Brett Schellenberg

Vice President - Digital Solutions, Nabors Industries, Houston
Schellenberg, Brett

Brett Schellenberg has enjoyed an illustrious career, but an earlier promotion had him wondering if he was up to the task.” I was young and worried that I wouldn’t be able to fill the shoes of my predecessor,” he says, “but by working with the team already in place, I made measurable improvements on all fronts: HSE, financial and operational.”

Why did you enter the oil and gas industry?
“My first exposure to the oil and gas industry was through my dad and his career. He drew me to the profession. After having the opportunity to intern on a couple of drilling rigs, I really began to fall in love with the confluence of the size, impact, technology and grit of the operations. Also, I enjoyed being around and learning the business from so many great people.”

What has been your most challenging project to date?
“Definitely deploying the world’s first fully robotic land drilling rigs. When I first joined the automation team, Nabors was nearly eight years into this automation journey and had made significant progress in going from concept to reality. However, the finishing touches are some of the most challenging parts of a project because that’s when all priorities, interests and efforts have to be aligned. Any misalignment can cause delays and overruns. By working across departments, key vendors and operations, and unifying under a common goal, I’m happy to say we were able to push these technologies across the finish line and successfully deploy these fully robotic land rigs to the field.”

What qualities do you think are necessary to be a good leader in the oil and gas industry?
“Leaders need empathy and the ability to communicate clearly and honestly with colleagues and potential hires about the risks associated with our industry (that could be related to its cyclical nature, or negative industry perception). They need to set clear goals and expectations, expect accountability (both for yourself and others), and be willing to take risks, adapt to change and challenge the norm. Leaders also need to know how to foster a positive, fun and rewarding culture. If no one wants to be around you or doesn’t enjoy coming to work, the team suffers. I work very hard to strike the right balance of this for my teams.”

What or whom do you credit for helping you develop leadership abilities during your career?
“It is equally important to use bad bosses as examples to understand what NOT to do as it is a following a good boss on what to do. A book that has helped me navigate new roles is, ‘The First 90 Days’ by Michael D. Watkins. I keep copies handy to share with others who transition into new roles. I would recommend for anyone that they find opportunities at some point in their career (the earlier the better) to get close to the action.”

What advice would you give other young professionals?
“1. Say yes more often. 2. Execute on your commitments. 3. Volunteer and find ways of being visible throughout the industry and your company. 4. Be pleasant and someone people want to be around (don’t be a jerk).”

Which transformations do you think the industry must undertake for it to thrive in the future?
“Approach, culture and technology are all important to this industry’s future. Historically, we have done a poor job of collaborating across companies and across the industry. To innovate technology and provide energy globally, it will require a new approach and a shift in culture. Rivals will need to work together. We will need to find complementary products and services. Everyone should not be trying to solve the same problems on their own.”

Three More Things
  1. I don’t have an engineering degree.
  2. I love to cook. I’m the two-time Nabors Barbecue Champion (I’ve got the trophies to prove it!)
  3. I have run 3 marathons. I’ll be running The New York Marathon in November!