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Thread: Related experience oil/gas/wind/telecommunications

  1. #1
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    Related experience oil/gas/wind/telecommunications

    I'm interested if anyone has any experience between the similarities of job functions between public planning and the private industries of Oil/Gas/Wind/Telecommunications.

    I need a better salary, but I don't want to go into HVAC or Welding for fear of losing momentum in planning related experience.

    I would be completely open to working in a field that where locations were temporary, so long as I could bring my wife along.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian
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    I live in Houston, the energy capital of the US, so I can only say what is the norm down here. The closest types of jobs related to planning are probably environmental planning (specifically previous federal or state experience with the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act), GIS skills (programming far more than basic mapping) right-of-way/acquisitions, drafting (not AutoCAD for civil engineering but mechanical and structural design for oil/gas facilities and petrochemical companies) or working in a landman firm (specifically mineral rights leases and pipeline projects). Be careful though, most people in oil and gas don't know much about planning, clients are very property-rights focused and are extremely suspicious of anything that sounds regulatory, even plan review or long range planners. Ranchers and big property owners in the Great Plains and western states are the biggest movers and shakers in the industry. Energy is very speculative and companies are very secretive and protective of data.

    Sell people on your transferable skills and tone down anything related to planning (including playing down designations like AICP). If you don't have the specific skill sets in the areas I mentioned don't even bother. If you don't live in Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Ohio, or Pennsylvania and to a lesser degree the Dakotas, Wyoming, or Colorado (where the biggest shale plays are) don't even bother. If you are looking for work in the South, you also have to work even harder at learning proper southern manners and southern business etiquette. Folks down here don't like people from the North or the Northeast. Even with these skill sets and the regionally-accepted attitude, it is a still a HUGE uphill battle to get into these jobs from the outside. If you want to work in energy be prepared to relocate at a moments notice to remote areas near oil/gas plays which could be hundreds of miles from the nearest city.

    There ARE energy jobs and you can make money...BUT you really have to meet some VERY rigid criteria. The types of oil and gas jobs planners work in are a microscopic sliver of the much bigger energy pie. If you want to make the change into oil/gas easier, I would recommend going back to school and earning a degree IN THE STATES I MENTIONED related to oil and gas. Petroleum land management, petroleum, chemical, or structural engineering, maybe an MBA are just a few areas that I can think of. Some schools offer MBA programs with a energy specialization. Personally I would stay away from any management specialization in MBA and earn a general business degree with an emphasis on finance, marketing, or accounting. This course work is far more technical and you need to be a whiz with numbers, but those positions will lead to more jobs that could require a LICENSE. Those skills would transfer into energy (or any industry for that matter) rather than an energy-specific MBA.
    Last edited by nrschmid; 02 Jun 2012 at 1:12 PM.
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  3. #3
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by PHeller View post
    I'm interested if anyone has any experience between the similarities of job functions between public planning and the private industries of Oil/Gas/Wind/Telecommunications.

    I need a better salary, but I don't want to go into HVAC or Welding for fear of losing momentum in planning related experience.

    I would be completely open to working in a field that where locations were temporary, so long as I could bring my wife along.
    I've met a few environmental planner-types who work in the hydrofracking industry, mainly in permitting/entitlements and environmental review. They're generally not pro-fracking and don't see themselves as having sold out, but rather consider themselves well-paid watchdogs of sorts.

    There's a fracking boom south of the state line in Pennsylvania, but along with it comes a boomtown environment in places like Towanda and Williamsport; rising housing costs, crime from transient roughnecks, increased traffic, and so on. Here where I live, popular opinion is virulently anti-fracking. You DON'T want to be spotted in any vehicles bearing a Chesapeake Energy logo anywhere near this town.

    Veloise might chime in with her view of the telcom side.
    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

  4. #4
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    I'm from PA, live in PA, and have friends who work in the gas industry.

    I'm not really interested in helping to frack in my parents back yard or my childhood proving grounds of Potter County.

    Oil and Energy Infrastructure would be a better fit for me, Telecommunications included.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian
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    Oil and Energy Infrastructure would be a better fit for me, Telecommunications included.

    I would look into right-of-way/acquisitions work, as that is the closest fit with planning that I can think of (www.irwaonline.org). You might consider taking classes now that will lead to an IRWA designation.
    "This is great, honey. What's the crunchy stuff?"
    "M&Ms. I ran out of paprika."

    Family Guy

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    nrschmid,

    That's an obscure Association if I ever saw one, but right-of-way acquisition does sound very interesting.

    Any pros-cons of that industry?

    I take my previous statement. I probably could work in the environmental/GIS side of the gas industry, but I doubt I'd be interested in land acquisition or well site work.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian
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    Well, planning ISN'T really related to MOST professions to begin with (as much as we would like to think we are). There are two main types of oil/gas GIS work: mineral rights mapping and pipelines. Most GIS jobs prefer some degree of programming/IT skills, so it helps if you know servers, enterprise systems, etc. Familiarity with land management software (Tobin, Corelogic, etc.) also helps. AutoCAD is not the dominant CAD system either. Solidworks, Autodesk Civil 3D, and Microstation are more common as these deal more with plant (factory) design, pipelines, structural, and mechanical design projects. Health, safety, and environmental (HSE) is one component of the energy sector. Environmental planning is one small sliver of HSE, and even then the main focus is on permitting (air, water, hazardous waste). There isn't much in line with EAs and EISs and VERY few jobs focusing on the planning types of analysis such as socioeconomic, land use, environmental justice, etc. Obviously like most professions, it helps to have connections especially if you are switching careers. Otherwise I would consider going back to school for another degree as there are relatively few transferable skills between planning and oil/gas GIS. I think planners who are heavy on the technical side (CAD, GIS, GPS) are probably the closest match and even then you will end up as a mapper or draftsman (and most of the jobs are contract that may sometimes only last a few months).
    "This is great, honey. What's the crunchy stuff?"
    "M&Ms. I ran out of paprika."

    Family Guy

  8. #8
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    nrschmid,

    Luckily, I am self taught on the technical side of ArcGIS, ArcServer, and data gathering. I spent a few summers developing a low-cost data gathering solution for a land trust and then was lucky enough to spend some time on a Trimble as well.

    Thing is, I don't know a damn thing about AutoCAD...well..I had a class in highschool.

    So I'd like to get some education in drafting and design, both for my own interests (i'm into auto, moto, and bicycle racing), but also because I'd like to get some experience in AutoCAD, Solidworks and Civil 3D. This will come soon, as I can take college and vo-tech courses on all.

    For my current planning position I deal with the government side of HSE. I review all the DEP permits, help our county residents in what forms to fill out, and have become quite familiar with the permitting process for just about everything environmentally related in our county. Gas, Wind, Infrastructure, all come across my desk.

    The reason I started another topic on Construction Science is because I feel more and more like engineers are running away with the jobs in this country. Yet I know many engineers who aren't happy because they don't do anything theoretical. Everything is cut and paste. They are happy they have this lucrative career and degree, but not so happy about the job. I don't want to be an engineer, but I want to attract employers who would normally hire an engineer for their experiences in construction management.

    Hence why I'm open to infrastructure industries, because so much of that is construction related. Right-of-Way Agents work closely with engineers and surveyors, and "guide" projects through the land, which is what planners do as well.

  9. #9
    Cyburbian
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    I would go the HSE route. It took me 6-7 months of on-the-job, trial and error, to use AutoCAD efficiently in planning, architecture, and engineering projects. I have worked in AutoCAD for 7 years and I still don't consider myself an expert yet. Fortunately, oil and gas design projects move so rapidly that many of the drafters and designers with no formal engineering training or licenses can do the heavy bulk of the design work. BUT, that means that the drafting positions expect you to UNDERSTAND what you are drafting (redlining corrections by others is not enough). So you have to (1) know the specific CAD program inside and out (Solidworks, Pro/E, Civil 3D, Microstation, Revit) and (2) have an understanding of the subject matter. There ARE jobs doing this work in oil/gas and many employers are short staffed but it's such a HUGE learning curve to overcome AND the job may be contractual. Again, it would be much easier to go back to school for additional INDUSTRY training.

    Licensing is one important key to job security in any profession. That doesn't guarantee a job when there are few to go around, but it is a huge leg up on non-licensed professional. It shows employers that the worker has completed a long, rigorous, and often technical, process through narrowly-defined formal training and narrowly-defined work experience. Planners are not-licensed. The majority of us planners balk at anything that even SOUNDS technical. It is hard to stack up against a licensed individual, whether it is a planner against an architect against an engineer or whether it is a guy with an MBA in management stacked up against a guy with an MBA in finance or marketing.
    "This is great, honey. What's the crunchy stuff?"
    "M&Ms. I ran out of paprika."

    Family Guy

  10. #10
    I wrote a long reply about my experiences in the right-of-way industry. Unfortunately, an error occurred when I went to post, and I lost everything typed. The gist of it was that the right-of-way is an area that many planners overlook. Many of the skills possessed by a professional planner are transferable. The work is fascinating and very rewarding. I did residential and business relocation. Residential is similar to operating a homebuyer assistance program. Business relocation is similar to permitting and some economic development (It gets really interesting when the business is a LULU). I also did acquisition which is less interesting than relo but the concept is the same for DOT projects and oil and gas pipeline property management.

    As nrschmid has stated, it's very much a "good ol' boys" club. This oddly enough remains true in both the private and public sectors. It's hard to break into at first, but it's easy to move around once in the door. Probably the best way to get into right-of-way is with state DOT. Utility companies, oil&gas pipelines, and consulting firms are all going to want years of experience. It probably would not hurt to show up at a local International Right-of-Way Association meeting (IRWA) to introduce yourself.

  11. #11
    Cyburbian Veloise's avatar
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    Public reply for the good of the group

    Quote Originally posted by Dan View post
    ...Veloise might chime in with her view of the telcom side.
    Couple ways to go in telecom: consulting, or direct hire by a carrier. I've done both.

    On the good side, telecom is always hiring because projects constantly evolve. None of this wait-for-someone-to-die business that you see down at city hall or the courthouse.

    On the bad side, telecom is constantly firing because the carriers can't make up their little minds. "We're staffing up and need 25 agents for a 100-site build, the project will last 18 - 24 months." Six months later they send out the "whoops, we're retrenching, sold too many of that plan with the 600 minutes for $60. Have yourself a nice life."

    When I got into it ten years ago, they'd deploy folks who lived in, say, Arkansas to Michigan. Almost anyone with a pulse would be hired on as a site acquisition agent (provided you knew/were related to the right people), and if you could recite a script you were deemed to be minimally capable. Presently they want local agents with local experience. Since most of the placement firms are located elsewhere (I keep getting touched by companies in the deep south and east coast), "local" means "within 200 miles."

    In the Oughts, I was miserable being sent to Chicago for week after week. (Makes it difficult to play in a band or on a sports team or have a relationship or a pet.) Most recently I was a direct hire for one of the five major carriers (the "A" company) and got to hear from all the site acquisition agents I'd worked alongside for T, S, N, V, and the other A company.

    The money isn't bad when the projects are there. Hold out for per diem, supplied equipment (phone/laptop/camera), mileage. Make sure that the compensation offered to you as an individual matches what is being offered by the carrier. (I had one contract gig where my boss "mistakenly" did not reimburse me the full amount offered by his client.) Just as an example, I left a municipal job six months into it for a telecom gig; ran the numbers, could not afford to turn down about 190% as much compensation.

    Two ways to go in terms of client visibility: behind the scenes (staying behind a curtain) or right up front in the face and offices and workspace. Remote conference calls are a good thing.

    I always cast myself as the local expert, the zoning goddess, the smooth-things-out person. One of the Arkansians informed me that a certain twp zoning administrator was a complete jerk, wouldn't answer questions, mean, evil, etc. When I went to see him, I was polite and friendly, and he was too.

    Be nice to everyone. The person who is presently your boss will be your underling on the next project. The project manager direct-hired by the carrier, to whom you report and who is a real meanie, will come crawling to you in a few months asking for a referral. (I saw a lot of back-stabbing and in-fighting and passive-aggressiveness in telecom, but found the same blasted my way from the secretary of a township, the receptionist at a major jurisdiction...)

    You do not need any special GIS or other techie skills to work in telecom. When I created some presentations, it was with JPEGs provided by the RF department, dumped into Powerpoint and then made pretty to include in a zoning application.

    Don't bother getting a real estate license. Read up on leasing, titles and deeds, and of course zoning.

    Transferable skills: every major chain corporation (retail, restaurants, tire repair) has a site acquisition group. There are telecom companies who specialize in acquiring and managing cell towers...and to a lesser extent, wind towers. There are A&E firms who cater to the wireless industry.

    HTH

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