How I got where I am today: Paul Radcliffe

What did you want to be when you were young?
Pretty much anything to do with mechanics. I nearly joined the army after leaving school but took a more practical approach by going into further education instead. This gave me a good technical background for my career.

What are the main career stepping stones you have taken?
My first main decision was to start working offshore with an American service company. Even though I was thrown in at the deep end it was a very good experience. My next move was from the service sector to a major operator, Shell, as a staff engineer. After 11 years, I decided to move to Aberdeen, working with a drilling company, focusing on new technologies.

Paul Radcliffe

My business partner and I then decided to start Frontier, focusing on engineering consultancy and recruitment for the oil and gas industry. Moving into this side of the industry was a major change as well as a risk – but that risk has paid off as we have now been in business for 15 years and are still expanding with offices in India, Tanzania and Trinidad and Tobago, as well as the main office in Aberdeen.

Anything you would do differently?
I would generally have made decisions earlier and acted on them sooner. Most of my major career decisions have been the right ones but some of the results may have been better had I made the decision earlier or acted sooner. Career decisions can have a huge impact on overall lifestyle so it is important to make the right choices.

Are you scared of making mistakes?
No, but I am sometimes scared of the potential results caused by making mistakes. Working in Well Operations meant wrong decisions could have a huge impact not only on operations and cost but could be a matter of life and death. It is important to evaluate all the “what if” questions before making a final decision.

Best achievement so far?
Continuing to grow Frontier as a company year on year with all the challenges of running your own business. In my day-to-day business I now deal with less technical issues but by applying the same approach to everyday issues and maintaining the same high standard we have built up a very good reputation in the industry.

Is the “career for life” a thing of the past?
It probably is, in the context that it was originally used, i.e. people staying with the same company for their whole career. There is now much more movement of personnel and increased corporate mergers, which often affect staff numbers. Having said that, Frontier has an unusually high retention rate, and we also have a large number of long term contract staff that stay with us even when they change positions.

What would your autobiography be called?
“At Least I Tried”. You can always have regrets about what you should or shouldn’t have done, but unless you push yourself to pursue different options you will never know. As Einstein once said: “Insanity is doing the same thing, over and over again, but expecting different results”.

What has motivated you?
Part of my motivation is to prove to myself that I can overcome challenges. Oil and gas can be a very challenging environment, especially in operations. I usually perform better under pressure and if there is a technical challenge, I always want to come up with the best possible solution. Another motivation is to continue to grow Frontier as a company both in the UK and overseas market. Our business is now split with 60% being overseas and 40% in the UK, so this in itself is a challenge.

What’s the best way to motivate others?
Different people are motivated by different things. Provide them with the opportunity to progress, support during the ups and downs and the right working environment and tools to do their job, and most people who have any initiative will be motivated.

What’s your best career advice?  
Choose something that you want to do and work hard to make it happen. Things generally don’t happen unless you do something positive to influence them. Also, be open to all options and follow your gut feeling. Usually if something feels wrong there is a good reason for it.

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