Firstly, I think a good place to start would be to tell me a bit about who you are.
My name is Tormod Sekse Bilstad and my job is Technical Sales Representative for Topside Services. I lived all my life in a town just outside Stavanger and now I am currently living in Stavanger. I’m not sure how much you know about Stavanger, it’s a great town. We have a lot of Fjords and mountains in the region, so it’s quite nice to get out and use those as well for fishing and hiking. It’s quite a nice place to be, even though there is a lot of rain! There are plenty of good days as well. One of my passions is fishing, especially fishing for Atlantic salmon. We have some great rivers for that here.
You’re in Stavanger as a Technical Sales Representative for IK. What was your journey to that role?
Ever since I was little I have been interested in mechanics and how things work, always picking stuff apart and putting them back together. After school I studied a course called TIP (Technical and Industrial Production). The second year is called PIT (Production and Industrial Technology.) When you do your second year there you are allowed to go out and do a two-week apprenticeship and for mine, I went to IK. By the end of those two weeks the workshop manager took me into his office and asked how I thought it had been. I was pretty nervous, but in the end, he offered me a full apprenticeship after I was done with school - I still had a half year left. I finished school on the Friday and started working at IK on the 21st of June, the Monday after. I did my two years industrial mechanic apprenticeship and then you get your diploma. We did welding, milling, assembly, hydraulics; all of the good stuff! After that, I worked another year as a mechanic and I had been going offshore a lot, even as a trainee while I did my apprenticeship. I also supervised some operations as a trainee. I got extensive experience from that, being with all our fields from testing to subsea, field service and hot tapping, I went through it all. IK was an amazing place to start off a career because we don’t specialise in just one thing, it was an amazing experience and great introduction to the sector of oil and gas.
I then left this role to do a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering because I found out I can be involved in technical tenders and designing ideas on how to do things, but I didn’t have the patience to sit for a long time and draw it out. However, as soon as I left there was a downturn in the industry, so I went from there into a car dealership. I worked there purchasing and selling cars, I think we always had something like 80-90 cars on the lot. I was also involved in running it when the boss was on vacation. This meant I could have an insight into the business-side whilst still doing my mechanical stuff.
When I left that job I was going to study business to get experience in that sector. The workshop manager here at IK heard I had left and reached out to me to ask if I would do some offshore jobs for them and so I started that, did some offshore tours, and then I got involved in the AOGV Department. We were doing a lot of testing, I did most of the testing for one of our first projects, and I ended up spending a lot of time on the AOGV. I’m very grateful for that opportunity because the AOGV department offered me a field engineer position and I worked a lot on operational procedures, a lot of testing, a lot of design – coming up with ideas and solutions. I did that up until Eirik Berge took over the reins as CEO of IK and when then merged pipe intervention, field service and torque and pressure technology into Topside Services. There was a new role called ‘technical sales representative’ for the new Topside Services department and I was really thrilled to get the opportunity to do that because now I do something that I really like, I get all the technical stuff and I get the business end of it as well.
Do you think starting off as a mechanical trainee within IK has helped the role that you are in now?
Yeah definitely, 100%. I would not be here without it. Often when you have a client or customer, they know what the problem is but maybe not always the solution for it, and that’s where this really comes to play. We can offer solutions which can be much better, much cheaper and much more bespoke to their problem. Then, of course, what is important to me is that we find the solution quickly. It’s one thing looking at plans and drawings, but the execution part is crucial. I would absolutely recommend doing a mechanical apprenticeship for people thinking about going into engineering, they should definitely do the two years and work a little bit with it. Or if they have the opportunity as an engineer to go down, wrench on the projects, learn about hydraulics and mechanics and everything, it is a major advantage.
Something that is really good in the IK-spirit is the ‘Challenge Accepted’ slogan. You’re not trained to, but I never give up, because we always fix it. When times are tough and you have things that are hard, you always fix it. That is the core of IK.
You’ve worked in a couple of different areas of IK, which have clearly helped you on your career journey. Can you tell me more about the role that you are in currently?
I think for my part, I love problem solving and finding solutions. I get to be creative, interacting with people, I talk to a lot of different people which is exciting. I get to build a lot of good relations with people, there are a lot of nice people out there.
My job is to get out to the market and try to help our clients with their needs. It can start very simple, they just need a pump or torque tools, we can do that. Or complex cases where they have a problem and they don’t know how to solve it, then we would go into the engineering aspect of it and make a bespoke solution. There is a range from small standard issues to more complex and bespoke solutions where we engineer and create all the tools, the clamps - everything!
The nice thing about Topside is that we have like a ‘one-stop shop’ where we can, for example, hot tapping or a sealing clamp from Pipeline Intervention and we can get some plugs from Field Services, if we need calibration we have it in the lab. We can do it all in such a short time-span and be very efficient because we have everything in-house. That’s why we always deliver very good solutions, because we have the knowledge.
When a client comes to you with an issue, what do these problems tend to be? And what solutions would you provide?
I would say it’s a big variety. It can be anything from needing a range of torque tools, we would arrange for a big shipment with a whole container of pumps, tools, hoses etc or they could have a leaking pipe and they need it sealed up ASAP, then we just jump on it. They may also want to do maintenance down the line, and they don’t have a valve to seal it off, we can do hot tapping and plugging. You can have uptime for those more complex jobs and it’s all about the up time, because if they can have the production running normally and we can do our job while they are still producing, then it’s a major advantage for them because they save money and since we have the expertise in-house, we can make the operation swift and deliver world-leading solutions.
Actually, a job that we did earlier for a producer in Norway, we got a written letter signed by the head of the Norwegian office thanking us for a very good solution and a very efficient operation. Getting stuff like that makes you feel amazing. It’s all about being there, right on the situation. If someone calls us at 3am and they just need a simple torque tool from our rental park, then we fix it. If they have a leaking pipe with big consequences, we fix it. Even at 3am, because we provide that round the clock service. It is extremely pleasing to solve their complex needs and help our clients. It’s what we do!
Is there a moment, or something that you were part of at IK that you are most proud of?
I think for my own experience, it was great for my personal growth to be a part of the AOGV. From doing the testing in the workshop and being a part of transforming the AOGV into what it is today. Even when I left, they have evolved it even further and it’s even better! I’m not saying that I did everything, certainly not, but I contributed, and I was part of it, and I learned so much. Writing up operational procedures, or being a part of the testing, coming up with solutions and working on the design to get it better. I personally feel like during my time there, I had significant personal growth. I was learning a lot of new stuff which has shaped the person I am and helped me in the role that I do today.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years’ time?
A question like this is perfect for me. I am always looking forward and I think having ambition is really good, you need to know what you want.
I think I would like to go further into management. Something like that would be great. I am not afraid to make decisions and evolve things. This is where the analytical part comes in, I would like to see how we could do things more efficiently and what we can learn from our previous experiences. How to adapt it and use it to get better; always strive to be better.
And finally, from your experience, what would you say are the top challenges facing our industry today?
I would say the environmental issues we are facing is one, but I think the industry is trying to get greener. For example, when you do a back-gas(purging) project, you want to use as little of the purging agent as possible because that is saving on cost but more importantly your carbon footprint. The whole industry is trying to get away from diesel generators and trying to get land power out to their installations. Things are happening and there is a lot of good qualities coming from the industry - innovations and things that they can implement in everyday life. You can utilize a lot of great technology from the oil and gas industry, going into wind and wave power systems. There is a lot of synergies that are helping the sustainability movement.