From the President - October 2013

From the President - October 2013  by Barry Katz

Building a Legacy

It has been an interesting past few weeks. As interest rates have turned slightly upward, a number of my long-time colleagues have begun to pre-announce their retirement plans. The demographic cliff that human resources staffers and management have been talking about is no longer over the horizon but is within clear sight. Discussions at various leadership meetings have taken on a new character. Within industry, the questions at these meetings now focus on whether the succession and training plans were sufficient to deal with “the great crew change.” Within professional organizations and societies the questions focus on how to maintain and grow their relevance to the “young professional."


I, too, have been looking at things a bit differently. I realize that more of my career and professional life is behind me, rather than in front of me. The questions that I have been asking myself focus on whether or not I will leave behind a legacy. Legacies are important as they remind the world that you have been here, and hopefully, contributed in some way. Part of one’s legacy is represented by their children and grandchildren. Knowing that my two daughters, Rebecca and Michelle, are generous with their volunteer time and contribute to their communities, I rest comfortably that one portion of my legacy is secure.

Now I must examine my professional legacy. Where do I believe that I stand? More than three decades have passed since I first drove through the gates at Texaco. Many of my thoughts and ideas have been documented in a history of publications and presentations at a number of conferences in the US and around the globe. These contributions to the science represent part of my legacy. However, the most important part of my legacy will be the people that I have touched through teaching and mentoring. I have been engaged in formal and informal mentoring for about half of my career. With each one of my mentees, we sit and review data and discuss possible interpretations. We speculate on career opportunities and consider how one develops professionally. During these times together, we often talk about a data set or problem that is similar to one that I dealt with in the past. Today’s young professionals are well-trained academically, but lack experience and with the “crew change” approaching, it is the lack of “stories” that will represent the challenge. The lack of experience will lead us down a path where Abraham Maslow’s quote “if you only have a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail” becomes a reality. Yes, part of my role as a mentor is to show the new arrivals how to do a number of things and provide them with the “facts” as we know them today, but more importantly it is to fill their toolbox with stories. The telling of stories is an important part of mentoring and knowledge transfer. It also turns out to be fun and reinvigorating by bringing us back to where we made our geologic marks.

So why the above discussion? First, a little bit of sentimentality and more importantly a request that you become engaged in mentoring. For those of you with a “few” years of experience, seek out a mentor or a groups of mentors. They will provide you with knowledge well beyond your years, on the technical side of your career, and how to develop and enhance your career. For those of you that have had a long and successful career seek out someone to mentor. Your legacy can only grow.

One last note, registration is open for the first HGS Geomechanics Conference. The conference will be held at the Westin Memorial City, November 4-5. Consider making this conference part of your continuing education program.

Until next month…





Barry Katz
Tuesday, October 1, 2013
From the President