As a young student, Vilgeir Dalen envisaged building bridges. But the oil adventure of the 1970s attracted him into petroleum technology, and there he has stayed.
The 59-year-old senior adviser in reservoir technology leans well back in his chair with his hands behind his head, and reflects on his career and various management jobs in Statoil.
His corner office on the fourth floor of the Forushagen building outside Stavanger offers him a view over various other aspects of the group’s operations in the Norwegian oil capital.
“I’m glad to have had the opportunity to follow both the professional and line management pipelines, because it’s given me both breadth and depth,” he says.
“I’ve undoubtedly enjoyed the specialist jobs best, but line management has given me good experience which benefits me in my professional roles.”
A researcher and research manager before joining Statoil, Dalen feels that swapping between leadership and professional posts is both healthy and educational.
He points out that a line manager has the opportunity to work through others and to allocate people and resources to the various jobs to be done.
“You create results through your subordinates. I learnt that in part when I was head of reservoir technology in the Statfjord organisation.
“A professional leader works more in-depth with their discipline and with specialist issues, but also collaborates with others through projects and networks.”
During his 26 years with the group, Dalen has largely worked on specialist issues related to reservoir technology. Much of his time recently has been devoted to applying advanced well solutions, and he is now working on reservoir challenges in such areas as the Gulf of Mexico.
“New technical challenges, tools and methods are constantly emerging,” Dalen notes. “That’s what makes the subject so interesting. Oil and gas reservoirs present wide variations.”
His eyes gleam behind his glasses when he talks about reservoir technology. Even after almost 40 years with this discipline, he remains deeply interested.
He reports that he has usually been encouraged to apply for the job on those occasions when he has moved on, and has usually spent four-six years in each post.
“Changing jobs hasn’t actually posed any problems, but I’m pretty self-driven and usually find a number of acquaintances in the new place.
“Follow-up has been good, and I’ve found that Statoil has become more systematic and orderly where career development is concerned.”
Dalen points out that Statoil’s two career pipelines make it possible for specialists also to secure recognition and senior positions.
“This model lets you have great influence while still working on technically and professionally demanding issues. I’ve been able to realise myself, and have had many opportunities to get to grips with exciting new challenges.”
He casts a quick look out of the window before shifting position in his chair. Now at the top of the professional pipeline, he has no plans to change job.
“I’ve nothing to complain about, and can work on what I enjoy. So this is where I’ll probably be staying.”