Perspectives: Rodrigo Rendon, KCA Deutag: Relating field experience into a business context widens perspectives on oil and gas industry

Rodrigo Rendon is Head of Business Development at KCA Deutag.

By Linda Hsieh, Editor & Publisher

As the only son of a dentist with a successful practice, Rodrigo Rendon was groomed from a young age to, some day, take over the family business. Even as a child, he would often walk from school to his father’s office during lunchtime and work as his father’s dental assistant with a couple of patients before heading home for lunch.

While the time spent at his father’s office made for fond childhood memories, it also made Mr Rendon realize early on that he wasn’t cut out for life as a dentist. Instead, he longed to do something more exciting, something with a steeper learning curve, something that would take him to see the world outside his home country of Mexico.

“I think my dad has been doing the same thing for 50-something years,” said Mr Rendon, who currently serves as Head of Business Development for KCA Deutag. “He sees the patients, opens their mouths, looks at their teeth, and maybe you take a molar out or you put in a bridge… But I can’t do the same thing for 50 years. I need to have different things thrown at me where I can continue to learn all the time, things that can keep me excited.”

Getting into the oilfield

Within weeks of graduating from TecnolÓgico de Monterrey with a chemical engineering degree in 1996, Mr Rendon found himself on an airplane, flying to Angola as a Field Engineer in Schlumberger’s cementing service line. It was exactly the kind of job he craved – seeing the world and doing challenging, technical tasks. Even during his “off-duty” time, he found himself learning new things as he roamed to different parts of the drilling rigs where he was working.

“The cementing operation is not constant, so I had a lot of free time, which I spent at the geology cabins, at the mud logging cabins and at the driller’s cabins to learn about what everybody else was doing. It was an amazing experience to spend all that time offshore at the rig site,” he recalled. For the next three years, Mr Rendon went around the world working for Schlumberger, seeing places like Venezuela, Italy, France and Portugal. 

By the late 1990s, however, Mr Rendon began to feel like he was ready for something new – and that he was becoming too specialized in one particular niche of the industry. So he went back to school, earning an MBA in strategy and marketing from the Bocconi School of Management in Milan, Italy. “I’ll never regret that decision,” Mr Rendon said. “It was very good after doing engineering to take a year and look at the business side of things. That’s something you don’t really get to do in engineering school.”

In 2001, armed with new skills and new perspectives on the oil and gas industry, he joined Accenture “on the clear understanding that the projects I was going to get were to be in oil and gas. I really saw the possibilities that the industry offered long term.”

As a Management Consultant, Mr Rendon worked on global projects to help clients improve performance, such as helping BP to set up the TNK-BP joint venture in Russia. “I really enjoyed that job with Accenture because I was able to relate my field experience into the business context. Those guys out in the field who are working in 45°C heat or in the rain in -10°C, what does that mean in the context of the business?”

In 2006, wanting to relocate from London to Aberdeen to spend more time with his family, Mr Rendon joined DOF Subsea. The role exposed him to business development for the first time and led him to take on a similar position with KCA Deutag in 2010.

At first, working for a drilling contractor didn’t feel all that different than working for a subsea company because he was working for the engineering divisions of both companies. Within a year after joining KCA Deutag, however, he transitioned to drilling contractor side of the business, looking after both the land and offshore divisions. He quickly learned that, for drilling contractors, it’s all about the utilization of your assets and the safety of your people. “If you look at those two things, the returns will come.”

In late 2017, KCA Deutag’s CEO tasked Mr Rendon with heading up a multidisciplinary team to add differentiation to the company’s service. “It was about getting out of just a dayrate discussion to see what added value we could bring.” The project eventually evolved into KCA Deutag’s Well of Innovation, which encompasses a multitude of advanced technology offerings that could help deliver wells safer and more efficiently. “It was not a marketing campaign for us to sell hot air. We spent a year digging into our operational data so we could articulate what value we could deliver to our customers.”

Evolution of drilling contractors

Looking ahead to the coming years, Mr Rendon said it’s become clear what is the common goal for all drilling contractors: “It’s to figure out what is our role in the energy transition and how do we actively contribute to reducing emissions while maintaining a sustainable business model.” 

The solution will require companies to do more than just say all the right buzzwords, he emphasized. “We will need to use drilling equipment designed and manufactured with the concept of a circular economy in mind. Soon enough, the shape of the drilling contractors will change significantly, not only because we will have a much cleaner and more responsible business, but also because the companies that want to remain relevant will have to venture into new business streams so they can secure a future in the redefined energy industry.” DC

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