CPDA™ Spotlight

The CPDA Spotlight was created by the Petroleum Data Management Certification Committee (PDMCC) to recognize the amazing achievements of our Certified Petroleum Data Analysts. Celebrating their projects, presentations, papers and professional leadership strengths. CPDAs nominate themselves, or be nominated by a member of the community, to be featured.

Are you, or you do you know of, a CPDA who has been up to something interesting in their role as a certified professional petroleum data analyst? Let us know by submitting a nomination!


Oliver (Olly) Thistleton
Olly Thistleton began learning the discipline 20 years ago on service desk teams for Venture’s various London-based clients, and now holds the position of Consulting Lead with Sword Venture’s Asia-Pacific Business Unit. He achieved his CPDA with Distinction credential in 2017.

Q&A

  1. Tell us about your data management professional journey. What did you aspire to be when you started your career?
    It's probably different now data science is the cool profession everyone wants to do, but when I was young, careers fairs didn't have a data booth! I was interested in earth sciences, so my education headed down the rock licking route of becoming a geologist. I'd always enjoyed technology though, so when an opportunity came to work at an oil & gas data management consultancy, it combined both my interests, so I jumped on it, and I've never looked back.
  2. Tell us why taking the CPDA exam became a priority.
    To be honest, it became a priority for me as I wanted to evaluate it for my team. There are lots of training courses and certifications in aspects of what makes a great petroleum data manager – geoscience, engineering, software, IT, behavioural skills, etc. There’s even a few in data management, albeit industry-agnostic. What’s as rare as hen’s teeth is something that ties all these aspects together. As soon as I heard about the CPDA, I signed up to take it and assess whether it was something my team of fellow petroleum data managers should be taking as part of their learning plans. And the outcome of my assessment… well there’s three more Distinction-level CPDAs out there… so far!
  3. What tangible and intangible benefits have you gained from being a CPDA?
    The first tangible benefit, therefore, has been my ability to recommend it to my company and to other data managers as a valuable career development target. It wasn’t all about others though. As a data manager you’re always growing your skills, but some have certainly atrophied over time. Revision for the CPDA helped me refresh my knowledge in a broad range of subjects. Since obtaining my CPDA, whilst it’s not been an explicit requirement or preference so far (something I’d like to see change), it’s certainly been valuable with new clients in putting evidential weight from an industry recognised organisation that this person knows what they’re talking about!
  4. You are an active volunteering member of the PPDM Association. Tell us how serving on a committee has elevated your level of knowledge in the data management profession.
    Twenty years after starting in this discipline, it really frustrates me that I still regularly meet fellow data managers who struggle communicate their value to their employers. With the squeeze on the petroleum industry in recent years, this has become even more critical for those competing for fewer jobs, or for those trying to quantify their skills to an employer in an another industry. I see my involvement with the professional development division of PPDM as a responsibility to our discipline to improve this situation. Something I believe we are making progress on. It doesn’t hurt that I’m working with a great group of people from around the globe. They all bring different viewpoints on the same goal, meaning I’m always keeping an open mind and learning new things.
  5. If you could be the CEO for a day in an E&P company, what advice you would communicate to your leadership about data management?
    Most E&P companies are on a digitalisation journey and trying to become more data-driven in their business decisions. This has been beneficial in putting a focus on data and the need to make it work harder. Sadly however, there persists a view that buying the latest technology or putting data into the cloud will somehow make it better. I would encourage leadership to invest in a more balanced way. Technology enablers are important, but if data is not managed properly through appropriate processes by skilled people (such as CPDA-certified petroleum data managers), those business decisions are going to be data-driven in the wrong direction.

Renee Porter

Renee has been working in the Petroleum industry for 18 years, supporting a variety of companies all with a desire to improve the data quality experience. This has allowed a variety of opportunities, technology and geological exposure throughout the world. As the petroleum industry has always been a rollercoaster of change, attaining her CPDA was assurance that no matter what was going on, her accreditation of knowledge would be solidified. As one of the newest members to the committee in 2020, she is passionate about others who deserve this same acknowledgement as well as creating a community of support with others that have the same data management goals.



Q&A

  1. Tell us about your data management professional journey, what did you aspire to be when you were growing up?
    Growing up I always wanted to help people & animals. At one point, I wanted to be a teacher, then I realized the value of money & decided that being a veterinarian would afford a more conducive lifestyle plus helping the animals I'd come to love. Little did I know I was going to be tending to the reckless wild beasts of data lakes in an effort to support the many people consuming the information. I took a co-op job in high school that led me down the pathway of learning more about the oil & gas industry to the extent of figuring out how someone with no college education could serve a purpose for a small EP company. Subsequently, I ended up working & going to school simultaneously pursuing a pathway that has led me to become immersed in how to make data usable, consumable, searchable, spatialized but, most notably trusted through quality processes.
  2. Tell us why taking the CPDA exam became a priority out of the professional certifications that you wanted to achieve.
    I saw the CPDA as being one of the more recognized certifications in the petroleum industry for the career path I have chosen. At the time I decided to pursue this exam, the industry was suffering from low oil prices & the company I was working for was about to end up in bankruptcy with no chance of emersion. I was seeking a way to gain the acknowledgement for my many years of experience performing a role through the validity of a recognized & accredited organization such as PPDM. Also, I chose pursing this certification first because the prerequisites were something I deemed achievable considering I had so many years of real-life exposure to the competencies being tested.
  3. What tangible and intangible benefits have you gained from having your CPDA credentials?
    The most noteworthy tangible benefit is the beautiful four letters I get to put after my last name. I also appreciate attending a PPDM conference and seeing the additional ribbon on our name badges for having this CPDA accreditation. It is not only highlighting my achievement amongst my peers & perspective employers additionally it allows a community of other data evangelist to network & easily identify each other. The intangible benefits I feel largely outweigh the tangible I have thus forth come to realize. The achievement of making the strides towards maintaining the accreditation & continually finding the ways to earn the credits, that not only support the renewal process set forth by PPDM, they also provide me with the support to ensure I am continuing my education & personal development with the many expanding technologies.
  4. You are an active volunteering member of the PPDM Association. Tell us how serving on a committee has elevated your knowledge in the data management profession.
    As professional we tend to gravitate towards areas of interest or more likely, those that align with our past experiences. Volunteering has exposed me to many varieties of subjects that I would have not had the opportunity to be exposed to. While my career and the companies I have worked towards have always support multi-disciplinary knowledge sharing, the depth of the subjects is greatly explored through the varying PPDM workgroups. I think the interesting thing to be exposed to through PPDM volunteering is being able to discover the many evolving ways our industry approaches data management solutions. The needs over the years seem to always be the same however, the method for resolving can reach far & wide with the help of navigating the technology evolution.
  5. If you could be the CEO for a day in an E&P company, what is one piece of advice you would communicate to your leadership about data management?
    The reliance on data is undeniable. We must lead by example & build a culture that is data driven. In today's world, most jobs require an orientation towards data management & technology. Changes to support this take time to mature & this type of culture is influenced by the leadership the organization. Assuming that hardware & software alone will lead the organization to the end state that we seek to achieve is wishful thinking. Positioning ourselves to only have portfolio & people is not enough to be competitive savvy in this progressing market. Data management needs to be submerged in the organizational culture and if we encourage more critical thinking that will lead to greater business success.

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