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!


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.

Spotlight 2022

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.

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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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