Ask an Expert: Cedric Meyer

Cedric Meyer, Surveyor at bp, shares how his interests took him from the British Army to a degree in GIS to working for bp as a Hydrographic Surveyor.

Why did you choose your degree/career?

After a few different jobs, I joined the British Army (1996) and became a Land Surveyor as it was the most ‘intellectual’ and best paid trade on offer in the Royal Engineers. After several really interesting civilian jobs (2000-2008) I found I had been ‘out of trade’ for several years (due to the 2008 financial crisis) and I was getting concerned at the growing gap on my resume. I realised that as I had not been to Uni before, I would qualify for all grants/loans etc as if I were a 19-year-old from a low-income family. This would get me new, polished skills, negate the gap in my professional work history, and be an absolute hoot to boot!

I very specifically chose Newcastle University, and GIS from extensive research. Newcastle is such a well-recognised Russell Group Uni (and an AMAZING City), and the GIS specialisation extended my professional knowledge, ‘future-proofing’ it somewhat. The focus on GIS also avoided ‘wasting’ the degree opportunity on too many geospatial subjects that I was already well-versed in. I had a brilliant 3 years at Newcastle and it led directly to the uninterrupted career I have enjoyed with bp since my graduation.

What do you do on a daily basis?

Oddly, although employed as a Hydrographic Surveyor, my role has become practically 100% office based (as so may careers seem to). Although I am dedicated support to our Angola business, and my ‘office’ is in London, I live and work in North Wales as a permanently remote/home worker since the paradigm shift of the Pandemic. I adore this situation for the flexibility it gives me: to walk the dog; help on school runs; do the shopping; or get out for a spot of Paragliding from the hill outside my (home) office window! It also means that when I do need to dial into a meeting at 10pm, it is not too onerous.

On a typical day, I juggle a variety of projects that I am either running or contributing towards, such as: planning the marking of next well, on the seabed 1,500m deep; or ensuring that the annual inspection our pipeline engineers require is going to be conducted to specification. This will evolve writing and reviewing technical documents, working with the finance team to set up and run contracts, act as a subject matter expect in many meetings (almost always video meetings over Teams these days).

There will also be some actual survey work such as drawing up charts for our offshore operations, and a lot of interaction with many of the various disciplines within the company (Geologists, Engineers, Legal counsel, Drillers, Marine specialists, HSSE, Logistics, and more). In many respects much of the work is not what I was expecting to be doing with my degree, but it is intellectually challenging (which is important for me) and feels like a good ‘fit’ for my skillsets.

I am very much in charge of organising and prioritising my own work, including creating that work by maintaining relationships around the company and ensuring that colleagues ask for our (survey) help and expertise when they should be!!! That is possibly the biggest/most import ant part of the job.

The workload definitely varies through the year, and year to year. There is certainly an expectation that given the generous salary, you do whatever needs doing when the work demands it…

Describe a highlight of your career.

I really enjoy “forensic surveying” and a few years ago, we acquired some 1950/60s vintage seismic data of an area new to us. Site maps and line-plans had been drawn free-hand (with no scales, grids or orientations) and were known to be deliberately distorted so as to be geographically inaccurate. With remote imagery, historic gazetteers, ArcPro toolsets and archive lists, I (so far as possible) geo-located the data so that we could incorporate it to our exploration model. It was really something that you could only do with both a skilled Human and digital tools in the loop. It was a unique challenge and thoroughly satisfying!

Towing a drilling rig into a Norwegian Fjord to anchor it up & off-hire it. It was one of my first offshore trips as the sole (responsible) surveyor.

What advice do you wish you could give your younger self?

That you can always change your mind and change your career path (although I’ve been in the Geospatial world most of my career, there have been a good couple of cul-de-sacs)! Unless you have VERY specific goals, then no exam (or degree) is un-recoverable from. Try and do something you are passionate about, as most people don’t get to do that, but it’s a wonderful situation of you can do something you truly, deeply enjoy! Not necessarily coincident with that, but try and be self-aware of your strengths, and make the most of them… It is SO much easier to shine/succeed if you’re not having to battle against your own weak points (we’ve all got them!)