall true hands-on, project-related experience and an understanding of the challenges engineers face during the design phase and construction of new wells. More particularly, as MacDougall explains, he gained valuable experience in project management, costing and scheduling, two aspects of engineering that particularly figured in his later career as a consultant and director of WESI.

MacDougall’s work with a major exploration and production company in the first chapter of his career also provided him opportunity to become more familiar with government regulators in matters relating to approval of new projects. Blair MacDougall comments: “…. in addition to working on regulation concerns with drilling efforts, I interfaced with key suppliers and technical resources, and other engineers, and at times participated in equipment failure investigations.” Noting that all this experience contributed to the success MacDougall had in establishing WESI as a strong, performance-driven consulting firm.

“In 2003, I moved my focus from being an engineer to establishing Waterford Energy Services, Inc. I couldn’t have started WESI without a strong foundation that only a major exploration and production company can provide in areas such as well engineering and project manager.”

Blair MacDougall continues, “As Senior Director of WESI, I, along with my management team, are now responsible for overseeing the activities of a large network of petroleum consultants as they help in the drilling, completion and subsea efforts of offshore gas and oil operators. This requires a significant amount of industry knowledge and experience.”

Although MacDougall still serves as an engineer for some of WESI’s clients, he explains that “… the nature and range of my responsibilities is certainly much different now than it was before I founded WESI. In many ways, my responsibilities are more administrative, a technical sounding board and more focused on areas of business development, as well as greater trends in the offshore oil and gas industry.”

Offshore rig platform

After learning how MacDougall formed WESI, two questions remain. First, what specific challenges has he faced in the last ten years since founding his firm? Second, we asked him if he was happier as a director of a consulting company, as opposed to being on the other end, serving as a project engineer and manager.

“To the second question”, MacDougall answers, “I can say, yes, I’ve found these past ten years of my career to be just as – if not more – fulfilling professionally for me than at any other point in time.”

“As to the first question, there’ve been challenges I’ve faced in establishing WESI, which I think is normal in any business development endeavor. The industry is a highly competitive space, especially when you’re considering the consulting end of things. And for those who may be thinking of establishing their own consulting firm, I simply want to stress how critical it is to have talented, educated consultants on your team, consultants who, in short, are willing to do everything they can to advance the projects and goals of your clients. Without these devoted team members, your consulting company will most likely be short-lived.”