Personal Passion Leads To A Promising Career 6 Feb 2012

Nikolaos Sykiotis was exploring his options when a time-filling hobby captured his heart.

Sykiotis, graduate geologist at Chevron, never considered becoming a geologist when he started university. "I always wanted to be a trader, ever since I was 15", he told PESA News Resources.

Completing a double degree in Commerce and Science at the University of Melbourne, Sykiotis picked up units in Geology, Astronomy and Latin for personal interest. "I really enjoyed first year geology as I got to do field work and I enjoyed the practical aspect to it", he said.

His first taste of geological work came about as a way of "killing time". "My last six months of university I went to the USA to study at UC Davis. I studied Geology, Astronomy and Entomology there. It inspired me to learn again because I was a bit jaded at the time. However, when I got back the application deadlines for the graduate programmes had lapsed. They were in March but I got back in August, so I figured instead of sitting around doing nothing for six months or more, I may as well go to WA and do some geology work. I got a contract with Barrick Gold for nine months to log core and sample underground faces", he said.

"In the meantime I was looking for trading jobs, and eventually found one in Sydney. I did that for nine months; but it wasn't right for me. I did like some aspects of it but it was not what I thought it would be."

Plagued by the question of what to do next, Sykiotis contemplated further study but was unsure of what area. He then got another contract in South Australia working in an iron ore mine. This time he was working above ground instead of underground, flying in and out of Melbourne to Whyalla in South Australia. Although he enjoyed geology he still wasn't sure which area he wanted to apply himself to.

"Again, Whyalla wasn't somewhere I saw myself being for a long time. I had a think about what I wanted to do and went travelling. I went to Thailand and learnt how to scuba dive there. Then I went to Japan for two months and learnt Japanese. I also went to England and Greece to visit friends and family. When I got back I was unemployed for about four months", he said.

Sykiotis' mind was made up. He went to Adelaide to study petroleum geology at the Australian School of Petroleum, University of Adelaide. While there he won the PESA 2010 Graduate Prize for his Honours project.

He now holds a coveted placement on Chevron's five-year graduate program, Horizon. Currently in the Non-Operated Joint Ventures (NOJV) section, his role changes every two years.

"There's no downside to being on this program. Your career can progress as normal, but you also get structured mentoring and training", he said. Graduates get a good look at the types of jobs out there and you get good technical training and experience."

Chevron owns a share of the North West Shelf and this is what Sykiotis' day-to-day work in NOJV primarily involves. "We have two functions one is to provide independent assessment of the data that comes from the area, figure out what we think is going on and compare it to what the Operator has interpreted", he said. "The second role is to make sure that things are being developed in a way that we think is best for the venture and best for Chevron. A lot of negotiation and discussion is required."

Based in Perth, Sykiotis cites the stability and future prospects in the industry as part of the attraction in getting a role in petroleum geology. "I was getting a bit tired of flying in and out. It's not very good on the social life", he said.

"I still think that there's a very great need for petroleum and hydrocarbons in the world, especially from Asian countries, and I think that it's a relatively stable industry. There's quite a big future in the sector.

"Chevron's got some very big projects, that's one of the reasons why I applied. [However] the biggest reason was their culture. I like the way they operate, their focus on safety and the values they have."

Sykiotis believes company culture is a big factor in finding suitable employment, and one that graduates need to be aware of.

"The first thing is to know what you're applying for. The second thing is to know what you like. If you're applying to big oil companies, chances are most of your time will be spent indoors, in the CBD, in an office. If you work for a uranium explorer you might be flying in and out of Africa spending weeks in the bush. If you work for a service company like Schlumberger or Baker Hughes maybe you could work on oil rigs all around the world", he said.

"There's a world of opportunity but just know what you want, know where you are in terms of your life and try to find a company that matches. One thing I noticed through my interviews was that Chevron matched my personality the closest. I kind of feel at home sometimes. I didn't feel intimidated."

After his first years out of university were spent fly-in-fly-out from various places and travelling, Sykiotis is happy to be based in Perth. However, he still hasn't shaken off the travel bug.

"This year I went to Thailand for a lazy holiday. Next year it will be something different, something new; ideally something adventurous like a trek. I try to alternate, one year I do something lazy and the next year I'll do something exciting", he concluded.



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