It cannot be denied that 2020 has been a year like no other. Based in the Australian office, Eduardo Robaina, Add Energy’s Executive Vice President of Drilling and Well Engineering, guided his team through a year of highs and lows. From bushfires to Covid-19 and regionalized lockdowns, the challenges have been constant.
With a focus on strengthening relationships, entering new markets, and improving capabilities, Eduardo is eager to explore the opportunities that await Add Energy in 2021.
In this interview, which forms part of our ‘The Big Picture: leading our team into the future’ series, Eduardo takes some time to explore lessons learned during 2020 and how his team grew during a period of economic decline.
How would you describe the last 12 months?
“There is no doubt that 2020 has been like no other. Amidst a global health pandemic and economic uncertainty, the world has also battled against social and political unrest.
“At the beginning, there was a sense of panic and unease which caused adrenalin and increased productivity, but as time went on and we have swayed in and out of lockdown, morale has begun to lag and at times motivation has been obsolete.
“This is not a theme for one company or sector, but an issue that has been faced by the masses throughout the world. You must address these issues and acknowledge the uncertainty that your staff are feeling, and that is exactly what we did. At Add Energy we were as clear and transparent as possible with our team, checking in on each other regularly and providing feedback through our morning coffees, weekly updates, and monthly newsletters.
“It could be argued that your main role as a leader, pandemic or not, is to provide your team with the support needed to allow them to complete their job. In a time where mental wellbeing is a growing concern, we need to encourage self-compassion within the team, provide guidance where necessary and help staff understand that stress and anxiety are normal feelings to have during these difficult times.
“This year more than ever, employees need to see their senior management team pull together to create a positive working environment. I’ve found that addressing team concerns regularly, and providing insight into how the business is doing, helps boost morale. By providing as much information as feasibly possible, the team feels included in the decisions being made and are more motivated to help the company achieve its goals.”
What were the biggest challenges?
“One of the biggest challenges that we have faced was planning and scope visibility. With the market in flux, some companies were hesitant to plan too far ahead and projects were often put on hold or cancelled. But for other clients, it was business as normal. Or as normal as it can be during a worldwide pandemic.
“Social distancing and safety measures dictated that companies cut their personnel on board number by an average of 50%, which meant that companies had to assess their priorities and change their schedule more frequently than normal. Because of the nature of our work, and the HSE requirements when working on operating assets, the scope of work remained the same but the project plan and the priorities would frequently shift.
“Every day was different, and plans could change quickly with little notice. The team had to communicate clearly and regularly with each other to ensure that everyone was kept up to date and understood what was expected of them. Although we had the technology in place, with email and Microsoft Teams readily available for all, the shift from talking to someone from across the room to trying to catch people online and know when they’re available was quite difficult in the beginning. It’s a lot easier to read people’s mood when you’re under the one roof.”
What do you believe are the biggest opportunities that arose during this period?
“Although our team faced many challenges this year, we’ve also benefited from a number of opportunities.
“Over the past 12 months we’ve seen mass redundancies across the world. Although the energy sector has been one of the worse affected, no industry has survived unscathed.
“Cutting overhead costs may have saved companies money, but losing high levels of expertise and competence within a short period of time often resulted in skills shortages and a lack of experience within teams. This leads to companies being exposed to operational risks, which ironically could cost the company more money in the long run.
“To better support our clients, we supplied highly experienced experts to work on an ad-hoc basis, as and when our clients needed additional specialist support, which meant they only paid for the work that was completed on a call-off basis. Although this saves money short term, depending on the scope of work, our clients were concerned that this approach could become costly in the long run. At Add Energy, we offer a service provision model, where our customers can select a number of support alternatives, depending on the type of requirements - independent expert support, turn key, lump sum or technical authority -which is a more cost-effective way of working.
“With years of experience behind us, we were already recognised as experts in our field and had built a strong relationship with our customers. Having already established trust with our clients during a more stable period, we were in a strong position to step in quickly and provide staff on an ad-hoc basis - at times, with only a day’s notice.
“Our transition into green operations has definitely been one of the biggest highlights for us. We are proud to be part of an expert team, headed up by Transborders Energy, where we will support the process of carbon capture and storage of CO2 in offshore wells located in Australia.
“They say that a challenge only becomes an obstacle when you bow to it, and this was certainly the case with 2020. By facing issues head-on, assessing the situation regularly, communicating clearly, and developing tailored solutions for our customers, we leave 2020 outperforming 2019 in terms of profitability, Which is a massive achievement, especially considering the obstacles that we were up against.”
What was key to your team’s success?
“I believe that our team has been so successful because they have the same core values. Hard work and discipline is at the heart of what we do, and every single employee is dedicated to the team, their customers and the work that they do.
“By promoting honesty and integrity in the workplace, our employees are able to communicate openly, without the fear of repercussions. This contributes massively to our success as staff feel that they can be honest about a situation. Whether it’s that a mistake has been made or that they feel there’s a better way to do something, it’s important that the team feels that their opinions are welcomed.
“Research shows that taking this approach helps staff feel more confident within their jobs, and I can confirm that this is the case with our team. We noticed an uplift in morale, our team achieved higher productivity levels than ever before, and increased loyalty. As well as creating a happy work environment, this also resulted in a better quality service for our customers.”
Are there any exciting plans for 2021?
“Next year will be an exciting time for the team. It’s time that we start to promote our good news stories more. Following a successful 2020, we are re-investing a lot in our technology and service offerings.
“Partnering with an up and coming international operator, our team has been able to bring a wealth of expertise to their projects, adding value to their offering and helping position them as one of the big players within the field. This has worked really well, both for this client and our team, and we intend to explore this approach with other companies over the coming years.
“Carbon capture and storage will continue to be a focus for us in the years to come as we transition our expertise and experience into a different way of working, and I am excited to share some new exciting projects in the months to come!”
What are your team’s goals for 2021?
“We have big plans for 2021. Following the growth achieved this year, we are in a strong position to further expand our resources, develop our graduate programme and increase capabilities to support other industries, such as hydrogen and renewable energy.
“Next year we are going green, including the introduction of a new business segment which will support carbon emissions and sequestration. Following a review of the market, and our customers' needs, we have decided to build our service offering around carbon capture, hydrogen and applicable renewables based on the successes we have had in this arena to date.
“Somewhat experienced in this field, we have already completed a number of projects for clients outside the Transboarders project, including; a feasibility study, looking into carbon capture and storage for a major oil and gas operator in Australia and an explosion analysis study for a hydrogen plant is the APAC region.
“Another exciting development is that our Asset and Integrity Management division and solutions will be expanding further into the APAC region. We are proud to have secured a few asset management contracts within the region and look forward to sharing our solutions with our existing client base, further strengthening our value proposition to our customers and prospects.
“Although there have been challenges along the way, 2020 has been a strong year for Add Energy. Taking on board the lessons learned, we are entering 2021 with a motivated team, strong service offering and new technologies. As a leader, what more could I ask for?”