“This is a challenging job, but very satisfying. I love it!” says Mr. Liu Juxiang, Marketing Vice President, Business Development of BGP International, China National Petroleum Corporation.
Although he has been involved in Marketing for BGP now for a number of years, Mr. Liu is a geophysicist by training. “I come from northern China and was born in a rural area, so I was not really aware of geophysics in my early years,” he explains. “However, my school education showed that I was very good at mathematics, as well as science, so geophysics seemed to be an obvious and interesting career path for me. I studied the subject for three years at the Geophysical School under BGP.
“After my study I joined BGP in 1981 as a seismic processing specialist at the BGP Geophysical Research Institute in Zhuo Zhou,” Mr. Liu continues. “At the time I didn’t know very much about the industry, but I learnt a lot in my fifteen years at the Institute, where I concentrated on seismic processing, geophysical research and software development for BGP. I was also lucky enough to get a lot of additional training from a number of our western collaborators in China, such as Western Geophysical, CGG and GSI. In addition I finished my university study in 1991 and got a degree in Geophysics by correspondence.”
Move into Marketing
One of Mr. Liu’s tasks while working for the BGP Geophysical Research Institute was to open the company’s first seismic processing center outside China, in Houston. “I was BGP Representative in the United States from 1995 to 1996, where as well as starting and developing the processing center, I was able to improve my English.”
This proved to have been a useful additional skill, as a couple of years after he returned to China from Houston, Mr. Liu was asked if he was interested in moving into marketing in the fledgling international branch of BGP, where the ability to speak English would be a major asset. “At first I almost refused the offer, as I wanted to stay in the technical side, which I loved, but I realized that there were many interesting opportunities for both career development and travel in marketing, so I accepted. In 1999 I became Marketing Manager of BGP International, initially based in our head office in Zhuo Zhou, about 50 km south of Beijing.
“In 2000 I moved to Dubai as Deputy General Manager responsible for marketing. At the time we had no business in the Middle East, but within four years we were working in Saudi Arabia, Oman, the United Arab Emirates and Syria. We had also set up BGP’s first regional division with the Middle East office, based in Dubai.”
Mr. Liu admits that while he enjoyed living and working in Dubai, there was one big disadvantage – his family could not move there with him, so he had to travel back to China every few months to see them.
In May 2004, he moved back to the head office, having been promoted to Vice President, Business Development of BGP International, responsible for marketing, the post he still holds.
Keeping Up to Date
“I have been nine years in this job now and the company has developed amazingly fast in that time,” Mr. Liu says. “In 2003 our total annual revenue was less than US$300 million. It is now over US$1.36 billion, and most of that growth is a result of our move into the international arena, so that has been very satisfying. So far, BGP’s footprint of international operations covers more than 60 countries and BGP has provided its services to more than 200 oil and gas companies.
“I enjoy the job very much,” he adds. “I travel a huge amount – I think I have been to more than 70 countries now, promoting the company and talking to clients. Sometimes I manage to see our operations in the field as well, which is always very interesting. I’m not so keen on the jet lag, though!”
He admits that the demands of the job mean that he finds he has little free time, but enjoys reading to relax – but he also loves sight-seeing during his travels.
To what does Mr. Liu attribute his success in marketing, a field which is not the obvious career choice for a geophysicist who enjoys technical research? Actually, it is that very technical background which he thinks makes him good at his job. “I think it is very important that you understand what you are talking about when you are marketing a company like BGP,” he explains. “You have to have a strong technical knowledge to understand what makes the company special and to ensure that you are at the forefront of the business. You need to know the industry from all sides and understand what is going on. I like to keep up to date with new developments in technology, operations and equipment, which is crucial to help develop and market the company.
“It is also important in my job to understand commercial and business issues, as well as health and safety and cultural matters. I undertook a Masters in International Trade in 2010 and that has been very useful and helped me understand more about international business.”
An Exciting Time
Mr. Liu thinks that this is a very exciting time to be involved in the hydrocarbon industry in China, with demand growing very fast and the government trying to decrease the country’s reliance on gas.
“As we all know, China is a vast country, so the potential is correspondingly huge,” he explains. “As well as local companies like BGP, a number of international companies, such as Chevron, Total and Shell, are exploring for oil and gas in the country. The demand is there, and that is why they are coming to China.
“Many of the foreign companies, as well as home-grown ones, are actively looking for unconventional resources, and we know that our country has huge reserves of these. However, the exploitation of these is going to be much more complicated than it has in the US, because the geological setting is so different. It is going to be technologically challenging, so we have set up a special R&D branch in BGP to study the new technologies which we know will be required for the successful exploration for unconventionals. That is one of the great things about BGP – it is a learning company, continually moving on.”
“Something else that makes BGP special is the way it manages to mix western and Chinese culture,” he adds. “It has deep roots in China, but now more than 70% of our clients are from outside the country. We have to meet, understand and assimilate Western, Arabic and other cultures. We learn from them and take this understanding back into the company. Even 30 years ago the senior leadership were open to ideas from outside China and knew how to develop the business.”
There are many other things that Mr. Liu likes about working for BGP. “I think it has a very special culture,” he says. “The majority of the employees, like me, have worked for the company for all of their working lives. We are like a big family – a community which works together and also lives together. Sharing our lives, we build good lifetime friendships and we know each other’s families, so we trust each other. As a result, everyone is very loyal to the company.
“This loyalty is shown by how long people stay with BGP. Like me, over 90% of the older generation have only ever worked for this company. But even in the younger generation, although there is some movement, more than 70% of those who started their career with BGP have not changed to a different company. These young people have a much wider knowledge and education than many of their predecessors, not just in technical subjects like geophysics and processing, but in business and languages. These are the assets which are essential for their careers, and which BGP needs to help the company progress.
“I have been with BGP for 33 years now,” Mr. Liu continues. “During that time I have watched the company’s steady growth, which I am sure will continue, which means that employees will also be able to benefit and share in its success. Many young people want to work for this company, so I hope it will continue to grow so that the younger generation will have the opportunities which I have had.”
Mr. Liu smiles. “Do you know what is the best thing about this job?” he says. “Simply winning a contract and having a satisfied client. When the client is happy, I am happy!”