CPDA™ Spotlight

The CPDA™ Spotlight was created by the Energy Data Management Certification Committee (EDMCC) 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!


Alex Ross
Alex Ross is a data & information savvy geoscientist who closes the gap between the business and IT. Building on degrees in Geology & Sedimentology from London University, his early career saw him implementing geological workstations in Shell UK. This was followed by 19 years in Schlumberger Information Solutions in a variety of roles including geoscience software technical support, marketing, sales and operations management. For the past number of years Alex has provided specialist oil & gas data and information consultancy services to Santos, Beach Energy, Origin Energy, SA Department of Energy and Mines and SRA IT in the UK, USA and Australia. Branching out into the mining industry has revealed many similarities in geoscience data & information business needs. Based in Adelaide, his leisure time is spent cycling and researching the links between geology & wine.

Alex is a member and Certified Petroleum Data Analyst (CPDA™) of the PPDM Association, where he is also co-chair of the Energy Data Management Certification Committee, Alex works tirelessly to advance our professional discipline.






Q&A

  1. Tell us about your data management professional journey. What did you aspire to be when you started your career?
    I describe my career journey as a happy accident. After graduating from London University with a geology honours degree, I wanted to join Shell UK at a time when a PhD was required to be an oil company geologist. Fortunately, Shell was recruiting IT graduates and I was placed in the exploration department providing geotechnical data and applications support. From there I had an amazing time focussing on applications and data at Schlumberger for many years - working and living in some amazing parts of the world. The majority of my more recent career is as a consultant specialising in delivering improved data insights to energy and resource companies. It continues to be a lot of fun. I’m fortunate to really enjoy my job and work with some awesome people.
  2. Tell us why taking the CPDA™ exam became a priority.
    Short answer – Trudy ever so nicely twisted my arm at the 2015 PPDM Brisbane conference! CPDA™ had just started - I had a look at the benefits and it was clear it was a key differentiator in a competitive job market. I’m proud of being the first CPDA in Australia.
  3. What tangible and intangible benefits have you gained from being a CPDA™?
    Great satisfaction in helping others in their data career journey.

    Working with a great group of people at PPDM, in the broader CPDA™ community and on the CPDA™ committee.

    I’m delighted to say that shortly after achieving my CPDA™ I was successful in securing a new job – with the caveat that correlation isn’t always causation – but the optimist in me says it was!
  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.
    My passion for the benefits of CPDA™ continued as I was invited to be on the CPDA™ committee, and then became co-chair. It’s a wonderful way to network both internationally and within Australia. It’s not only what you know, it’s who you know! It also keeps me up to date with industry advancements.
  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 is an extremely valuable asset. Oil & gas companies are basically data companies who choose to explore for and produce hydrocarbons. The value of a company primarily comes from three factors.
    • Knowing the quality, completeness and timeliness of its data. It's never all going to be perfect but knowing allows a weighting to be applied to decisions made from it.
    • The applicability of the technology the company uses to analyse and make decisions on the data.
    • The skills and experience of the people who analyse the data.
    Data is much too often an underappreciated and underutilised asset. If stock markets allowed oil & gas companies to define data as an asset, budgets to leverage more value from it would dramatically increase.

    Improving data quality, completeness and timeliness is commonly “somebodies else’s problem” and that’s a challenge to overcome. For me this graphic sums it up.



    Oh yes and hire more CPDAs!

Spotlight 2022

XiaoNiu Zhang

Xiao is Principal Information Management Engineer in D&I, Schlumberger with over 20 years’ experience in data management domain. He has worked with many oil and gas clients, to implement data integration and migration projects for large datasets merging and consolidation from disparate sources to analytics, helping clients improve business performance and productivity, reduce risks with the advanced data management applications and technologies.



Q&A

  1. Tell us about your data management professional journey. What did you aspire to be when you started your career?
    I started my data management career as a technical support engineer in (SIS) Schlumberger Information Solution. I mainly focused on data quality management using Six Sigma and Lean process. In the last 15 years, I worked with various clients to help them implement the data quality management (data synchronization, data consolidation etc.) process to provide better quality data to business users more efficiently. As data management professional, my aspiration is to apply data management technologies and best practice to provide the users with trustable data and high-quality data, thus increasing their productivity and efficiency.
  2. Tell us why taking the CPDA exam became a priority.
    Honestly, CPDA seems to be the only well-known certification for data management professionals in Oil and Gas industry. I was excited to take the exam and become a CPDA, since I have worked in the data management for quite long time, and I need an objective measurement of my skills and knowledge on data management related subjects, also get recognized by the data management community.
  3. What tangible and intangible benefits have you gained from being a CPDA?
    Tangible benefit of course is the visibility. I added my CPDA certification to my profile inside my company, as well as in social media like LinkedIn. I feel really proud when talk to others about the CPDA certification. There are intangible benefits as well, such as professional networking with other CPDAs, motivation in keeping learning new skills and technologies, as well as volunteering in the community and giving back.
  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 in the PPDM association gives me the chance not only to contribute, but also to learn and discuss the technical challenges with other professionals with different background and from different companies. I really appreciate the volunteering opportunities, which not only benefit the community but also benefit myself.
  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?
    Promote data management as one of the fundamental functions and treat data as the most important company asset. And all business decision, company strategy need to be backed and support by high quality data enabled by data management services.

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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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