When Trinidad acquired CanElson in August 2015, one of the big benefits was welcoming CanElson president and CEO, Randy Hawkings, to our team.
He’s our new Executive Vice-President, Canadian and Mexico Operations, and he brings lots of experience with him — in engineering, management, and many other areas of the drilling business.
He’s a lot of fun to talk to, and has lots of cool perspectives on the industry. Read on to learn about Hawkings’ philosophy on drilling, his history and why he’s so passionate about the drilling industry.
Hockey and Hawkings’ drilling philosophy: There’s no I in TEAM
Hawkings likes to use an example from the world of sports to describe his drilling philosophy.
A rig, he says, “is like a hockey team. If you have a really good power play, that doesn’t help you. You have to have a team that can play well when you’re at even strength.
“You still have to have a team that can play defensively when the power play’s against you. You need a team that can do everything, not just one thing, really well.
“You can have a superstar, but you still need a lot of good players to be consistent.”
Drilling into his bio
Born in Quebec, Hawkings moved with his family to British Columbia in 1972, and graduated from the University of British Columbia (UBC) a few years later with a mechanical engineering degree.
“I took a job in the oil patch because it was the highest paying. I’d like to tell you I had some honourable reason, but I didn’t. Out of the offers I received, it was the highest.”
He first worked for an oil company, then moved to the contracting side, and then went on to gain experience with an exploration firm. Eventually, he joined an engineering firm where he stayed for 14 years and ended up owning the company.
Moving on, in 2003 he joined a drilling company as Vice-president and Chief Operating Officer, and was there until 2006 when it was sold. After freelancing for a few months, and then working for a company in Midland, Texas, the idea for CanElson came up in 2008.
Hawkings has worked all over the globe and he’s come to appreciate the differences and what each new place has to offer.
Whether its poutine, cheeseburgers or tacos; everywhere has something good to offer
“The rig hands in Canada are pretty much the proverbial jacks-of-all-trades. They do a little bit of pipefitting, electrical, rig work, maintenance, cleaning,” said Hawkings.
Canadian know-how, as Hawkings describes it, is developed because of the sometimes-crazy conditions drillers face.
“It’s the combination of long nasty winters, challenging weather, extremely challenging road conditions, which vary from dusty to six feet of mud, to trying to freeze in ground that’s actually floating.
“Add to that high pipeline tariffs, the cost of labour, the cost of transportation because of the distances involved and the conditions of the roads, we’ve had to get efficient out of necessity, not necessarily being geniuses.”
When CanElson expanded into the U.S., they tried a different twist on their crews and their team. They wanted to give U.S. military veterans a new start and a chance to get back into the workforce.
“We focused on hiring veterans, ex-military guys, and we were very happy with the result. These guys are used to working in tough environments, some way tougher and riskier than our rigs.”
“All the values we had for making a successful crew were similar to what they did in the military. They are used to looking out for each other, working safely and working as a team. All important parts of working on a rig. They turned out to be pretty darn good rig hands.”
“My time in Mexico was also a great experience. I was really impressed with the work ethic of the crews in Mexico. We brought in some of the techniques we had learned in Canada, new ways of drilling they had not seen before.”
“We used drilling technology that we had developed to optimize down-hole drilling techniques and we brought rig designs that had a small footprint and were designed to ‘plug and play’. Our Mexican crews were open to new ideas and learned quickly.”
“The crews worked hard, even in tough working conditions. The heat and humidity might sound great for a vacationer but it can be really challenging to work in these conditions, especially outside on a rig.”
72 rigs and three languages
He and his partners built CanElson up to 52 rigs before merging with Trinidad. Today, Hawkings is responsible for Trinidad’s 72 Canadian rigs, eight rigs in Mexico and business development in Latin America.
Luckily, he’s pretty good with languages. Growing up in Quebec, he was fluently bilingual in French and English, “so learning Spanish was pretty easy. I’m mostly fluent in Spanish.”
It’s not work if you’re having fun
Confucius said: “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”
Well, that pretty much sums up Hawkings.
He says he has few hobbies and little time away from work. And that’s the way he likes it.
“I’ve been accused of being a workaholic. I take that as a compliment,” he said.
“It’s rewarding, and when you’re in the business I’m in, you’re always trying to think of what you’re going to do next and thinking of the company.”
Joining the Trinidad team made a lot of sense for me and for CanElson. We have combined two great teams to create a very well-rounded team with the right skills and experience; it has all the makings of a Stanley Cup winner!”
Our merger with CanElson (and Randy Hawkings joining our team as a result) was just one of 2015’s exciting milestones – you can learn about four more in this year-end recap infographic.