Get to know the faces that are working hard behind the scenes to unleash your data’s potential.
This month for our Face Behind the Data profile series, we are excited to introduce our new team member, Shawn New, Principal Consultant. Shawn is a thought leader with 24 years of experience working as a Data Manager for oil and gas companies. He is extremely passionate about data management and shares his knowledge to peers within the industry.
Shawn brings zeal and a wealth of knowledge to the table in regards to oil and gas data management, and we’re excited he could contribute his experience to Face Behind the Data, a series of profiles that feature the hard-working employees behind the solutions and services at Katalyst.
What is your educational and work experience background?
My first job in the industry was with Marathon Oil in 1997. My team provided data management and applications support for Exploration. It was a steep learning curve, with crash courses in UNIX, SQL, geoscience software, plus intro classes in geophysics, geology, and the petroleum industry. I supported all geoscience data types but was most interested in seismic data so that became my specialty. I also completed a Bachelor’s degree in Information Technology during my tenure.
I left Marathon in 2007 for a Seismic Data Manager position with Shell, then briefly did consulting for Chevron. In 2009, I moved to Maersk Oil as their Data Specialist. I had sole responsibility for data management and software support, and helped IT design and implement upgraded technical computing and data loading environments.
I was hired on at BHP in 2011 as a Senior Data Management Specialist embedded with Exploration, and after a year was promoted to a leadership position. Over the next 7 years, my teams delivered back-office master data and embedded data operations support for Conventional and Unconventional Exploration and Production activities. I contributed to data management strategy, built new processes, led continuous improvement initiatives, and helped design and implement a seismic master data solution. I also served as a subject matter expert on a large technology project to refresh technical computing.
I assisted with organizational design to move Data Management from Technology into Exploration, and closed out my tenure at BHP in 2019 as the Manager of the Geophysical Data Management Team.
Next was a brief period with BP as Geoscience Data Lead for Western Hemisphere Exploration until a re-organization left me looking for a new opportunity.
And now I am with Katalyst…It’s been a long road to get here!
What are some of the highlights of your career?
The time I spent at BHP was a huge growth period. I always thought I’d stay in technical roles, but once I moved into leadership I found that I enjoyed strategic work and helping my team succeed. There was a lot of effort over 8 years that made a direct impact to geoscience success, from small data clean-up initiatives to major digital transformation projects. To have been a part of them all in some way was very rewarding! And it showed me just how much I enjoy working directly with stakeholders.
Did you grow up wanting to be a data manager?
I had every intention of finishing a music degree, but once my son was born, I needed a job that could pay the bills! My former church youth group leader had been onsite at Marathon for a few years on a contract that was supposed to only last a few months. He was ready to get back to running his company, saw potential in me and convinced them I’d be a good hire. The rest is history… Thanks Dave!
How did you get here?
A few years ago I spoke at the Houston Professional Petroleum Data Management Association (PPDM) event about the value of CPDA certification. Pat Meroney was in the audience and asked a lot of great questions, and our conversation afterwards made it clear we shared similar experiences and a common data management philosophy.
Fast forward to January 2021 and I was let go as part of BP’s restructuring. Pat reached out to see if I’d be interested in helping Katalyst grow their U.S. consulting practice. It was an easy decision!
What are some big lessons learned and/or challenges faced along the way?
One of the biggest lessons I have learned over the years is that most data management challenges can be addressed through people, processes, then technology – in that order. Which is actually a big challenge given that too often organizations start with technology first.
Real data transformation requires current-state assessment and gap analysis, data cleanup and standardization, process improvements, and a sustainable governance model. The result of that work informs your technology design and purchase decisions, which round out the full data management solution. But it’s a complex and labor-intensive process, so focus is given (and more dollars are spent) on the technology.
So I have learned to always advocate for doing the ‘good work’ of data management (which segues nicely to the next question…).
What advice do you have for people beginning their career?
Data Management is a scientific discipline, so expand your knowledge of key concepts and practices that transcend our industry. DAMA International is a great place to start!
If you are in a data management role, stay aligned with business strategy. This seems like an obvious point, but you’d be surprised how many initiatives do not stay connected to the needs of data consumers. Constantly engage with stakeholders and make every effort to become a trusted advisor rather than a service provider.
Are there any organizations or volunteer groups that you are passionate about?
I strongly support the work of the Professional Petroleum Data Management Association (PPDM), and for a time served on their Certification Committee. I am also a member of the Advisory Board for the annual PNEC conference – it is a great event, with a wide range of speakers presenting topics focused on data management and emerging technology trends. I was fortunate to be selected as Chair for the 2019 conference.
I’m very proud to be current Chair of the Society of Exploration Geophysics (SEG) Technical Standards Committee. We maintain geophysical data standards like SEG-Y and SEG-D for the industry, and it’s an honor to work alongside people I have admired since the early days of my career.
What are some of your favorite things to do and/or places to visit outside of work?
Music has always been my passion. I sing and play several instruments (guitar is my favorite), and whenever time permits I compose and record original songs.
I’m also happy that my son and daughter share this love. Even though they are grown we still play together, attend concerts and go ‘crate digging’ at record shops across Texas (and beyond). And my wife is amazing at planning family trips that incorporate stops to music landmarks or museums.
We really enjoy RVing, and pooled our funds with the in-laws last year to buy a 5th wheel. We’ve taken several trips around Texas since then and the whole family comes along as often as possible. Now that travel has reopened to other states, I’m sure we will be heading to the National Parks again very soon. Also Vegas!