My father Bob Olivero was the smartest man I knew. He didn’t read books, he devoured them. He had an innate sense of the world and how it worked because he could see the big picture. As a Managment Consultant, his profession consisted of being hired by universities and organizations around the globe to support and build much-needed infrastructure in underdeveloped countries. Consequently as I child, I grew up living in places like South Africa, Thailand, The Fijian Islands and other far-off places around the globe.
In my late teens, I moved to New York State because my father was offered a position with the United Nations. I remember thinking that the schools in the states were great, but truly the best education I ever had was seeing the world.
My father’s global assignments usually lasted from one to three years and in between those assignments my family always returned home, back to Newfoundland. My mother, a Newfoundlander, was a true redhead with freckles who had all the character and spirit of a beautiful Newfoundland woman. Sonia Charlotte Snelgrove’s family was originally from the tiny coastline village of Grates Cove, Newfoundland. Eventually, they moved to St. John’s.
Eventually, my mothers family moved to St. John’s and my father was attending MUN there at the time. My Mother was studying to become a Nurse. At the age of 16, they met at one of those MUN 1950’s dances. That’s how it happened. Those two cultural discourses culminated and collided into who I am and my view of the world. The quest for development and global advancement I inherited from my father. It was in my DNA. And at the same time, I also had a heart full of Newfoundland. The two came together in my personality and I then invented a product that would promote our resources, profile our resilience and determination to support the building an offshore industry. That is how The Oil and Gas Magazine (TheOGM) was born.
At the age of 27, I had no idea how to start a business or how to make it all work. But the declaration that I was going to do it was strong and determination was high. I lived on Signal Hill, in the heart of St. John’s Newfoundland and that’s where I started my company. From my home, I looked over the harbour and watched the ships move in and out of the fevered hidden cove. I knew in my bones there was oil out there. And a lot of it.
Back in 1990, when I started the conceptual framework for the magazine, times were tough, and the economic outlook was dismal. The primary economic driver of the province was the fishery and it was collapsing. Cod was the main staple of the industry and the fish stocks dropped to unforgivable numbers. This forced the hand of the government to enforce a moratorium on fishing. This moratorium left us as dry as the salt fish that hung out on the Flakes.
From my Signal Hill window, I looked out over the harbour to where Steers Fish Plant used to be. My Grandfather Hedley Snelgrove was part of the leadership team at Steers. And when I looked west I could see the top of the Masonic Temple, where he spent many hours as a Grand Mason, contributing to the community. I marvelled at how it’s all linked together. The fishing industry’s greatest fishing grounds were at the heart of where our oil lay. One fishing industry gave way to the oil and my family lived through all of it – just like most families in Newfoundland and Labrador at the time.
With fear and scepticism in the province, the eyes of the future were forced to see the only hope on the horizon: the oil and gas industry. The early exploration of offshore Newfoundland had shown signs of significant oil. Now was the time to make it happen.
Appointed by Premier Clyde Wells, my father had left his post at the United Nations and come home to take on the role of Chairman of the Public Service Commission. Always and forever in my court, he would often say, “T, you can do anything.” Those words were the foundation of my idea to start a magazine in the oil and gas industry. I had no previous experience in the oil and gas sector. I had no journalism training. I didn’t know how to make a magazine. I had no clear understanding of business. But I did it anyway. In the heart of a recession, six years before we would have any oil produced by this province, The Oil and Gas Magazine was born.
It was a massive undertaking that only could have happened with sheer stubbornness. Luckily that trait is at the heart of Newfoundlanders, and I could use it to hold me back or I could use it to catapult me forward.
Founded in a small room in the back of that Signal Hill home, The OGM was locally produced but globally grown. The official name of my company is Publishing World Inc. The products we produced over the years included The Mining Magazine, City Spirit Magazine for tourism and The Oil and Gas Magazine. The one that stood the test of time was The Oil and Gas Magazine.
Intrinsically, The OGM, was the answer to my burning questions. I wasn’t driven by the dream to get married, settle down with kids and have a house with a white-picket fence. Rather I was tormented by great big questions that I was compelled to answer. I found myself researching and inquiring into questions like: As a remote island, how can we connect and globalize and become a much bigger part of the world market? How can the world sell here, faster, better, easier? How can we unite as people, bring down walls, bring in business and ultimately act as one? How can we be so invested in each other’s success that we don’t succumb to poverty, wars, and demise?
It’s funny because in most business schools they don’t teach the things that I needed to succeed. I’ve yet to find a Ph.D. in Creativity, yet it was the defining factor for me as it is for most entrepreneurs. Think of Steve Jobs without creativity. Where would our iPhone be? I’ve yet to see a Master’s in Resilience or Determination and yet it was the foundation of starting something from nothing here in Newfoundland. Think of Jack Ma’s world leading enterprise, which ultimately became the world’s largest online selling platform and fetched the largest IPO offering in history – Alibaba.
It just goes to show that it’s not what you know that counts the most. It’s who you are.
As I developed the magazine and wrote about the projects and the people, I learned about the oil and gas industry in all its various levels– and it fascinated me. This industry was global, transient and had accomplished the things that I felt were truly important – uniting and serving the world. It was evident that when we travelled to Aberdeen, Stavanger, Abu Dhabi, Calgary, Houston and other energy cities, the same companies worked unilaterally with a global vision. It was incredible to watch the greatest minds on the planet harness the resource that literally energized the world. Oil and gas are the number one commodities on the planet. Without petroleum, virtually nothing moves. To get it we had the greatest challenges to overcome. Yet we did it. The Oil and Gas Magazine (now The OGM) and I grew up together. We danced for 25 years celebrating the business opportunities, companies and accomplishments of each milestone along the way. I can only be grateful for the range of experiences that this entrepreneurial adventure brought to me.
The first oil development to succeed offshore Newfoundland was Hibernia. Hibernia oil field is approximately 315 kilometres east-southeast of our capital city, St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada. It lives in 80m of water, and by weight, it is touted as the world’s largest oil platform. The mammoth Gravity Base Structure was designed to act as an iceberg deflector given it was located in iceberg alley. Hibernia is an island in the ocean withstanding our harsh weather. Think about the brilliant minds, the engineering feats, the products and services it took to build Hibernia. Companies came from all over the world with their experience and a vast transfer of technology happened.
Our oil and gas industry is built with the support of companies in the USA, Norway, UK and Scotland primarily. At networking events, there was an eclectic mix of accents and interests that you couldn’t find anywhere else. It was an unprecedented learning opportunity as well as a chance to become globally connected. And that’s exactly what we did.
Before long, The Oil and Gas Magazine grew from a thin 18-page brochure to a bustling magazine that became the industry’s favoured journal. Breaking the mould of dense, technical industry content the OGM came alive with colour, experience, creativity, passion, and attitude. We married the industry with the culture which had never been done before. The OGM stood for our people, our province, our projects and a sustainable industry. It connected people and companies and supported joint ventures. It educated, enlightened and elevated the energy conversation to include who we are as people. And because of all of those things, I felt that dedicating my life to The OGM was worthwhile and a privilege.
Once Hibernia was successfully producing oil, the game got a little easier. We were no longer starting an industry – we were building one. The Hibernia project educated thousands of people, supported companies, and created infrastructure, and a foundation of confidence grew to proceed with other endeavours. That’s exactly what we did.
Travelling to hundreds of trade shows, exhibitions and conferences the world over, we learned about the technology and innovation that could be implemented in our region. And even more exciting, we could start to sell in the global markets. It was a time of expansion and possibility. Our global curiosity could finally become a reality. Notably obvious to the global oil companies, the Jeanne D’Arc basin, which housed the Hibernia project held much promise and was worthy of investment. Land sales proved successful and oil companies joined together to bring on other mega projects. The next two were Terra Nova and White Rose. With different production systems, these two projects opted for Floating Production Storage Offshore loading ships (FPSO’s) to delineate resources. This became another area of competence offshore furthering our repertoire of options, suppliers, and production possibilities.
With every new project, The Oil and Gas Magazine covered the progress and milestones. Being prepared meant not only reporting on what was happening but also on what could happen. Thousands of interviews and articles over the years told the story of our journey and success.
It wasn’t always easy building a business and supporting an offshore oil and gas industry. I was a single mom, doing it all on my own, without much in terms of resources or financing. People often ask how did you do it? There was always the odd nay-sayer and critical judge, and there were times when other publications were vying to take our place. But in the end, that just made me even more feisty, and it fine-tuned the processes we created in making a world class magazine. I believe there’s no greater experience than actually “doing it.”
It wasn’t the big things that made the difference. It was the little things. The things that require zero talent but make 100% the difference. Things like being on time, integrity, a strong work ethic, positive attitude, curious energy, coach-ability, acceptance of feedback, constant improvement, preparation, doing more than expected, pushing the envelope, harnessing technology, fostering creativity, brainstorming (a lot of brainstorming) and powerful intention. Those seem like the “so-called soft skills” of business but nothing could be further from the truth. Without those traits we would not have made it – there was nothing soft about them. They made us hard as nails.
Competence in business can be learned. Attitude has to be engrained into every action. So if you are thinking of starting a business, then ask yourself, “Am I willing to be on time, have a strong work ethic, give it 200%, crush it, have a positive attitude, be powerful and energetic, go the extra mile and take advantage of every single opportunity?” All the answers are there.
Recent record-breaking land sales reveal that we have so much more to look forward to offshore Newfoundland. Beyond the Jean D’ Arc Basin, there are new basins showing a world of promise. With the right leadership, vision, talent, and attitude, our offshore industry can be the next North Sea – and then some. We have incredible resources to harness; now it’s a matter of aligning technology, opportunity, people, products, and possibilities to make it all happen. When it comes to the Flemish Pass, I believe that the Bay du Nord discovery is the tip of the iceberg and there is so much more to come. As I write this article they are discovering more oil in the Flemish Pass Basin. That’s exciting because The OGM will be there every step of the way highlighting the business opportunities that will build the foundation of our business sector for years to come.
Ten years ago we expanded The OGM into Alberta. Uniting the east with the west, we felt the need to bridge the gap between regions and find our similarities and joint opportunities. It’s been lucrative and eye opening. 95% of Canada’s energy comes from Western Canada. The industry has been fracking for decades. It’s because of Alberta that Canada takes the global stage and is number 3 in the world of oil resources, next only to that of Saudi Arabia and Venezuela. Since the on-land oil production of Alberta and the offshore oil industry of Atlantic Canada are two completely different methods of oil production, you would think that they would have nothing in common. However, with the right insight, you start to put together all of that which binds us. We discovered the overlap in products, services, technologies and applications that would have us work together. People who read our publication in Alberta would learn more about opportunities in Atlantic Canada through The OGM – more than any other industry medium and vice versa. This set the foundation for partnerships, strategic alliances, joint ventures, acquisitions, and of course business development.
We see energy as ever-evolving, from oil and gas in all its various forms, to new energy and the advancement of renewables. TheOGM is designed to facilitate that advancement of non-renewables to renewables. We are the bridge, believing that the smartest thing we could do with our oil and gas today is using it to create renewable energy for tomorrow.
Over the years, The OGM has expanded into other energy centres including Houston and Abu Dhabi. All it took was one trade show in Abu Dhabi for me to say, yes, we are expanding there. A single mom, I dragged my kids halfway around the world and moved to Abu Dhabi for three years. We developed content on Arabian operations and new energy initiatives like Masdar, which is the first zero free carbon city in the world. We built an Arab readership that remains today as one of our strongest readership sectors worldwide.
Today because of our global digital circulation, Arabia is currently the number one region that avails itself of The OGM content online. Interesting! I can’t think of anything better than having Arabian companies invest offshore Newfoundland and in the Alberta oil sands. It would open up the world in unprecedented ways. It is the possibility of new global partnerships in Canada.
Just before the digital revolution happened, people kept asking me, what’s going to happen to the print magazine? Will the oil and gas magazine disappear and be taken over by online content? I remember responding to the industry downturn with layoffs, and the rumours rippling through the city in an undercurrent said, “She’s gone bye, she’s gone”. Many believed that the new digital world meant the death of print publications. In some cases that happened, but for the tech savvy, that was proven incredibly wrong.
Fundamentally, I believe that every breakdown happens because a breakthrough is on the way in. It’s always better, more efficient and has a higher purpose. It was this belief that had us harness the digital revolution and it has enhanced every single thing about the communications industry. It expanded publishing. It elevated content. It opened up the world to a global readership. It was exponential and unprecedented. Those who embraced the digital era from day one excelled. Those who didn’t struggled to survive. Stories in The OGM used to be limited by the number of copies of magazines we could produce on a printing press. Now because of the digital revolution we have increased our readership and circulation 500 times its previous maximum. And we have just begun.
In the last edition of The OGM, we produced “ONE STORY” on the possibility of Canada’s energy independence, which was read all over the world and had 3 million impressions online. This would have been economically impossible in the past. We live in amazing times – the level of communication power we have at our fingertips today, is unprecedented in history. Those technological game changers are right around the corner for the energy industry as well. It’s our job to harness them and to utilize them for their highest good. As all of our new projects come on stream in Atlantic Canada, this region now has the opportunity to play on the world’s stage like never before. And we will.
Over the course of 25 years in the industry, my base of friends has expanded across the globe. I can sit here today and honestly say that “the world is my home.” But it’s not the places or the projects that really touched my heart. It’s the people. People like Dave Rudofsky, who, in my early days, traded me a photocopier for an ad in my first magazine when I didn’t have the money to buy one. Mentors like Dave Keating, who showed me the way through the industry when I was clueless. People like Pat Laracy, who said you should do that magazine, Tina. People like Steve Millan, who was part of the discovery process of our great projects and became a contributor and mentor. People like Fraser Edison, who was behind my every move, knowing it would support our industry. People like Moya Cahill, who was my sister in the oil patch! People like Cabot Martin, who helped me put the advertisement together for the Globe and Mail when we had to lobby for a new partner for the Hibernia project because Gulf had pulled out. People like Ruth Graham who was the Executive Director of NOIA our industry association, shaping the path forward. People like Federal Energy Minister Jake Epp, who stepped in and supported our province at our most crucial time as an equity stakeholder in Hibernia. People like John Crosbie, who was the grandfather of possibility for our offshore and supported its growth at every turn. People like Hank Williams of Cougar Helicopters who’s supported the vision of The OGM since day one. People like Bruce Dyke who was a family friend and generous supporter.
People like our major contractors and suppliers, who worked tirelessly every day to build this industry. With over 3000 clients we couldn’t possibly mention everyone but we are so very thankful for your purpose in the building of an industry. Working with you has been a privilege.
While the industry remains a challenge today with the price of oil, we can only remember our tenacity and resilience to support us in this time of adjustment. Challenges become our greatest opportunities. What there is to do is harness them and turn them into our next big opportunity. Because the truth is, when we truly want to succeed, there ain’t no mountain high enough, that could stop us!
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