Laura Fairley – AYP Mentee

Laura Fairley

Having a mentor through the Aberdeen Young Professional’s Scheme is proving invaluable. What initially drew me to my now mentor, Murray Kerr – Managing Director SengS, was his enthusiasm, drive and passion for his work. I had read an interview; Press and Journal 2014: How I got where I am today, and knew that I had to speak with him. Although we both work in different industries, I share his outlook on career development and am confident he will be able to provide guidance and fuel my determination to meet my goals.

On the AYP Finalist night unfortunately, due to work commitments Murray was not able to attend. The night was still highly beneficial as I got to speak to many other inspirational finalists and individuals including Heather Sharkey – Commercial Director at EC_OG and Steve White – Subsea Operations Advisor at Apace North Sea, both whom I feel would be at the end of a phone if I ever needed advice.

I still wanted to speak with Murray so we arranged a call and sussed out whether the mentor relationship would be beneficial. Even from one phone call I could tell that Murray and I would get along, he was very open and honest and I could tell he wouldn’t be afraid to give me some home truths if needed. Sometimes, it is good just to have an outside perspective.

During out first face-to-face meeting, at the Return To Scene offices, I was able to show Murray exactly what my job entailed. Giving him demonstrations on the R2S Software and Services that I provide to the Forensic and Law Enforcement industries. Prior to our meeting Murray had provided me with questions so that he could gauge my career aspirations and worries, which we ran through. He was very supportive and honest about everything I told him and we put a plan of action into place for the coming weeks to help me hit those goals. This wasn’t by any means a one sided conversation and it provided me with a real insight into how Murray saw this relationship developing too.

We decided a good place to start would be personal branding and looking at the bigger picture. It was evident that what I had showed Murray during our meeting wasn’t being portrayed online, through outlets such as LinkedIn, so my first goal was to get more information out there so that people had a clearer understanding of what I do. I am now more conscious of my personal brand and aim to build it over time, alongside my goals, to progress my career.

Something I am passionate about is inspiring the next generation into careers such as Science and Technology and although I have done a little of this through guest lecturing at Robert Gordon University I felt that I could do more. I had read about STEMNET ambassadors, volunteers who engage children in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, but had never taken the next step to join them. I spoke to Murray about this and he said, just do it, if you are willing to do something you will find a way to get over any obstacles. This has stuck with me, as one of my personal obstacles is self-doubt through nerves, the only way to get past this is to do more, present more and speak about the things that I know inside out and with each time I will build my confidence. So I have taken my first steps and had my STEM induction, I am now just waiting for the final sign off before I can start volunteering – watch this space!

I have my next meeting with Murray coming up and I am looking forward to developing our relationship, which will hopefully be beneficial for both of us.

Murray Kerr

Murray Kerr: “In first reading Laura application for this program I was really impressed with Laura’s career path and wanted to know more on exactly what her job entailed, furthermore was impressed with her enthusiasm she had shown in the application for this program.

Over the last few months, I have set certain goals for Laura and on every occasion Laura has excelled in completing these tasks. Her ambition and enthusiasm for work is infectious and over the last few months I have noticed Laura is becoming more focused and confident.

I am looking forward to continue this journey and see where it takes us.”






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Yekemi Otaru – AYP Mentee

Continuing our follow ups with the Mentors and Mentee’s we received an update from Yekemi and her mentor Rob Cowman from EC-OG

Rob and Yekemi

Rob said:

“I was unfortunately unable to attend the AYP Mentor event at the beginning, business called, new contract to tender. So luckily Heather Sharkey, our commercial director, did a sterling job of presenting my case as to why I should be chosen as a mentor. As the days, then weeks, passed no one had contacted me or chosen me as a mentor. Others had been paired up and I was feeling left out and really disappointed. Then, out of the blue, I get a message that Yekemi wants to meet me. Heather says she has met her at the event and she is energetic and intelligent, then proceeds to hand me her CV. When I read it, I’m not sure who is going to be mentoring who.

We meet and Yekemi explains what she wants to do, a new venture using her business, marketing and engineering skillsets all combined. She explains where she is in terms of the business and I realise I can offer some useful advice as she is just setting off on her journey. We have had 3 meetings face-to -face and social events as we increase her network. The face-to-face meetings have focused around her business plan, now after some refinement it is looking like a document which gives proper direction to the business. She has refined her target markets, worked her USP, created a realistic cash flow, realised where she was under (and over) selling and really begun to build a strategy on how to maintain her clients alongside growing the business. The great thing is that she is working this out for herself and that’s what it’s about, putting it out there, thinking it over, bouncing it around and making a plan to be executed.

I must admit I was a little nervous about mentoring someone when I still hadn’t really got my own business truly established. I then thought about the mentoring that I had been offered. For me, it had been great but most of the mentors were already very successful, money in the bank, pension pot filled, mortgage paid off, gone through the whole start up thing a long time ago, mostly remembering the rosy bits. My company and I are a long way off that. Yekemi is only 3 years behind where we currently are which means a lot of what she will go through will still be fresh in my mind. Her business may well surpass mine and at some point the roles will reverse but in the meantime I’m enjoying giving all the help and advice I can, even if it is sometimes is just saying, “things will work themselves out”. Yekemi is a great person to mentor, I think the next year is going to be a lot of fun.”


Yekemi said,

“I had nearly given up on the idea of an ideal mentor. That was until I met Rob Cowman through the AYP Mentor Scheme earlier this year.

My first meeting with Rob was at the engineering company he co-founded, East Coast Oil & Gas. Rob is the Engineering Director. The fact that Rob is an engineer who founded his own company makes an ideal combination that came together by chance. You see, I am an engineer who has moved across several commerical roles in business development and strategic marketing with companies like Schlumberger, GE Oil & Gas and Lloyd’s Register. I have recently started my own strategic marketing consultancy, YO! Marketing, working with engineering, manufacturing and technology companies to strengthening the use of digital technology and marketing data in achieving business goals.

In our first meeting, Rob came across as genuine, and friendly. We discussed my plans for my business, my target market and how I might refine my solution to be most attractive to engineering firms. I found Rob to be easy to talk to and I had a sense that he will always be honest with me, whether it was what I wanted to hear or not.

True enough, Rob offered his honesty to me when I turned up at our second meeting with my business plan. For me, it was the first time I was allowing someone to sense-check my ideas. The first draft of my business plan felt like the birth of something I had carried for a long time. Showing it to Rob was nerve-wrecking, and a relief at the same time.

The discussion with Rob that day was the most valuable one I had about my business. He pointed out areas  I needed to give more thought, and he offered advice about what I might prioritise in the early stages of my business. He helped me develop a punchier message for my target audience by asking me challenging questions that I couldn’t have asked myself. Rob being is an engineer has proven to be a gift. He is my target audience so his perspective has been very valuable in honing my solution to my target market. On the financial side, Rob is able to look at my cash flow forecast and tell to me multiply a line item by 1.5 to be more realistic. Which brings me to another reason I have the ideal mentor. Rob knows what it takes to start a company in Aberdeen. His insight on what things will cost me and mistakes I could avoid have really helped me get off to a promising start.

In our most recent meeting, I expressed concern to Rob about the new insights I was getting from meetings with potential clients. These insights suggested a slight tweak to my offering and being a perfectionist, I felt uneasy about making changes to my “perfect” solution. Rob assured me that it was exactly what starting a business was about. He gave me examples from when he started and the changes he made as new market intelligence became available. “It’s all about hearing out the market and changing,” he said. Even though I knew this as a marketer, somehow, I needed to hear it. Now I feel confident to take the necessary steps to move forward with my company.”

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Chris Tayler – AYP Mentee

Chris Tayler

Daunting. Seems like an appropriate word to describe walking into the AYP Mentor Scheme finalist evening. In the grandiose setting of the Trinity Hall on Holburn Street and with a few other nervous candidates I was first called across to do a video interview (the first time I’ve ever been illuminated in front of a camera) and then to interview with my selected mentor, Alan Blacklaw. Thankfully the nerves settled and the interview went well. Alan was my manager as a fresh-faced graduate in 2009 for a couple of months but we had a lot to catch up on.

Alan Blacklaw - Mentor[12]

Alan Blacklaw – Chris’ Mentor

Since being paired together Alan and I have had two face-to-face meetings and a teleconference which have served to guide me during a turbulent time in my career and personal life. BG Group, who I have worked for since 2009, is currently being taken over by Shell and the transition is proving somewhat stressful. It has been great to have an opportunity to discuss this with someone impartial. We’ve also touched on a few non-work issues which has been a pleasant surprise.


During our first meeting we focussed on getting to know each other’s backgrounds through a series of questions that Alan had sent to me a few days previously and three questions that I selected to ask him. We discussed managing expectations and how best to allocate time to the ‘personal stakeholders’ in life using a three tiered bronze, silver and gold model. We also discussed career aspirations and the need to broaden experiences though potentially branching out into new companies and industries.

One of the most interesting conversations of this meeting was around telling stories. I was asked if I consider myself to be a good story teller, answered in the affirmative and was then challenged to tell a story of a recent success. Suffice to say it wasn’t the best put together narrative in the world and this proved the point that all good stories need a beginning, middle and an end. This is something that I will be focusing on in my day-to-day work as each update provided is, in some ways, a story.

Our second meeting was built around behaviours and personalities – specifically using the Insights tool to discuss management styles. Both Alan and I are ‘red/yellow’ personalities according to the Insights questionnaire so we were able to discuss methods to interact with other personality types. We had a good session on incentivising people and one of my actions was to take the time to personally thank at least four people for a job well done during my next trip offshore.

Alan has also provided me with a selection of ‘sound bites’ to consider which include:

  • Ruthless Simplicity
  • Optionality Kills
  • “Tell Me Once” – reduce the amount of information coming from direct reports.

We are due to meet again in mid-August when we will be discussing recognition (as mentioned above) and focussing on setting some long term career goals. I will also be looking for some assistance with generating new goals as part of my Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE) Continuing Professional Development.  One of the questions that I have had a chance to ask is “what’s in it for you?” The answer surprised me a little in that it seems that discussions with me are thought provoking and cause Alan to be a little more introspective and questioning. I’m glad that the sessions are proving mutually beneficial and would like to thank Alan for giving up his time to meet with me. I’d also like to thank the AYP for setting up the scheme and hope that the other mentors and mentees are getting as much from it as I am.

Chris Tayler – Mechanical Engineer – July 2016.

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The benefits of having a Mentor

With only a few days left for Aberdeen Young Professionals members to submit their applications for the Mentor Scheme 2016, I thought it would be a good idea to summarise some of the benefits of having a mentor:

1. Inspiration

A mentor whose work you admire can be a strong inspiration.  A mentor is often in the position you would like to be in, therefore, is someone we aspire to become.  They have the ability to guide you to a similar position by bringing to life the qualities we aspire for ourselves.

2. Open new networks

In any line of business you need to broaden your network, get to know key people in your sector and build long lasting relationships.  Mentors will already possess a strong network of contacts.  A good mentor will also have strong relationships with people who are already successful business leaders and can help you make the most of their networks that they have built up over the years.

“If you only network within your own circle of colleagues from your generation, you won’t have access to the business leaders currently making big decisions that affect your industry.”

3. Harvesting their experience

A mentor wont have all the answers, but a good mentor will make you challenge your thinking as they have been in business far longer than you and have likely “been there and got the t-shirt”.  You will be able to learn from your mentors mistakes and take their advice on how to avoid making them yourself.

4. Work better!

With the aid of a good mentor, you can work more efficiently with a clearer view of the future you are trying to achieve. This helps you feel more confident in your job, which leads to better job performance and more success along your chosen route.

5. Act as a sound board

A mentor isn’t your boss, your bank manager or your parents…. so you will be able to sound ideas you may have with them – they see you for you. Your mentor may notice potential in you that you might not see in yourself.

6. Help you achieve your potential

There is only so much you can “self-teach”.  A mentor can provide us with information we need to send us on a successful path faster.  In order to prosper and achieve our potential we need assistance from experts we trust, admire and respect.

How do I find a mentor?

One of the biggest obstacles to finding and cultivating a good mentor relationship is usually the individuals own pride.  In todays world we are living very fast lives and results are required instantaneously, so it’s sometimes difficult to be humble enough to slow down, get a fresh perspective and hear things we don’t want to hear.

Most of today’s most successful entrepreneurs have all sought mentors and paid heed to their advice to their direct benefit. If you want to experience success, find a great mentor; listen and learn from them, you may also gain a life long friend!

Which Mentor is best for me?

The mentors for the AYP Mentor Scheme can be found HERE, but how do you decide which mentor you would like to work with?  What skills would you like to develop with your mentor’s assistance?

Consider your goals in choosing a mentor – what are you looking to get from the scheme? Think about what characteristics you’re looking for in a mentor. You may want to do a bit of research to find out what the prospective mentor is like….

It’s a good idea to choose someone working in the same functional area as you are, as well as someone who shares your values. ASK FOR ADVICE! Be sure to reveal as much of yourself as possible as mentors are most likely to invest themselves in those in whom they see a little of themselves.

It’s better to have someone with whom you can talk freely about career and workplace issues outwith your own circles. Some individuals prefer a more experienced mentor who commands a high level position within their sector so they too can aspire to reach that level.  Others may benefit from peer mentors, after all, the people who have the best solutions to the problems you face are often the people facing those problems themselves!

You should have a good feel after a few meetings with a potential mentor if the rapport is right for a fruitful relationship.  You will need to approach the relationship with openness, realistic expectations, honesty and the ability to listen to name a few.  Both mentors and mentorees will be seeking someone with a positive attitude that they can get along with and learn from – after all the experience will be particularly productive if the relationship is a two way street.

Who are our mentors looking to work with?

Alan Blacklaw - Mentor[12]“I would say my experience base is more suited to mentoring a member who has an interest in engineering or a technical based subject.  I also have more affinity toward extraversion than introversion!!”

Alan Blacklaw, Nexen


Finlay - Mentor[13]

“To be honest, I’m happy to work with anyone who see`s value in working with me.  Certainly someone looking for assistance with  Business Development , Sales Management,  International Growth Management and stakeholder management”

Finlay Johnston, Diamond Offshore


Heather Sharkey - Mentor[11]

“I would like to work with a mentoree who maybe isn’t following a traditional path, has faced challenges either personally or professionally and overcome them and is interested in looking at things in a different way.”

Heather Sharkey, EC-OG


Murray Kerr - Mentor

The type of mentoree I am looking to work with must have a passion for what they want to achieve, not work shy and are definitely not sensitive natured . Any lazy people may not apply!”

Murray Kerr, SengS


Neil Smyth - Mentor[10]

“I am looking for a mentoree that is like minded and wishes to be inspired to be best they can be at what they do. You must also like some banter!!”

Neil Smyth, Morrison Construction


Rob Cowman - Mentor[9]

“I’m keen to mentor individuals who have a keen interest in technology development and would like to understand the process of making a concept into a reality.  As well as the technical side the individuals may wish to understand the market value proposition and how to take your concept to market including business support on offer and how to raise funding.”

Rob Cowman, EC-OG

Steve White - Mentor[11]

“I am looking for a mentoree who is not necessarily sure the direction they wish to take – has enough rough edges that mine won’t do too much damage and can handle candid even brutally honest advice and feedback.  But most of all – you must have a sense of humour or we just won’t get on!!”

Steve White, Apache North Sea

Rod Hutchison - Mentor[9]

“Someone who has a firm idea of what they want to gain from the mentoring programme and who is enthusiastic, proactive and communicative. Whilst being focused and driven are great qualities, the journey will be mutually more fulfilling with an individual who has the ability not to take themselves too seriously all of the time.”

Rod Hutchison, Ledingham Chalmers

If you are interested in participating in the mentor scheme with Aberdeen Young Professionals, visit and/or visit the application page HERE.  This is a fantastic opportunity if you are a school leaver, student, entrepreneur or needing career guidance….

Applications accepted up to the 13th April 2016.












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Now more important than ever to promote the North Sea O&G industry to young people…

Low oil prices, redundancies, projects cancelled…. unfortunately this is the headlines that have been running for the last twelve months or so regarding the North Sea oil and gas industry.  How are we going to attract, enthuse and stimulate interest in the next generation of engineers to work on the UKCS?  The current market situation has created uncertainty for many people in the oil and gas industry but for young professionals with limited experience, this can be a particularly worrying time…..

With many experienced personnel taking early retirement, moving abroad or changing industries we are steadily losing the mentors for the next generation of ambitious engineers within the sector.  Unsurprisingly there is a significant number of young professionals concerned about job security in this industry, the opportunities that may be available to them in terms of career progression, training and the obvious chance of gaining work experience globally.

We are witnessing high numbers of experienced personnel being let go, moving abroad or choosing to take earlier retirement as companies react to lower margins and project uncertainty.  This isnt a new phenomenon, given the cyclical nature of the O&G industry personnel numbers fluctuate.  During downturns graduates/apprentices/trainee level intakes are cut and many experienced personnel either take voluntary redundancy, move elsewhere or take early retirement.  My father retired in 2001 when he was just 47, having worked for over twenty years in production with BP on the Forties Field and went through a number of downturns himself.    When things pick up again we are left with many of the experienced personnel missing and no pipeline of new talent coming through.  So where does this leave young people who have aspirations to become the next generation of North Sea Tigers??  A good article from Zoe Taylor and can be found HERE

It really hut home when I was recently shopping in Tesco’s when I got speaking to a young guy behind the till who informed me he was undertaking his final year at RGU in Mechanical Engineering.  He had tried tirelessly to get a placement which led to a very short assignment with an engineering firm in Aberdeen.  However, he was really concerned that there was little opportunities available for him now given the reduction in graduate intake with most operators/service companies and he was now beginning to question his decision to undertake his degree….


Schools, businesses and Government must capture children’s imaginations from an early age if we are to source the industry leaders of the future.  We must nurture, inspire and encourage young professionals as engineering in the UK is fast developing an identity crisis.

“the profession is struggling to attract young people because they do not understand it” – Lord Browne

The UK has less enthusiasm for engineering than any other leading nation, according to a report published on the 26th October. Barely one in five British teenagers expressed an interest in the field, compared with half of young Germans and more than two thirds of young Chinese people.  A worrying statistic I’m sure you would agree….

The future sustainability and ongoing success of the industry will depend on our ability to create an exciting environment that rewards and attracts the best.

Aberdeen Young Professionals will shortly be releasing details of their forthcoming AYP Discussion Series which will be looking at this very topic.  Keep an eye out via their website and social media (Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn) for further details on what will be a “must attend” event for young professionals.  Our sponsor and host will be providing a fantastic insight into the future of the North Sea and we are certain that there will be plenty of questions from Aberdeen’s up and coming Young Professionals….


(Previous AYP Meet the Mentors event)

The latest buzzword is “collaboration” well lets put this into practice before its too late and ensure we attract new blood into the industry as well as ensuring we have the mentors to work with them!

What’s your thoughts? How do you think we can incentivise young people into the industry? Please use #aypdiscuss when providing a comment.

* If you wish to get involved with AYP, please contact  We also welcome queries for sponsorship & events

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Budget 2015 Overview


  •  £1.3 billion worth of saving measures for the North Sea Oil & Gas industry to encourage investment in the North Sea, which could boost production by 15%.
  • Petroleum revenue tax to be cut from 50% to 35%
  • Petrol duty has been frozen with September’s planned increase scrapped.
  •  Existing supplementary charge for 30% to 20%, back dated to January.
  • Minimum wage rates to rise for apprentices.
  • New tax allowances for oil & gas fields including targeted tax breaks for high-temperature & high-pressure oil wells.
  • Annual tax returns to be abolished and replaced with a “digital tax accounts” system.
  • Class 2 national insurance contributions for the self-employed are to be abolished entirely.
  • Unemployment figures are predicted to drop to 5.3% this year, with an economic growth forecast of 2.5% in 2015.
  • Personal tax-free allowance to rise to £10,800 in 2016 and to £11,00 in 2017.
  •  The 40% tax threshold to rise with inflation from £42,385 to £43,300.

“Britain Is Walking Tall Again”

The Office for Budget Responsibility said this week that the UK economy is growing slightly faster than expected, the BBC reported. Osborne said the agency revised its 2015 growth outlook upwards from 2.4% to 2.5% and for next year from 2.2% to 2.3%. Osborne announced the tax changes amid other proposals, including a 1% in the duty from a pint of beer, a freeze in wine duty, a 2% cut from scotch whiskey and cider duties and a freeze in fuel duty.

Laying out his plans in the House of Commons, the Chancellor said, “We took difficult decisions in the teeth of opposition and it worked. Britain is walking tall again…Five years ago, our economy had suffered a collapse greater than almost any country. Today, I can confirm: in the last year we have grown faster than any other major advanced economy in the world.”

What’s your thoughts?

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AYP “Meet the Mentors”

DSC_9966 mk2


Aberdeen Young Professionals held their “Meet the Mentors” event during OPITOs National Oil and Gas Skills Week which provided the platform for individuals looking to get a break into the industry to speak to those who had been in a similar position themselves.


The event, which was sponsored by CNR International, was a great success and it was fantastic to see so many individuals asking probing questions as to how the mentors got their break into the industry. Many business cards were exchanged and advice given with potential interviews being discussed. Many of the attendees were amazed to hear of the various opportunities available to school leavers/graduates out with the offshore environment. Many of the attendees arrived not knowing which discipline they wished to pursue on their career path but simply wanted to “get offshore”. This event allowed the opportunity for potential employers to speak directly to the next generation of oil and gas employees and provide them with in depth advice on getting that “foot in the door” in a relaxed and informal environment


I just wanted to thank you, the organisers and the mentors, for what was a very interesting evening. I had a great setting to speak about potential jobs on completion of my degree whilst sharing our passion for what is a very interesting industry. Thanks again and i look forward to the next event

DSC_9959This format proved very popular as feedback provided was that the attendees felt comfortable going up to the mentors and speaking to them and didn’t feel that any questions were “stupid questions”. The mentors also provided positive feedback and were pleased to see such hunger for knowledge from the attendees and an eagerness to find out how to get that elusive foot in the door.

A huge thank you from the committee to the event sponsor CNR and also our mentors during the event:

The AYP committee look forward to organising our event calendar for 2015 and if you or your company wish to get involved, please get in touch –

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