How I got where I am today: Steve Pryor

Published: 13 Feb 2015

How did your career start?

When I left school in South Wales, I had been accepted to teacher training college. However, I chose to seek adventure first in the summer holidays by hitchhiking to India. I shared a van with very forward-thinking Yugoslavs, a Croatian, a Serbian and a Slovakian. Swimming in the Ganges, camping on the cricket lawns in Bombay and travelling through the Khyber Pass into Afghanistan on the roof of a truck, were some of the most exciting, and fool-hardy (my mum would tell you), times of my life. You couldn’t do it nowadays.

What happened next?
Reluctant to leave India, I missed the start of college, so after another year away in France – where I worked as a builder, a decorator, a travel representative and a tobacco farmer – I headed to Aberdeen, where the streets, I heard, were paved with gold.

So where was your first job in the north-east?
Having learned to speak French during my year away, I was scooped up by Flopetrol, a well testing and wireline company, which was later bought by Schlumberger. In Flopetrol, I spent a fair amount of time offshore in the North Sea as well as being sent to a number of overseas assignments in Holland, where my French wasn’t very useful, and to the Ivory Coast, where it was.

I left Flopetrol to join Baker Production Services in 1979, first in Libya then in the UAE. In 1982, I joined Expro.

Steve Pryor

Who has been your greatest influence?
John Trewhella, or JT to those who knew him. Sadly, he passed away last year at the age of 83. He was my mentor, boss at Expro and later my business partner when we formed OPS in 1988.

I learned from him to treat everyone fairly, honestly and always with respect. He was a great boss, a paternal figure, and people wanted to work for him because of it. I do my best to imitate. I was delighted when John’s efforts were recognized in 1987 when he received an OBE.

All your work has been oil and gas related, but do you think a career for life is a thing of the past?
I think the world of work has changed so much in general, and people’s careers will certainly be a big topic with the current oil price in everyone’s mind. Naturally professions such as medicine or law can still be seen as a career for life in a lot of cases, but for the rest of us it is more a great adventure in which we train, retrain and develop.

What's your idea of the perfect retirement?
I suppose I am known to be a gung-ho sort of character, so I am looking forward to a busy retirement. I’d like to be a more accessible husband to my lovely wife, Sarah, and I have been blessed with six beautiful kids and two grandchildren (with another on the way) who all keep me on my toes.

When I get time to myself, I’ll be off wreck diving, honing my technical diving skills, or disturbing the peace in Aberdeenshire with my motorcycles. A friend of mine raced into his seventies until an illness forced his premature retirement. That’ll be me.

You like diving and motorbikes then?
Yes, two of my passions for as long as I can remember. The technical diving is relatively new though, since 2012. I’m now what is known, in sub-aqua circles, as a ‘rust junkie’ and have already got some dives of a lifetime under my belt.

At home, I love tinkering with my bikes and have managed to collect a few over the years – I enjoy classics as well as hyper sports models.

What would your autobiography be called?
I’m not too sure. The office once created a bingo card for ‘Pryor-isms’ because I often come out with quite funny idioms or phrases so no doubt one of those might work. Although a story that has followed me around since the early ‘90s might be fitting. Back in the early days of OPS a client approached us having been let down and needed someone for a job extremely last minute. We found a suitable guy, but getting him out to the Middle East was nigh on impossible with the time constraints. I made a call and we hired a Learjet to send him out. It wasn’t cheap, and it was a risky move, but it made our client happy. I was subsequently named ‘Mr. International Rescue’. It’s quite appropriate for what my team and I do on a daily basis. Maybe it’d be that.

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