How I got where I am today: Dr Will Davies
Published: 31 Oct 2014
What did you want to be when you were young?
Like many youngsters I dreamed of being a sporting superstar. I was quite decent at athletics and often imagined myself with an Olympic gold around my neck for a track event. Clearly it was not to be.
What are the main career stepping stones you have taken?
I gained my BSc in Industrial Chemistry from Napier University and went on to study industrial use of engineering polymers for my PhD. Though I’ve worked with only four different companies Akzo Nobel, Hexion, Dynea and now ITF, I’ve had more than 12 different roles.
This variety of roles has meant constant change which has suited me well and kept me constantly motivated. Taking time out to complete a full-time MBA has been hugely influential in my career, allowing me to make the move from purely technical roles to become more business and commercial orientated.
Is the “career for life” a thing of the past?
I made the decision nearly ten years ago to make the leap from the chemical industry to oil and gas, so I’ve been fortunate to have two careers in my life. I’d always been interested in the energy sector but my education, experiences and skills from the industrial chemical side has made the transition relatively seamless.
It’s opened up a whole new world of challenges and at ITF, the diverse range of developers and member companies, means there’s always something new to learn which keeps me on my toes.
What have you actively tried to avoid in your career?
I’ve never been the kind of person to sit still and take my career for granted, so I try to avoid career dead ends. I like change and diversity and consider myself to be a bit of generalist which means I’m not perfect at one particular thing but rather I’m adaptable and open to lots of opportunities.
Best achievement so far?
I felt I made a real impact with chemical production company, Dynea in my four years in Asia. I developed the Asian business strategy to give it more rigour and discipline rather than working with gut feeling alone. The combination of learning from my MBA and my operational background proved to be a great success in developing and implementing the strategy and expanding the business in what was a tough growth market.
My biggest mistake, and one which I had to learn from very quickly, was underestimating the cultural, social and political differences in Asia. I thought I was working in a different continent, but I was really working in a different world. I learned that western ways of adhering to process and procedure do not always work in the East. There, it’s all about people and building trust and relationships. It was a huge learning curve but one I consider everyday in my role at ITF.
Are you scared of making mistakes?
There’s nothing like a little bit of failure every now and then to keep you driven to get things right. We’re in a business where real risks have to be taken, whether that be with deploying new technology or developing new process and procedures, we simply have to understand the issues and take leadership in making the correct decision. At ITF we actively promote collaboration and transparency, so that we can learn from others’ mistakes and best practice.
Anything you would do differently?
To be honest, I would probably have made the move to oil and gas much earlier if I knew what a fascinating and challenging arena it is to work in. Though I learned so much from the chemical industry and had some fantastic jobs working across the world, the energy sector is much more dynamic and diverse and I have a real appetite to make the most of my second career.
What do you want to achieve in the rest of your career?
I want to stay working in oil and gas for a start and replicate the achievements I made in the chemical sector. Though I’ve only been with ITF for a short time, I’ve already held two fantastic positions, first as a technology analyst and now as commercial manager, so the organisation has been adept at recognising my skill set and putting my aptitude to best use. It’s a great place to work and learn everything there is to know about oil and gas.
Is there a time in your career you miss most?
I had an amazing time in Asia and spent a good deal of time travelling off the tourist track through the most incredible landscapes of China, Vietnam and Thailand. My career has also meant that I miss time with my family. As I work in Aberdeen and home is in Edinburgh, I really can’t wait to get back for the weekend, leave the suit in the wardrobe and have lots of fun with my kids.
Your favourite stress-buster?
Exercise is the best form of stress release. I can often be seen running through the streets of Aberdeen with the Aberdeen Metro Running club. I also like cycling and recently cycled from Glasgow to Edinburgh with my children. I also enjoy salmon fishing and we’re spoilt in Aberdeen with the River Dee and Don. For my sins, I also support Hibs and it’s a real shame I won’t see them play Aberdeen this season.