Mike Wahl

Mike Wahl

Managing Director, Definitions

Mike Wahl is the founder, owner and Managing Director of Definitions, a health, wellness and safety company serving the public and corporate clients since 2004. Early on Mike recognized the important role that Definitions could play in the oil and gas industry, bringing the “health” back into HSE.

Mike holds a bachelor’s degree in Kinesiology science, a master’s degree in Applied Physiology and is currently a PhD candidate in the faculty of medicine at MUN in the field of Epidemiology. Mike has won several awards including the Global Student Entrepreneur of the Year in 2011 and has been named to the International Association of Drilling Contractors HSE Global Committee to help develop the industry position on Health and Wellness.

We asked Mike:

The OGM: What does sustainability mean to you?

Mike: Sustainability to me has a direct relationship to our workers and in particular their health. When facing health issues related to poor lifestyle, aging populations and injuries sustainable workforces are the ones who have the tools necessary to mitigate these risks. That is what our company, Definitions, has been providing to the oil and gas industry for over 11 years and during that time we have become a sustainable service provider by embracing technology, responding to feedback from our customers and evolving as an organization.

The OGM: Have you had a mentor?

Mike: I have been very fortunate to have had several mentors in my career and academic pursuits. I have had the opportunity to be coached by leaders in our industry and learn from their experience and bounce ideas off of them. They have helped shape the decisions that have made us what we are today and the core values our company operates on. Academically I have had some strong influences who have mentored me in the university setting which is a stark contrast from the private sector. They have taught me the value of seeking answers, how to question and to critically solve problems; skills which I use each day in my business and in my research.

The OGM: What does success mean to you?

Mike: Success means several things to me. Having a team which loves what they do and comes to work ready to make a difference tells us that we are on the right track as an organization. Recognition from the industry we work in through media and conference presentations also are a good sign that we, as a company, are working towards our goals. For me personally I would describe success a bit differently. My father once told me to find happiness but reassured me that it isn’t hard to do because it’s always there; and that sometimes we just lose sight of it. When I remember that and can take it with me through my day, I know that it will be a successful one. On a personal level success is more about being true to yourself, treating others with respect and knowing that you have done your best regardless of the outcome.

The OGM: If you were to describe your career in three words, what would they be?

Mike: Luck = Preparation + Opportunity

The OGM: What advice would you give to someone looking for a career in the Energy Industry?

Mike: Find what you love and commit to doing your best at it each day. In the case of our business we created new roles for our field of health expertise in the industry where there weren’t any previously. Our clients appreciated the innovative thinking and helped solidify our service as core to the offshore oil and gas industry here in Newfoundland and Labrador. When people voice concerns, ask questions and try to help, listen to their feedback and take action if it resonates with you. People respect hard work, honesty and can sense when you love what you do so do that whenever you can.

The OGM: Describe a milestone in your career?

Mike: Recently I was named to the International Association of Drilling Contractors (IADC) HSE Committee to help develop the position statement for health and wellness in the drilling industry. This recognition made me realize that our organization is making an impact on the global marketplace and helping pioneer new approaches to improving worker health. That was a great moment for us.

The OGM: Describe a challenge you faced in your career?

Mike: Scalability. As entrepreneurs we have to plan and prepare for growth, otherwise we have to “be careful what we wish for”.

The OGM: What impact does technology have on your career?

Mike: Technology allows us to stay connected with our clients due to the remote nature of our offshore industry. It provides us with reliable databases for the collection and analyzing of health data that is critical to our business decisions and the delivery of our services. Technology allows us to validate ROI, program effectiveness, areas of improvement and provide important feedback to our clients.

We have a strong emphasis on not only utilizing the most up to date technologies including websites, social media and communication technologies that are mobile friendly, but have also made considerable investments in developing our own database technologies and most recently iOs Applications available for download to our clients on iTunes

Our goal with technology is to motivate, quantify, communicate, participate and report what it is we do in a scientific and measurable fashion.

The OGM: What do the next five years look like in your career?

Mike: We would expect continued growth and expansion in different sectors including mining and manufacturing and upstream markets in different regions while continuing our commitment to quality of services that meet the changing needs of our existing customers.

Personally, I will be graduating from my Doctoral program this year and look forward to an increased presence in the academic and industry conference community sharing the research we have developed which directly impacts the workers we service in the heavy industry sector.

The OGM: Were you always interested in a career in Energy?

Mike: Quite the opposite really. I came from a family that was involved in natural resources, in particular mining, so I had plenty of opportunities to go into that sector. I choose, however, to follow the route of health and physiology but quickly realized that these are critical issues to all workers. The most proactive and innovative companies when it comes to health and safety are the aerospace and oil and gas industries. Living in Newfoundland the opportunity to engineer the workers of the oil and gas industry by applying my previous experience and education led to the evolution of Definitions as a health, wellness and safety services company.. We now have created a new role for kinesiologists, dietitians and other health advisors offshore which provides sustainable careers with opportunities for advancement and growth, something that was not available to our field of expertise in this industry 10 years ago.

The OGM: What interests you to sustain a career in the Energy Industry?

Mike: I feel we are really making a difference. With our oil and gas partners we have identified a real need for our services, we can impact lives, reduce injuries and we have a shared commitment towards improving health and safety with our clients and partners in that industry.

The OGM: Do you have a role model you look up to?

Mike: I prefer not to look to any specific person but admire many people I have been fortunate enough to meet over the course of my lifetime. It depends on what aspect of your life you are thinking about, i.e. work, family, friends, etc.

The OGM: What does Energy mean to you?

Mike: First question I have is “what is the context?”… for me it means waking up with the strength and vitality to face the workday. And for the Energy Sector and my clients it’s not much different. Though the nature of the energy industry defines their workday they still need to wake up with the same vitality (energy) in order to meet the demands it places on them. Energy relates to the natural resource industry but also the human resource industry, it all depends on the lens you look through. Physics would define it as “the ability to do work” so I guess when you really look at it whether it be physical systems doing work or mechanical systems doing work, power, heat, combustion or fuel the meaning of energy has similarities in both the human body and the natural resource industry.

The OGM: What is your favorite APP on your phone?

Mike: The myDefinitions app – download it on iTunes now!

The OGM: What impact will the Millennial Generation have on the Energy industry?

Mike: We’ll keep them in line… I’m a generation X

The OGM: What’s your take on Social Media and our ever changing digital world?

Mike: I think social media is an important part of the business landscape in particular when educating the workforce is concerned. The most visited site in the world is Facebook, most people have twitter accounts and instagram is part of many people’s before bed ritual. Used appropriately, businesses can leverage its reach and popularity as a marketing, education and communication tool. Social media can be a “go to” for some folks and if you goal is getting the message out, you can’t really ask for more.

The OGM: What Social Medium do you use on a daily basis?

Mike: I use Linkedin, Facebook and Instagram most I would say. I have a twitter account which I use to send out useful tips and advice but also keep track of the score of the game as well… really good for that.

The OGM: Do you use Social Media for work?

Mike: I have used Linkedin for many work introductions and we have a strong social media presence through our two Facebook pages for Definitions and Definitions Offshore. I also have a page called Purple Lights for John, in honour of my father who passed from Pancreatic Cancer. This page is used to align our provincial efforts for raising public awareness here in Newfoundland and Labrador including the annual Purple Lights Campaign and other Pancreatic Cancer Canada initiatives.

The OGM: What do you think of Social Recruiting?

Mike: We post all of our jobs on Facebook and online sites to recruit. It gets directly to the demographic we want to address and points them in the direction of our website which is mobile friendly and easy to use. I have also found Twitter very effective in recruiting subjects for my research studies.

The OGM: Why do you love what you do?

Mike: I love what I do for several reasons but most importantly because It gives the opportunity to help people gain back their health. I not only have the privilege to conduct research, work in the environment with the guys who helped make our business what it is today, but also be constantly learning and challenged by the management responsibilities of running a growing international business. I am very lucky to be surrounded by an amazing team with a focused mission and shared passion for helping others improve their health. We work in a dynamic business which is constantly innovating and evolving and have the support of the industry to help us in our efforts. The better question may be “how could I not love what I do?”

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