Through this blog, we hope to bring you the exciting and inspirational stories of drilling leaders from across the globe. We start our series by profiling Cason Swindle, the newly appointed Executive Director of the Well Control Institute. Cason has one of the most unique backgrounds of anyone in the oil and gas industry and some pretty fascinating stories.
One of Cason’s greatest passions is far from anything remotely related to well control: Music. As a music student at the University of Texas, Cason’s dream was to work in arts administration- to, someday, run an opera company. Opera was fascinating to him, because it involved bringing so many different art forms together- theater, dance, music, and the visual art of set design.
Cason ultimately decided that his passion for music should be on the side, for fun. To this day, he remains a professional singer in his spare time. For a while, Cason was even part of a cool a cappella group called Canvas in Seattle. Their rendition of the Simpsons theme song has over two million hits on YouTube!
But, for his primary focus, Cason decided to continue pursuing that same opera-fueled passion for bringing groups together in a slightly different sphere, as an entrepreneur.
While going to graduate school in Seattle for organizational systems design, Cason’s first full-time job was doing technical support for property management accounting software. He knew nothing about property management, nothing about accounting, nothing about technical support, but thought the job seemed interesting and wanted to learn. A few years later, when the owner decided to move onto other projects, she handed the business over to the 25-year old Swindle.
Over the next few years, he ended up building up and selling three different commercial real estate focused businesses learning a tremendous amount along the way. But the biggest learning was not about real estate, but rather about what Cason terms “context design”, the ability to create and grow any organization or business- regardless of the industry. As a real estate entrepreneur, Cason became an expert at creating, developing, and growing organizations.
Exiting real estate a few years later, and after a stint developing renewable energy projects in China, he started working with his Dad’s oil and gas safety training business. And that’s how we come to Well Control.
One of his dad’s clients was Frontier Drilling; a drilling contractor that needed training material and asked Cason to build a course for them. One course led to another, and ultimately, he got hired on directly and was asked to run their cyber-drilling center. In 2010, Frontier was purchased by Noble Drilling Corporation, and they kept Cason on as a team leader. Cason and his new team started building courses and dramatically expanding the scope and size of Noble’s training, developing a competency assurance platform and E-Learning program.
The culmination of Cason’s time at Noble was the development of the NEXT center, one of the world’s most sophisticated offshore training centers focused on world-class technology and simulation. By the end of this process, Cason was managing a learning and development team of 24 people. After the NEXT center was complete, the program was in great shape and was soon to enter a phase of sustained maintenance, rather than growth. In Cason’s words, “All right. What’s next?”; Cason was ready for a new challenge.
That new challenge is being the Executive Director for the Well Control Institute. In 2011, Noble received an invitation to the IADC’s new WellCAP Advisory Panel. The goal of the panel was to improve the WellCAP program, the standards for international well control training and accreditation. When his boss couldn’t make it, Cason said he would go. He went to the first meeting, thought he could contribute, and asked to stay- ultimately becoming the committee’s chair.
“I was interviewed by four different CEOs and COOs of drilling contractors. Every one of them said, Your background doesn’t look like what we would expect.”
One of the committee’s main recommendations was the creation of the Well Control Institute, a new organization focused exclusively on well control. And the person they ultimately decided would be the best choice to head it up was Cason Swindle. “I was interviewed by four different CEOs and COOs of drilling contractors. Every one of them said, Your background doesn’t look like what we would expect.”
But, as Cason explains, “you don’t need to be a well control expert to be head of the Well Control Institute. What you need is an organization builder. You need someone to build that organization and bring together all the people necessary to get the work done. No one person is going to be an expert at everything. My work, and my history, what connects all of this together is bringing people together and actually producing an organization that gets the job done.” They agreed, and Cason was offered the job.
In college, Cason was fascinated by the ability of opera to synthesize many different forms of art together in one, cohesive system. He has followed that same passion for systems design to the present day. More than twenty years later, the context has become well control.
We’re really happy to have someone like Cason in charge of such an important well control organization! Next time you see him, you may want to ask about how he was involved in the trailer for the first Spiderman movie…