We caught up with Associate R&D Tax Consultant, Vicky Carathanassis, to discuss her time working in the oil and gas industry in Canada before coming to work for Ayming UK in our London office.
How did you get started in Oil & Gas?
I completed my mechanical engineering degree in Calgary, Canada which is a major hub for oil and gas in North America along with Houston and Denver. All the major oil and gas companies have headquarters in Calgary where they try to develop people and entice them into the industry at a young age. When you live in Calgary oil and gas chooses you, and everyone becomes involved in the industry in some way. For me everything seemed to fall into place. I really enjoyed the technical side of my degree and so it made sense for me to apply and develop my knowledge within a sector that was so easily accessible, as well as being one of the biggest oil and gas stations.
After graduating, I seized the opportunity and kick-started my career as a Production Engineer for deep sour gas wells. There I was involved in developing and implementing well and compression optimisation strategies. For example, designing a technique that recovers gas and oil from shale rock easily and efficiently. This is done through a process known as fracking, which allows companies to explore the different extraction methods through drilling into rock layers. Research into this technique can also be applied through the process of acidizing, which involves pumping acids that dissolve the rock, creating channels for oil and natural gas to pass through.
As you can tell, it was all very technical and as much as I loved this side of business, I was always drawn to the commercial aspects of why and how we make money from the methods that we were developing. In order to gain an all rounded perspective of the process, I decided to take on a role supporting the Commercial Business Development Team in creating a liquefied natural gas (LNG) strategy, in getting Suncor’s Shale Gas Asset to market and shipped across Europe.
After learning how gas came to be transported and sold overseas, I started work on the trade floor where I became involved in the real time buying and selling of physical barrels and hedging of commodities. I worked on the first inter-continental shipment of heavy crude oil by creating a transportation model to identify potential arbitrage opportunities and analysing crude oil logistics.
Working through these sectors has given me an insight into the variety within the industry and my different job roles brought everything into context. It allowed me to experience every step of the process from where the drop of oil was to where it was going to end up.
What did the industry teach you about R&D?
Working in such a highly competitive global market the margins for profit are always closing in. It pushes the industry to consistently evolve. You need to find ways to do things better, quicker, cheaper. The evolution of shale gas, fracking and other production technologies are pushing the industry to literally new depths. Without research and development, we would be struggling to maintain the same and increased global production that we are seeing now, as new ways to do things effectively and efficiently is critical to competing and staying on top within the market.
What was it like to be a woman working in such a male dominated industry?
I chose a heavily male dominated degree and graduated as one of only 5 women in a class of 100. In fact, for most of my career I worked predominately with men and was one of very few women. I think because of the fact the oil and gas industry has always been rather male dominated, men tend to be at a more senior level with regards to management. The industry is becoming more open to having female leaders, albeit slowly, and I feel that the more women are encouraged to work in oil and gas, the more we’ll see an equal gender balance, and the more we’ll start to see women in more senior positions.
The world of R&D incentives however has more of an even split, especially at Ayming there is a nice divide between men and women across all levels, where the opportunity to progress is equally available to everyone. [At Ayming there is a 56/44 gender split in favour of women]
What made you want to work in R&D?
I’ve worked across every sector in oil & gas and I was keen to apply my experience somewhere else as well as expand my own knowledge. R&D was the perfect opportunity to do this because I am able to work on oil & gas related projects, but I am not limited just to this sector. I am exposed to every possible industry out there – food, construction, aerospace, manufacturing, automotive – to name but a few. The industry is ever changing, and you are at the forefront of innovation. Who doesn’t want to know what the smartest professionals in their fields are working on – you’re learning what the next best thing is before other people know!
Why did you choose Ayming?
Ayming has a great global presence, being Greek/Canadian and living in the UK, I like the idea of our ‘Move with us’ scheme and the possibility that if I ever wanted to go and do the same work in a different country but with the same company then I can.
Since joining Ayming, my colleagues have really helped me to develop my knowledge of the wider industry. When I started, I didn’t even know the definition of R&D for tax purposes, but now I work with multiple clients at a time across a wide range of technical projects. I’m extremely grateful to have had a lot of support and faith put in me from the very beginning which has allowed me to excel in my career at Ayming. My managers have given me responsibility and the encouragement needed to apply the skills I gained in my career, lead my own projects, mentor new staff and help to develop the team.
Aside from the actual work, I’ve set up spin and yoga classes for the team as part of Ayming’s health and well-being scheme. A sweaty, but fun experience and a nice way for me to get the team involved in my activities outside of work.
What does the future hold for the oil & gas industry?
The industry is constantly evolving. We’re finding better ways to get oil & gas out of deeper and deeper locations. Technology will keep advancing and I think most obviously there will be a shift towards renewable energies and ways of making renewables more cost effective. There is already a trend to greener solutions, such as carbon capture and reducing carbon emissions. I’d say that there is a very positive future for the industry!
Ayming’s success is powered by our people – through their expertise, knowledge and experience. Having industry specialists like Vicky on board, from a wide range of backgrounds, helps to create versatile and dynamic teams. Our people support each other by sharing knowledge and ideas, which ultimately allows us to provide a better service to our clients.