May 2, 2023

3: Russell Greco – Adult Relationships & Curious Problem-Solving

Russell Greco is the Vice President of Strategy and Planning at Battalion Oil Corporation. In his 10+ years in the oil and gas industry, he’s worked at EP, Halcon, and Battalion — donning a few titles including, reservoir engineer, manager of assets, and director of corporate reserves. Despite these titles and the workloads associated with them, Russell is arguably one of the happiest people I’ve ever met. He always sees the brighter side (unless we’re on the golf course, then well, everything’s fair game there) and knows how to bring out the best in people.  In this episode, we cover the growing importance of training current employees due to the reduction in hiring and new talent in the industry, how to tactically maintain relationships, and how the impacts of AI within oil and gas.

In this episode

[00:00:00] Opening clip 

[00:00:24] Introduction

[00:01:04] Russell’s background

[00:09:35] Russell’s optimistic view of life

[00:12:48] Building and maintaining relationships

[00:15:47] The tactical side to keep up with people: Google Keep and Google Calendar 

[00:21:11] Productivity and effectiveness and efficiency

[00:23:21] Life’s not a zero-sum game

[00:26:06] Middle managers are the least transparent

[00:28:14] Balancing success vs contentment vs happiness

[00:31:36] Work smarter, not harder

[00:34:01] The importance of defining your “good enough” at work

[00:35:16] What makes a “good day” at work

[00:37:20] Russell’s “perfect” Friday night

[00:38:48] Why is oil and gas still using paper folders for AFE?

[00:43:04] Slow adoption of the Cloud in oil and gas

[00:45:02] The lack of education on technology within Oil and gas

[00:48:00] Why training is more effective than hiring

[00:53:07] The benefits of ChatGPT for engineers

[00:58:05] The secret to happiness: Keep learning

[01:01:10]  Where to connect with Russell

Links & Resources

Russell Greco LinkedIn:

Matt’s Twitter: 

Matt’s LinkedIn: 

Matt’s book, Integrated Upstream Planning: 

Pod2 website: Pod2 YouTube:


Matt Harriman: Hey everyone, my name is Matt Harriman and this is episode number 3 of the Achieve and Enjoy podcast. Today I've got a really good friend of mine, Russell Greco, on — a lot of people can say that about Russ, he's a friendly kind of guy.

He’s done some really interesting stuff in his career. He's one of those guys that you'd probably describe as having a rocket ship strapped to his ass at some points with promotions, moving up quickly, and doing a bunch of interesting things. If you're up for starting there, Russ, I wouldn't mind just hearing your story and a little bit about why you were able to move into the roles that you did.

Russell Greco: I was actually reflecting on this recently. I can’t take full credit for it. You know what they always say, it's equal parts, timing, luck, and opportunity, right? I was a non-traditional petroleum engineer. I started my background in computer science due to my passion for computers and all things computer science related. When I got into college, I decided more tangible problems were more interesting than just staring at a screen typing code (which has its merits).  

I shifted around a bit and eventually ended up in petroleum —  the perfect mix of entrepreneurship and business, but still engineering and involved problem-solving. I've always loved business and thinking about how to make a buck.

I think that gave me a really interesting edge because when I got out of school, I didn't just approach things as an engineer or just as a traditional petroleum engineer working for an operator. I would approach anything by asking “What’s the problem?” And then I’d be able to think of 10 unorthodox ways to solve it. Or I’d add some of the skills I have that maybe the average person doesn’t. 

I started out in operations funny enough. Operations, in some ways, is the most mechanical and the most, I hate to say, antiquated, but there are definitely some practices that have been passed down 20, 30, 40 years. They’ve always done it this way. It didn’t mean much to mean because I wasn’t a 20-year drilling engineer, nor was my dad a drilling engineer. So, I’d chime in with, “I think you could actually solve it this way. Have you ever thought about this thing?”

I definitely think that did a lot for me in the first three to five years of my career,  where I was kind of making an impression. You always make first impressions. Whenever I met managers or vice presidents or CEOs, I think I usually left a mark on him to the effect of, “This guy thinks differently. At the very least, that's interesting. I'll put a tab in that and maybe it'll come back at some point.” 

Matt Harriman: Did you ever take it too far and upset people by questioning too much and bothering them? 

Russell Greco: I like to think that one of the things — for whatever reason — my lucky random number generator came up with is my brain. I’m pragmatic. One of the biggest critiques I always hear when I told them my skills or when I explained a problem to them, is, “Wait a minute, you're an engineer and you can talk like, what on earth? That's bizarre.”

I try to be pragmatic. Ideally, I don’t get too far out in the theoretical world. I definitely ruffled some feathers of some of the older engineers, that were either, I hate to say close-minded, but, certainly stuck in their ways or focused on one way of doing something. Or maybe it was one of those “who moved my cheese” kind of situations where they'd done it for 20, 30, 40 years and suddenly here I am saying, “I can do that in five minutes and it used to take you five hours.” 

This is really where I think a lot of the optimization, especially in the early to late 2000s started showing up. You had all of this software and tools that were coming into oil and gas at breakneck speed — even if they impacted other industries first. It was the perfect mix. 

I mention the luck part because of the Shale Revolution. When I came out of school, the world was on fire with: drill as many wells as you can, as fast as you can. This train of thought was totally different than a lot of people’s. Even a guy who’d been in the industry 40 years hadn’t done that. It leveled the playing field, which lent itself better to automation and strategic planning stuff because you’re not developing 10 offshore wells anymore, you’re now drilling 150 horizontal walls. They didn’t know how to deal with that, which put us in the same position.

Matt Harriman: That’s interesting. Jim Dubois, are you familiar with him? He and I talked earlier this week about how the shift toward unconventionals and shale made people worse at probability and statistics. It took on the factory mindset that a lot of people were sold and led them to forget about the risk. He had some interesting stuff there. Walk me through your career. What have you been doing since? What roles have you had in the last five years? 

Russell Greco: Cut my teeth in operations and then, in our world, at least in the operator world, very quickly the people that are the best at aggregating large amounts of data and managing projects or an asset, usually become asset managers. There are a few different terms for the role, but effectively you’re a manager of reservoirs or asset manager. 

By year four, that’s where I found myself. They were like, “This is the seat we want you in because you understand all of the pieces involved. Now you can look over the whole business and safeguard it.”

When in this role, you’re the keeper of the purse — the economics, the planning. You become the interface for corporate planning and the strategic side of the business for executives. One of my other tendencies has always been to learn. I’ve always loved learning. Not to be cliche, but as an elementary school kid, I was probably super annoying to people. I was always like, “Tell me more. I wanna learn about this.” I actually like reading books. 

Naturally, it led me to learn new things in finance, planning, strategic planning, and then my MBA. Effectively another means of cramming lots of information in your head in a short period of time on different subjects — acquired via a certificate, master’s, or reading a bunch of books. In the end, you’ll either get good at whatever it is you’re studying or you’ll find something you really like (or maybe both). As for me, I found myself doing more and more business development, which generally speaking can mean a lot of things to people. But to me, it means I value assets. I figure out where those assets land in terms of our current portfolio. Do we buy, do we sell, or do we develop? From there, you use all the tools that you have access to.

That’s really what I’ve been doing over the last couple of years. I'm currently at Battalion Oil Corporation, which used to be Halcon Resources —  another interesting experience because we came on as part of the turnaround team. Aka, we took them into their second bankruptcy. We made a lot of changes. The whole experience can be good or bad, depending on how you view it. No joke, it’s like we were firefighters running into burning buildings while everyone else was running out. 

Matt Harriman: To clarify, the bankruptcy was already foretold and you were hired to help take them through it?

Russell Greco: That's exactly right. We came in to turn around the organization. A theme I like to state is collaboration, trying to grow others around you. We weren’t trying to hack them at the stem. We didn’t go in and fire everyone. There were a lot of good technical people there, they just needed a vision. They needed to refinance a lot of stuff. They needed a lot of things to happen. 

It’s been an interesting ride. I’m still with Battalion. I think every smaller E&P company, even mid-sized E&P has had a very interesting ride these last couple of years, which could make its own podcast with COVID and the bank crisis. There are all kinds of things that people are having to navigate that make finances more complicated. 

Matt Harriman: Entering into a company that's on its way into bankruptcy is something. We've known each other for 10 years or so and unless we're on a golf course, you're always happy and upbeat, with an optimistic view of things. Where did you get that from? 

Russell Greco: I know, it's funny. I hate to say it's genetic because I guess even as a child — probably to the point of being obnoxious — I was always quite energetic and happy. I think a lot of that probably goes back to my mentality around seeing solutions and problem-solving.

I've always thought about how do I make this better or how do I make this easier? Maybe as a kid, it was more, how do I do the least amount of work and get the most amount of effort? As an adult, it's kind of the same, but maybe there are a few more restrictions that you put on yourself.

[00:10:48] I think that mentality tends to paint a brighter picture of the world. Meaning if you're looking at tools and solutions all the time, you're seeing what's possible. I think that tends to make you just a more positive person, as opposed to someone who’s saying, “All I'm seeing around me, is suffering and destruction” — which is easy to see. 

Especially in the last couple of years, it's been really complicated for people. I'm sure there's a mental aspect of it, which is just trying to process stuff — to think about what you're doing. 

I love to say, “Begin with the end in mind.” One of those phrases that stuck with me over the years. I think when you try to process stuff through that lens and you try to think of it as a problem-solving thing, you tend to be more on the positive side. I don't know if that means you can turn someone who's more negative, positive, or not, but it certainly lends itself to that.

Matt Harriman: You're almost always thinking about progress and how to make it better? Your focus is more on how it could be better, as opposed to what's wrong. 

Russell Greco: Exactly. We all go through negative periods of our life — work or life — where we can’t always be positive all of the time. Everyone’s gonna mourn and go through whatever negative thoughts they have. 

The question is, when that all settles, what are you gonna dwell on? What are you gonna try to do with that? You can't change what already happened, but can you learn from it? Hopefully. And then do you continue to see the world as a constructive, positive place? For the majority of the last 50 to 60 years, civilization has allowed us to do that. There have been a few times lately where I think, “Man, we’ve gone a little too far.” But most times, I think keeping that lens allows you to see things constructively. 

Matt Harriman: How do you feel your approach and mindset on other people is different? I'll add some context to that. You’ve got more friends than anybody I've ever met. Not just mutuals on Instagram or something, but people that you genuinely care about and care about you. Real friends. You talked about at your wedding how important your friend group is to you. How do you see that? How is your mindset and approach to other people unique or different within work or outside of it?

Russell Greco: It's tricky to say different because I'd like to think most people are doing these things too. For me, I don’t know how everybody views relationships, but as long as I can remember — maybe it was even the way my parents just emphasized it coming from a big family of two blood siblings and many step-siblings — my parents’ preaching harmony, friendliness, constructiveness, and being approachable.

If you’re kind and approachable, some of it naturally happens. I’m a very analytical person, but I do try to also think about soft skills. Is the other person introverted or extroverted? Will that answer change how I approach them? Being approachable to different people means different things. So I try to think about stuff like that with any communication I have, whether it's someone in passing on the street or whether it's someone at a networking event.

I guess I've tried to always think about things that way. Time is finite. Energy is finite. I feel like I probably have more energy than the average person. 

Matt Harriman: You have a lot more than me, that's for sure.

Russell Greco: I don't know, Matt, you pushed that bat too, in a good way. 

So I've got a lot of energy, how do I use it? Let's try to be efficient with it. Let's really work on the relationships that I’m getting something back from (energy-wise, not monetarily). It’s always about that — the balancing of a relationship. As you go along, you’ll start to figure out which relationships are strong, with a mutual connection, and require a conscious presence to keep them up. Doesn’t mean every day or every second. Especially in today’s world where everybody’s so interconnected. Once a month. Once a quarter. Think about somebody and send them a note or a text. 

It’s a simple, “Hey, how are you doing? I'm thinking of you.” Or “Hey, we should go grab a drink.” 

Matt Harriman: How do you tactically do that? Do you have any kind of a system set up? Do you use reminders? Especially since you've become a father, time just goes away even faster. 

Russell Greco: In terms of the nitty gritty, I actually keep a list on Google Keep with a revolving, when’s the last time you talked to this person? I don’t keep it to the day. Moreso, I haven’t talked to them in a long time, let me reach out. I get a notification for the list every morning at 8 AM. It’s very quick, but it’s more of a here are some things and people you may want to think about. One benefit of today's society is that there are so many tools available to check on somebody, both indirectly and directly. 

Also, I know it sounds silly, but I keep a very detailed birthday calendar. At the very least, I’ll think about someone once a year and can then decide if I want to message them or not. 

Matt Harriman: What would you say to somebody that might feel like that's insane? To have a spreadsheet of your friends with birthdates and all of that stuff. What would you say to somebody who thinks that just sounds wild or narcissistic or overly calculated?

Russell Greco: I think it’s unrealistic in today's world to have that viewpoint. We have too much going on. To me, having a spreadsheet with dates and information is almost the equivalent of being thoughtful. Maybe back in the day, you would've pinned a letter, licked the tab, and sent it to them, but not now. All you’re doing is putting energy into trying to organize your thoughts about them and what they mean to you. 

Matt Harriman: I have a list just like that. I'm not as good with birthdays, but I do remember yours (we have the same one), but generally, I’m not great at remembering that stuff. My list isn’t kept to the day but typically has information for when we last spoke. 

Funny enough, the person I heard this idea from first was Wayne Sim, the old CEO of Aucerna. He was a mentor of mine for a little while and he had this vision of combining all of those companies to turn it into Aucerna. So I asked him how he made it happen. How did he run his life? How did he do all this stuff? Basically, he has a spreadsheet with long-term goals, short-term stuff, and a big list of people. He wakes up every morning and reaches out to 10 people. He just keeps relationships going. It keeps him alive. He’s worth a kajillion dollars and credits that habit for a lot of his success.

Russell Greco: You could apply it to personal or business. The personal one has different emotions attached to it, but the concepts are the same for both. I’ve tried to keep in touch with my business connections. I have a separate list of the same nature for friends I would consider colleagues or work friends who are now scattered across the industry. The same thing goes for that: I haven’t talked to so and so from Murphy, let me reach out to them. Sometimes they’ll do it too, which is nice. It’s a win-win. 

And the parenting part. I hear you, that one's harder. I think that's where you recognize that time’s finite and understand being organized is in your best interest.

Matt Harriman: When we had our first daughter, it sent me into the search for productivity, effectiveness, and efficiency. Half of the business we run now is predicated on those things. 

The other part of that for me is that I just have a bad memory. I don't keep track of data in my head very well. I was always bad at history in school and so I’ve started to keep notes when people tell me about their kids and stuff. Do you do anything like that?

Russell Greco: I do. I think I probably have it a little better on the memory side, but don’t like to just keep things in my head. I like to be able to reference a note — whether it’s for work or the household. 

I’m prioritizing what information should be stored in my brain. Too much information. That’s everyone’s problem these days.

Matt Harriman: I’ve never thought about intentionally attempting to be approachable. The way I've always thought about is to be human, especially when we go in and work with bigger corporations, where people tend to put on masks and facades to protect themselves. There are just so many layers to corporate-ness on top of people, that I get, has its reasons and functions. Do you find that work also?

Russell Greco: I do. It probably depends on the size of the organization or the culture. That's an underlying thing in all of this, company culture. I think that it's very easy to detach from a lot of emotion and say, “I’m just doing a job. I don't necessarily care about these people or I care about them, but only on a very basic level.” 

I've just never been one to do that. My father and my uncles were all paramedics and firefighters. To them, a coworker was a brother or sister — you worked with them, but at any moment might have to entrust your life to them. Obviously, corporate planning is not quite as staunch as that, but I do think that that mentality was kind of pushed on me. I want my peers to be successful, personally and professionally. I want my coworkers to be successful. I don't view it as a zero-sum game.

Part of me is trying to push a culture of approachability, feedback, and kindness. Doesn’t mean you have to be nice all the time. There are times when you have to be tough and argue and be constructive (but not right). You have to have tough conversations in both business and family. I prefer cultures like that. 

You can ride the wave or you can steer it. Maybe that’s why I tend to work at slightly smaller companies. El Paso was fairly large and I enjoyed the culture, it was a great place to start. Since working there, I have steered myself toward smaller organizations (I’m not opposed to one day working at a bigger one day). I think the important distinction is to be thoughtful with your actions and how you present yourself to others. All of these things go hand in hand. You have to live by the creed the whole time or it’s fake — it’s like the mask you were talking about. 

Matt Harriman: In my experience, the higher up in an organization you go, the more transparent and honest people are. It’s odd. I think it’s because middle managers and lower-level managers are the most scared — they have the least power, but the most responsibility. The people at the top are open and honest. They don’t have time to beat around the bush. The exception is when you get an executive team with a guarded, secretive relationship. In that case, the company is fucked. 

Russell Greco: I've seen both sides and would agree with that observation. It’s almost like a bell curve. I'd like to think that the people that are probably successful or in the upper echelon, but maybe not quite at the top, are some of the most transparent. Maybe that’s why they got there?

I don't know if it's self completely self-fulfilling, but it could be because they can balance it all. After that, it's tricky. If you get to the upper tier, you're hopefully either really good at what you do (full package) or you’re part of the package. I can see an organization succeeding in the short term with guarded leadership, but can’t see them being sustainable in the long term. I’m not saying it can’t be done — I’ve seen a lot of fractures — but when it gets to that point, leaders at the top need to quickly identify the people that can help patch those cracks fast. 

Matt Harriman: How do you think about striving for whatever you define as success and contentment? I find that it’s tough for a lot of people to balance: more impact, more money, promotions, and happiness. In terms of your career, how do you think about success vs contentment and happiness?

Russell Greco: It’s probably evolved as I’ve aged and I’ve progressed through my career and life. Priorities have shifted around quite a bit. When you’re in your twenties and don’t have kids, and might not even be married, you have a different outlook on the world. My point is, it moves as you age and is a combination of things. 

When I first started my career, I was excited just to contribute. As I moved along, I came to the realization that I knew more than I thought. And you pay attention to the people you’ve been standing in the shadows of within an organization or industry, and you start to ask yourself, “What do I need to get to so and so’s level?” 

Some of it depends on your view of mentorship. I was always trying to engage with executives and those at the upper level — didn’t have to be the CEO, VP of something will do. I wanted to understand how they were successful at what they did. What could I learn from them? How could they help me with my path?

Sometimes, after learning about someone, I’d figure out I didn’t want to be them. I didn’t want their role. I didn’t want to do business the way he did. Those insights are just as important. Success is complicated. 

Matt Harriman: I learned more from what I would call my “anti-mentors” — people I’d met and worked with, who I did not want to be like — than my actual ones. As you're finding your way, it's easier to find the thing that you don't want and run away from it. But to really sort things out, you have to figure out what you’re running toward. I’ve felt that with the business (Pod2) and other things. 

Russell Greco: Sounds cliche, but the pandemic changed the lens for a lot of people, myself included. You and I both talk a lot about efficiency, it’s woven into who we are. I want to do the best job I can, but I also want do it in the most efficient way possible. A lot of people say, “I'm gonna work harder than anybody else.” There's nothing wrong with it, but my addendum to that has always been, “I'm gonna work smarter than everybody else.” 

Back in the day, during high school, I worked in construction. There were a bunch of 18-year-olds (myself included) working with these old dudes who’d done construction for 20 - 30 years. When working, I tried to always be tactical with how I did the job. At the end of the summer, they asked me and one other guy to come work on some extra projects (there were 10 of us). 

The reason? They said we weren’t lazy. We worked hard, but we also worked smart. When given a task, we’d think about it for a minute and then act. We didn’t just start slinging hammers. We’d think, “How could this be better?”

I always think of that story when I think about success. I want to work well to achieve whatever goals we’re trying to achieve (usually includes some amount of monetary happiness). Title doesn’t matter as much to me, but on some level, titles are how the world views you externally. There’s likely some amount of success wrapped up in that. However, at the end of the day, it’s about, do you have enough time to take a breath, spend time with your family, travel, or do whatever else makes you happy. On top of that, is your work mission aligned? Ideally, that’s where you should intersect those things. 

It becomes, “Okay, I need to put not the least amount of work in, but the right amount of work considering the efficiency and things I have access to.” My view of success now is, how can I achieve that (statement above) while doing the optimal amount of work.

Matt Harriman: Sounds like an attempt at balance. I hate the term work-life balance for a lot of reasons, but I think what you're saying is there's, you have a definition of good enough at work. You want to get to that hurdle as efficiently and effectively as possible so that you can spend time and energy on other things.

Russell Greco: Exactly. In order to achieve that, you're going to have to do a bunch of really good things. In other words, you're going to have to be current with your knowledge. You're going to have to understand how to use the tools around you in the best way possible — those are not mutually exclusive. They are the opposite. 

If I’m sucking wind at work and barely hitting my goal, then either something's wrong with my structure, or I'm not using the tools I have or don’t have, appropriately. I really should be able to do that. I think that's where the Pandemic made it even more apparent for a lot of people (myself included). I can be more places and get a lot of work done, but other people can't. They're not very good at it. They either need to adapt and get better at it or we have a problem. There’s a mismatch.

Matt Harriman: What needs to happen during a day for you to look back and say, “That was a good day.” 

Russell Greco: I had one of those days this week. It can come in a couple of different ways. For me personally, it can often be learning something new or applying something new and achieving some level of success with it. In that situation, it means I’ve grown both personally and professionally, in addition to furthering the business in some direction. 

An example would be if I showed my CEO how to do something in five clicks, that he used to ask 10 people about. I don’t have a problem teaching a man to fish. I think some people are scared of it due to the loss of job security, but it doesn’t bother me. If people can help themselves, great. I also think that creating a vision for what you’re building long-term and the direction you’re going in is fulfilling. And any days where you do something to progress yourself along that is successful.

Matt Harriman: It sounds like progress, not just taking another step forward, but also becoming more capable by learning or enabling somebody else to be more capable by teaching.

Russell Greco: Absolutely. Otherwise, what are we doing? Send me home. I can do a lot of stuff at home with my family or I can go play golf.  

Matt Harriman: What if we expand that question to not just work? Let's say you're perfect, Friday night. What would have to happen today for you to lay in bed and be like, “Eh, it's a pretty good day.”

Russell Greco: I'm not the veggie kind of person. I'm not gonna sit on the couch and do nothing ( probably shocking to you). I'm a big advocate of doing interesting things like watching something on YouTube for brain fuel, doing a puzzle with my daughter, cooking something new, or reading about the bank crisis. 

Matt Harriman: Makes sense. I wanna go back to something you said earlier about, being effective and working smarter. When I had my first “real job,” I had a boss bring me into his office and hand me a map. It was a map of the business unit that we were working in. He said “I wanna know how many PDPs and how many pods are on this map. Take this back to your office and count the wells.”

For people that aren't oily, PDPs and pods are two different categories of oil wells. Looking at the map, there had to be, close to like a thousand wells in total.

I went back to my office and thought, somebody in this company made this map on the computer. They have to have these numbers. I found their number, called them, and they told me what I needed to know. It was done. 

That’s an extreme example, but it ties back to technology and data use in oil and gas. Downhole, we can drill three-mile wells, two miles down within a 10-foot landing zone. Stuff’s insane. But in the back office, we're still using paper folders for AFE approvals and Excel sheets for data. I talked to my friend the other day, who works in a proper tech company, that everyone in oil and gas uses Outlook, and they laughed. 

What have you seen change and mature, if anything, from a technology perspective, in the industry over your career? What do you wanna see change? 

Russell Greco: This is one of my biggest marches. In the last 10 years, I've certainly seen a lot of things change, which is good, but it’s been a lot slower than I would’ve liked to have seen. I've always been an early adopter and a pusher. You and I met when we were implementing Intersite — which blew my mind at the time that it didn’t already exist. Sure, you can make a really big complicated Excel model, but why? There are software engines that can create this. This is not new.

I’ve seen slow adoption of instant messenger — slack and Teams. I've seen also slow adoptions of communication. I still have a Cisco phone in my office that’s probably 15 years old. It drives me crazy. I've argued with my executives about needing it at a time when we have digital switchboards and cell phones. It would literally save the company a bunch of money. They always come back with, “I like having a phone in my office.” Okay, fine. 

One day, when it’s my decision, we’ll go a different way. I’ve seen planning software come a long way. I’m doing the “what I’ve seen change” vs the “what I’d like to see change.” 

There’s been a lot more in the space of trying to digitize the oil field (a bit scary). While the world can get caught up in a lot of things, it seems like everybody is trying to do what you were talking about: stop using paper. We’re talking structured data formats and data warehouses — tons of progress over the last 10 years. May be a bit overkill in some instances, especially bigger ones like Exxon, that have these huge data repositories. But, they’ve got lots of data, so they’re gonna try and pull it together to structure the data. 

I’ve also seen some cloud adoption, but adoption is slow. It seems obvious to me to invest here and build applications using it, but it scares people. 

Matt Harriman: I can't remember what year it was, but it was surprising to a lot of people that Conoco was one of the first big companies to move to Office 365. Just to think, 7 or 8 years ago, Microsoft and the cloud were very controversial! 

Russell Greco: Now we're swapping war stories. Halcon had traditional Microsoft Office and it was very, very expensive. Talk about a big bill from a Microsoft account manager. It was one of the first things I was like, just cut it out. I still struggle with getting people to understand the concept of the cloud. It sounds so abstract, but it’s really not. The simple version of it is, I’m going to share this file with you and it’s going to be available for multiple users to access and edit. It’s not that scary. We can control access. 

Outlook just rolled out a feature where you can have a live graphic in an email, and have normal email traffic — the object will update live, without having to continuously send. Doesn’t matter what email you look at, you’ll always be able to reference that object. Effectively, it’s the cloud. 

Matt Harriman: A live attachment. 

Russell Greco: That’s a much more eloquent way to put it. I’ve told people that this update was exciting, we should try it. I’m immediately met with skepticism. 

Matt Harriman: Reminds me of that senator yesterday who asked the TikTok CEO if TikTok accesses the wifi. The CEO was like, surely I'm not understanding the question. 

It’s a real thing though. The education around how these things can work — I don't claim to know how the internet works beyond, it's just a set of tubes — but it’s tough, even for people our age. A lot don’t understand how computers work and operate. 

Russell Greco: I don't wanna sound ageist, because I do know some younger people that don't understand a lot of things and don't seem that interested. Regardless of your age, I think a lot of people are scared or don’t know what to do with the technology we have access to. 

I've watched our capacity, grow a lot with tools. The problem is that a lot of management comes from an old-school background. They think, “Oh, I can run a thousand scenarios now, so that’s what I’ll do.” You need to be thoughtful with the power you willed. I think your comment about risk earlier is another one that I see a lot. The term “risk” is almost meaningless to me now. It used to mean something more when we had, the at-risk school of thought — they still one hundred percent exist. I disagree.

And then training and young talent is another thing I’ve unfortunately seen go the wrong way in the last 10 years. I think that training has been cut and just suffocated by most organizations. I'm sure a company like Oxy, still has a very healthy training budget, but if you work in any kind of smaller-ish company, everything has been so crimped, from liquidity and access to capital markets. The first budget that gets cut is hiring new people, interns, and training. We don’t even talk about going to campuses anymore — a big part of the first 10 years of my career. We would have interns in the office all the time, even if we didn’t hire them. Our goal was to support college programs and help influence young engineers on how to join the industry. 

As for training, it’s not just the training of young people. It’s training in general. If you don’t understand what ChatGPT is, go learn. I don’t know if we need to make it more structured, but it’s a real thing. Maybe that’s where people can take charge? Maybe there’s a thought leader in every organization who can lead a town hall or a fireside chat or whatever term you want to use for it, to talk through things like that. 

Matt Harriman: I think there are a couple of facets to the training conversation. One is, I agree, it’s a nice-to-have for a lot of people, so it gets cut when budgets are made. On the flip side, I would argue that a lot of the training that is offered is bad and ineffective, especially leadership training. If you were to design a training program that would not change behavior, I would design exactly what most companies do. Which is, take people out of their day job for three straight days, dump information at them, and then don't follow up at all. 

But it doesn't even matter if leaders don't prioritize developing people. Right now, a lot of people are scared of hiring because they're afraid of a recession. They don't wanna grow a headcount because they're afraid they'll have to make layoffs down the line. Training is exactly the way to get more out of your people. Not just process improvements. Think, if you can make a person 5 or 8% more effective, or more capable, that's how you get more out of the same number of people. When it’s phrased that way, people realize 10% more from people looks better than hiring. 

Russell Greco: I completely agree. I think it’s shifting into the latter part. I follow the petroleum engineering graduates in the nation and the number has dropped significantly in the last 5 years. Not shockingly in some ways, but that's also a testament to our commitment to hiring people and trying to keep young talent in. I've seen less young talent in general, on all fronts. Again, maybe that’s a testament to our lack of engagement or how we're viewed in the world or training in general. In the next 10 years, I want to figure out how to get young people engaged in oil and gas-related spaces. Or, if we don’t do that, we've got to figure out how to train people and get more out of them.

To me, the lowest hanging fruit is to utilize software, AI, or current data analytics tools. If the industry was a little more dedicated to it, we could get more out. Same for planning. Sure, your process works, but you could get more out of it. It’s like if you’re not going to buy a new car, you’ve got to service your current car. You have to make sure it’s running well. It’s a choice. To take your car to 250,000 miles, you have to take care of it or it will break down.

Matt Harriman: It has been cool to see some of the smaller shops be able to do a lot more than they used to be able to. Now, someone with a team of 10 can run a couple of rigs — pretty impressive. This setup would have taken 5x as many people to do with the old ways. It’ll be interesting to see if and when bigger companies get closer to that kind of model and really embrace it. I think everybody chips away and tries to improve things, but the force of the status quo and protecting what's already happening and all of that is very strong.

Russell Greco: I've witnessed that firsthand. Both in terms of organizational change — I've worked in smaller organizations where we were capable of a lot —  to organizations that were going bankrupt and needed to have stuff cleaned up. 

You have to figure out what skeletons they have in the closet and what you’re going to do about it. 

I’m very impressed with the latest AI tools. I’m personally using them in my day job. There’s a lot to be desired, but talk about a tool you can marry with upstream planning or general processes. I think it’s going to make someone very effective — I’ve already encountered it. But people are so scared of it. We have to change the mentality towards it. We not going to get many more young people, so we have to do more with what we’ve got. 

Matt Harriman: The whole AI and ML usage as buzzwords has made me wanna puke for the last 5-8 years, especially in oil and gas.

Anybody that had a scheduling algorithm said they had AI. It was brutal. I’m not one to hop on trends or get excited about new things, but the stuff that's coming out now is very interesting. We’re on the cusp of something. I’m not sold on ChatGPT yet, because I’ve seen the founders and people who are creating content using it and it’s obvious. The images and image generation stuff is crazy. It’s getting better fast. 

Anything else on your mind on that topic, oil and gas, upstream, or data tech? 

Russell Greco: For oil and gas in general, I think there are a lot of bad practices. A lot has been weeded out over the last 10 years, but there’s still a lot. Hopefully, we’ll continue to break it down even more. What I mean is, there are a lot of egos. People still make decisions off questionable data or gut feelings. I’m not saying you can make a decision 100% off of data. Analysis paralysis is a very real thing — I’ve seen people churn through as many scenarios as they want and they can't make a decision because they don't know what to believe. You’ve got to check it on both ends. 

Other than that, right now I’m encouraged by some of the recent tools I’ve seen and even used personally. I think it can revolutionize a lot. 

Matt Harriman: I think it comes back to a mindset shift. A lot of people feel threatened. It’s scary and new. The question becomes, how do we get those to work together (the human component and the technology)? The same way that people thought that books were destroying people's minds because they couldn't just do stuff back 100 or 200 years ago. 

What I’d like to see happen is technology being used appropriately, in a way that enables humans to do the stuff that they're really good at — centered on creativity and problem-solving. Not soul-sucking data entry stuff. A long time ago, the idea was that technological advances would allow us to work less and focus on the stuff we actually wanna do. So far though, we haven’t let them do that. We’ve filled up the time with stuff. 

Russell Greco: I’ll give you a quick, tangible example that would be near and dear to most engineers' hearts. ChatGPT is a really interesting tool. As a classic engineer, you’re intimately familiar with Microsoft Excel. You love to make spreadsheets. Let's say you encounter an issue where you need to build a spreadsheet to do some financial modeling. Traditionally you'd have to Google something and you'd spend 30 minutes to an hour digging through forums, maybe looking for similar problems or examples. 

But you could also ask these language models (ChatGPT), “Hey, I have this problem, could you recommend a solution?” It will then generate a code snippet effectively. This applies to programming too. It will generate a code snippet and you can even provide it with the spreadsheets and it will do things for you. I love sharing that with people to hopefully get them excited. Why not take that thing that takes you four hours, and turn it into an hour or less problem? Immediate gains. People need to realize you can harness some of this stuff really easily. 

Matt Harriman: For sure, awesome. One last question for you, for anybody that's listening and wants to achieve whatever their definition of success is (work or elsewhere), but also be happy and content, what advice would you give? 

Russell Greco: It sounds a little cliche, but I think that you have to keep learning. Keep learning about your industry. Keep learning about your area of expertise. Don’t restrict yourself. It’s so easy to get to a point in your career where you feel like you’re coasting. Or even if you're still working hard, you might not be growing by trying new things and inserting yourself into situations that’ll propel you farther. 

Push yourself to learn new skills and meet new people. It’s amazing how many people don’t do that. They get stiff. You’ve got to stay a doer. Doesn’t matter if you’re an entry-level person or a manager or an executive, you’ve got to stay a doer. You have to keep doing things well. There’s no doubt wisdom is gained as you age, it’ll happen regardless — you’re getting dragged down the river either way. 

Keep learning new concepts. Have an open mind. If you keep doing all of that and you’re going to be more successful and complete, personally and professionally than those who don’t. 

Matt Harriman: Never stop adding wrinkles to your brain. If you don't wanna do things, just become a venture capitalist and you can tell other people what to do. I've heard that you lock in your music tastes when you're 16, and dads lock in their fashion when they’re 35. After that point, it never changes. I think never changing is okay for music and fashion, but not for your thoughts on life. 

Thanks for doing this. It’s been great to talk to you. We need to do this more. If anybody wants to connect with you, what’s the best way for them to do it?

Russell Greco: LinkedIn works. I actually use it. I don’t post a lot, not because I’m not listening, but I currently don’t feel the need to broadcast my thoughts to people. Maybe I will one day. 

Matt Harriman: Cool. Thanks, man. This was fun. 

Russell Greco: Matt, really appreciated it.
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