James keeps pace with change

It is often said that things happen in cycles and this phrase has been used frequently during the current downturn of the oil and gas industry. James Hailstones’ recent employment history is reflective of the industry as a whole.

In July last year, James was appointed as business manager with Autonomous Surface Vehicles (ASV), a supplier of unmanned and autonomous marine systems with expertise in platform concept design, build and commissioning, operation and maintenance.

James Hailstone

Unmanned operations can save time and costs and can open up new possibilities to capture data in areas that have previously been unreachable. ASV’s oil and gas vehicles can be used to complete tasks such as subsea positioning, surveying and environmental monitoring without the need of a ship on station or seabed anchoring.

James’s remit is to grow the company’s presence within Aberdeen’s energy market and he is set to present at ITF’s Technology Showcase on March 9 at the AECC. He expects the event to provide a platform for companies to present innovative ideas to major oil and gas companies and their subcontractors which can lead to significant savings and increased efficiency in a challenging climate.

He said: “As the Showcase is technology-driven, the attendees are very open to new technology and doing things differently. There is more opportunity to have worthwhile discussions with key people which you perhaps don’t get with some of the larger conferences. It’s quality over quantity. The aim is to help companies deviate from the ‘old’ mindset and steer them to new and more efficient ways of working, which will ultimately save them time and money. We’re trying to make the rollercoaster ride less bumpy.”

Before ASV, however, James experienced his own bumpy journey, becoming unemployed after his previous employer’s parent company became one of the first casualties of the downturn and entered into receivership.

“It was the first time I’d been at a company which had gone bankrupt,” he said. “It was all very sudden and everyone was basically told to gather their personal items and go home. It was an odd experience. It benefited me that it happened near the beginning of the downturn as, while there were other people who were trying to find work, it was nowhere near the same number as now. There were more open positions but even then it still took five months before I secured a new job at ASV.”

It was not the first time James had experienced tough employment conditions, having left school during the recession of the 1980s. He joined a YTS scheme at the Hall Russell shipbuilders in Aberdeen and was sent to work with an offshore survey company. James became a trainee survey engineer at 16 which led him into a 16-year career in the oil and gas industry working in the North Sea and abroad.

In 2001, James moved to California where he worked for a San Diego-based hydrographic and geophysical marine survey office managing projects for commercial, state and federal government as well as military and defence clients.

ASV c-worker

Eleven years later, James returned to Aberdeen and continued to work in managerial roles before becoming unemployed in 2015. To enhance his skills and further progress his career, he enrolled in an RGU undergraduate business management programme.

“I heard an advert for the course over the radio. When you’re in our industry, you understand that things aren’t static, they’re always evolving. Therefore, it’s important to evolve also. As a person, you have to continually learn, and let’s be honest, keep adding to your CV.

“While there were portions of the programme that were new to me and were useful in my professional life, a large part reflected what I had already been applying as a manager so it was good to see that I had been approaching management in the right way throughout my career. Doing the BA programme benefited me while I was looking for work as it demonstrated that I’m continually improving and I believe that’s an important attribute.”

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