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!


Shawn New
Shawn is Principal Consultant for Katalyst Data Management, responsible for implementation and growth of their U.S. consulting practice. He has over 24 years’ experience as a Data Management Professional for Marathon, Shell, Chevron, Maersk, BHP, and BP, in roles of increasing complexity from individual contributor to building and leading experienced teams and developing corporate data strategy. His work history includes projects to streamline data operations, improve data quality, build and integrate subsurface data systems of record, and design geoscience technical computing environments.

As current Chair of the SEG Technical Standards Committee, Shawn coordinates revisions to the geophysical data standards and engages operators, vendors and other standards groups to promote proper use and broader industry adoption.

Shawn achieved his CPDA certification in June of 2018, is a former member of the PPDM Certification Committee and current Co-chair of the PPDM Rules Committee.

Q&A

  1. Tell us about your data management professional journey. What did you aspire to be when you started your career?
    In 1997 I had every intention of finishing my music degree, but once my son was born I needed a job that could pay the bills! My former youth pastor was onsite at Marathon for a few years on a contract that was supposed to only last a few months. He was ready to get back to running his company, saw potential in me and convinced them I’d be a good hire. So when I started I had no idea what to expect, and certainly no idea that I’d still be doing it today!
  2. Tell us why taking the CPDA exam became a priority.
    My team at BHP was an experienced bunch – most had 10+ years in the industry. It was important to me that their skills and experience were recognized by the company. I figured the CPDA certification was a good way to provide an objective measure of their knowledge of core data management competencies, so I encouraged them to sit for the exam. And if I was going to ask them to do it I decided I should too.
  3. What tangible and intangible benefits have you gained from being a CPDA?
    Well, since I’ve added “CPDA” to my signature line I sometimes get asked what it means. So it’s a great way to talk about our profession and promote the certification. And because the CPDA credential requires Professional Development Units, I am much more deliberate with my continuing education and volunteerism.
  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.
    Volunteering has connected me with some really smart people who share my passion for Data Management. Many are from different backgrounds, some have been doing this longer than me, and some are early career, so I am exposed to diverse ideas. And that challenges my thinking. Plus, being tasked to deliver something specific – data rules for example – means I get to go deeper into the subject matter than I might have time for during my ‘day job.’
  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?

    Data Management (and more broadly Data Strategy) should be business-driven, period. It is important to engage people who are working to deliver on the business strategies and KPIs to gain an understanding of their work processes, data and standards requirements to deliver the right solutions.

Spotlight 2022

Sithembiso Ngubane

Sithembiso Ngubane has been working at Petroleum Agency SA (PASA) for over 22 years in the Information Management Division, with the role of managing the national database for petroleum exploration data.



Q&A

  1. Tell us about your data management professional journey. What did you aspire to be when you started your career?
    As a child, I wanted to become a lawyer, after finishing school but things quickly changed when I realised what happened to some of the lawyers in South Africa during the apartheid era. Thanks to the career development centre, my aptitude for computer studies was identified and I fell in love with computers. After studying electronic data processing, I started as a computer operator, then moved on to analyst programmer and then systems analyst. I then switched to database management during the early days of Oracle RDBMS and that’s when my data management journey was shaped from designing, creating and managing database schemas, all the way to performance management and tuning.
  2. Tell us why taking the CPDA exam became a priority.
    After working in the petroleum exploration industry for twenty years, and particularly in the regulatory agency, I appreciated the need to maintain data in its original format and the ability to define the different parts and aspects of data in universal terms, which makes it possible to share data with common understanding. Taking the CPDA exam enabled me to prove my knowledge and test my skills in broader topics within the petroleum exploration data life cycle.
  3. What tangible and intangible benefits have you gained from being a CPDA?
    The most noteworthy tangible benefit is the ability to engage in petroleum exploration data management matters, with a higher level of authority. Another benefit is the ability to apply business and data rules to define and manage a quality data resource that enables PASA to promote, facilitate and regulate exploration and sustainable development of oil and gas in South Africa in order to fulfil its mandate.
  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.
    I am currently serving in the interim committee of the newly formed DANR and I am excited at the prospect of contributing to the realisation of Data as a National Resource. An accurate exploration data asset inventory is the keystone for adequate data privacy, bullet-proof security, a sensible governance program and high-level analytical insights.
  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?

    Effective data management and data quality are no longer “nice-to-have” options because data is the infrastructure for the digital economy. “Fit-for-purpose data” is a foundation required for any organization to survive in this digital era, but to thrive we need data management to be a board-level priority.

    If I could be the CEO for a day, I would work with my leadership team to inculcate a data-driven culture that would be built on standards as the framework for trust and data literacy i.e. having the ability to understand, share common knowledge of and have meaningful conversations about data.

    According to Gartner, by 2023 data literacy will become essential in driving business value, and this is demonstrated by its formal inclusion in over 80% of data and analytics strategies and change management programs to harness new technologies and enable digital transformation.

Spotlight 2021

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.

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