By Linda Hsieh, Managing Editor
For Celine Martin, not being selected for an engineering program with the French Navy when she was a teenager came as a huge disappointment. She had undergone three years of post-secondary studies in specialized military classes in preparation for a selective entrance exam to the elite national engineering school, Prytanée National Militaire. She also dreamt of piloting the type of fighter jet she had seen soaring in the skies above her hometown of Hyeres in southeastern France.
In hindsight, however, it was that “disappointment” that set Ms Martin on a path to something bigger and better – offshore oil and gas. “I didn’t perceive it that way at the time because I couldn’t do what I wanted to do, but it was really a lucky thing,” she said.
Turned away from the school due to its limited quota on the number of women accepted, Ms Martin started studying marine engineering at the Institute of Engineering Sciences of Toulon and the Var (ISITV). There, she quickly learned about the offshore industry and recognized that it offered the same type of travel opportunities and sense of wonder that had drawn her to the military.
Upon graduation from ISITV in 1998, Ms Martin didn’t reply to any job offers she received. Instead, she chose to send an unsolicited letter to Sedco Forex, seeking a position that wasn’t even being offered. The company had just hired one female engineer so they weren’t looking for another. Yet they noted Ms Martin’s passion and drive and decided to take her on as a naval architect.
Thus began Ms Martin’s offshore journey, where she initially focused on doing things like riser, mooring and stability analyses, semi upgrade/modifications studies, as well as vortex-induced vibration analyses.
Following a project in Brazil, she got her chance to jump into the operations side of the business when Sedco Forex merged with Transocean in 1999. Ms Martin underwent a fast-track rig engineer program, working directly with rig managers on several deepwater floaters offshore Brazil. Soon she moved into an assistant rig manager position on the Sedco Express semi, which was being prepared to mobilize to Angola for BP’s high-profile Greater Plutonio campaign.
This was followed by a promotion to rig manager, where she was responsible for the D.R. Stewart and George H. Galloway jackups, working offshore Italy.
At this point, it would seem that Ms Martin’s career had progressed rather smoothly, but every step was hard-earned. As a woman in a male-dominated industry, being accepted as a rig manager was no easy task. “I had to earn their trust and show them that I was here to help and I was here to make us a team,” she recalled. Navigating the job while going through a pregnancy also raised certain challenges. For example, there were so few women rig managers at the time that the company did not have a maternity leave policy in place for such employees.
After the birth of her son, Ms Martin decided to move into the project side of the company. While this allowed her to work from home, it also required extensive travel as she worked on projects such as multimillion-dollar rig modifications.
In 2011, after her daughter’s arrival, Ms Martin made another career shift when she opted to tackle a marketing position, despite having no sales background. “It took me a few months to realize that what was my difference could be my strength,” she said. For a couple of years, Ms Martin traveled to African countries to market Transocean’s fleet. A huge win came when she signed a contract with South Africa’s PetroSA for the Transocean Marianas. It had been years since the company had worked in that country.
In 2014, Ms Martin was approached with an opportunity to join Total. At first she wasn’t sure that she wanted to leave Transocean, where she was quite happy.
But then she reconsidered. “I am somebody who thinks that when life puts something in front of you, there is a reason.”
Choosing to step out of her comfort zone, Ms Martin joined Total as Rig Strategy Coordinator, a position where she deals with both internal and external customers, ensuring that Total secures the rigs it needs and strikes the best deals to carry out its exploration program to ensure the well delivery required to reach production objectives.
Internally, she engages with Total affiliates in different stages of their rig and services selections; with her in-depth knowledge of the global rig market, she supports affiliates and/or management regarding rig strategy. Externally, she facilitates both current and potential suppliers, helping the right technology/asset or service get to the right person within Total’s organization. “When I’m in my office in Paris, I can tell you that I have meetings from the morning to the evening because I try to meet with everybody.”
In this position, her drilling contractor background has also played a key role, particularly as she worked with Total affiliates and contractors to push for the cost reductions and performance improvements necessitated by the downturn. “I’m able to understand the contractors’ concerns a little more than someone with purely an operator background,” she said. “I help to make both sides understand the challenges, then find a compromise and solution.”
As contractors seek additional opportunities to collaborate and improve operational efficiencies going forward, Ms Martin urged contractors to keep in mind Total’s approach to contracting. “We don’t award on the cheapest offer. We award on the most economical well,” she said. “Both sides need to have more open-mindedness and flexibility.” DC