Ali M. Alismail
Drilling Engineer, Gas Drilling Engineering Department

Since my school days, I’ve been captivated by the world of mathematics and its numerous applications in our daily lives. This profound interest steered me towards a major in engineering, as it offers both the essence of mathematics and its practical applications. During my undergraduate years at The University of Texas at Austin, while studying petroleum engineering, I noticed a significant buzz around data science and artificial intelligence. Although not directly related to my field of study, I decided to enroll in a few courses in anticipation of their math-heavy nature.

One particular course that stood out was Applied Statistics. Delving into statistical techniques for testing hypotheses and modeling real-life problems, I was astounded by the vast applicability of the knowledge gained. Whether in engineering, medicine, or the social sciences, the principles learned were universally relevant. This realization marked the beginning of my continuous exploration into the realm of data science. I began taking at least one course each

semester to deepen my understanding. Courses in machine learning, scientific programming, and applied mathematics fueled my passion. I even became part of a Linguistics research group, utilizing data science to study how humans switch between languages in their written and spoken communication. It became increasingly clear that these skills were set to become exceedingly vital in the future. As modern technology enables companies to accumulate vast amounts of data, the demand for adept individuals to process and leverage this data for operational enhancement will continue to escalate.

Following my graduation, I commenced my professional journey at Saudi Aramco as a drilling foreman. Initially, my role didn’t provide ample opportunity to apply the statistical and programming knowledge I had accumulated during my academic years. However, I was determined to keep my skills sharp by applying them to a few personal projects. One notable project involved analyzing football data to identify talented players. Analyzing detailed football event data, including passes and shots, I developed models to identify player talent in specific game aspects. This analysis proved instrumental for clubs and agents in spotting undervalued players for recruitment.

Two years into fieldwork, a six-month assignment as a Drilling Engineer in the Gas Drilling Engineering Department at Aramco broadened my perspective. In this new role, I realized that analytical skills were nearly as crucial as engineering prowess. Reviewing substantial volumes of data and deriving conclusions grounded in solid statistics became a fundamental aspect of my job. This realization presented an opportune moment to finally apply my accumulated knowledge and augment my company’s value.

One significant challenge our department faced was the unpredictability of a specific subsurface parameter. Armed with relevant data supplied by colleagues, I immersed myself in the data, eventually constructing a predictive model for the target parameter. Employing techniques learned during my college courses, I carefully selected the pertinent variables and crafted a model that significantly reduced uncertainty concerning the target parameter. The success of this model led to its widespread adoption within my department.

Another challenge pertained to data collection. Whenever we planned to drill a new well, we had to gather extensive data from different sources to help design the well. The data collection task often took days, if not weeks, to complete. Recognizing the repetitive yet time-intensive nature of this task, I developed a Python algorithm automating these processes, drastically reducing the time needed to plan a new well. This automation, now utilized by my engineer colleagues, has resulted in substantial time savings. Due to my involvement in these projects, I was permanently transferred from drilling operations to engineering, where I could better leverage my skills and add value to my company.

The coding and statistical skills I acquired during my academic journey not only enriched my contributions to the company but also enabled me to transition into a role better aligned with my capabilities. Even in the realm of petroleum engineering, I discovered the immense relevance of coding and data analytics to my job. I strongly encourage students and young professionals in our industry to invest in mastering coding and statistics. Not only can these skills be immensely enjoyable, but they also augment your contributions as an employee, benefiting your company as a whole.

In essence, my experiences and projects underscore the significance and impact of coding and statistics in today’s professional landscape. As I look to the future, I envision a path where my expertise in data analytics and engineering converge to pioneer innovative solutions, driving growth and efficiency in the energy sector.

For those aspiring to tread a similar path, my advice is simple—embrace the power of numbers, the art of coding, and the science of statistics. Unlock the potential they hold, and you’ll find yourself at the forefront of innovation, shaping the future of industries. Through dedication and a commitment to lifelong learning, you can make a significant impact and inspire others to follow suit.

In closing, remember that our abilities are catalysts for progress. Let us harness them to drive positive change, embracing the ever-evolving landscape of technology and engineering.