Academia meets Corporate

University collaborations: taking care of the future, by nurturing talent today

400+ Universities worldwide, 1500+ new key profile hires, 900+ interns per year, multiple consortiums and R&D collaborations… Those were numbers I saw when I became Director University Collaborations in 2018. Although my previous assignments were within Schlumberger R&D and I had multiple interactions with Academia, I did not know that we had such an impressive university network worldwide.

Access to global talent and alignment with the business - Schlumberger
Fig. 1—Access to global talent and alignment with the business

Let’s have a closer look on how our university relations are structured

Our company has engaged directly with universities since 1954. Being a technology company, Schlumberger was in close contact with leading colleges worldwide and conducted multiple joint research and engineering projects to advance and test new ideas. We opened our key research and engineering facilities in a close proximity to powerful academic clusters, such as Boston (close to MIT and Harvard), Cambridge (close to University of Cambridge, Oxford and other strong UK based universities), Moscow and Novosibirsk (close to multiple strong academic institutions in Russia), Palo Alto (Stanford and Silicon valley). At the same time, to be recognized as an industry leader in terms of human talent, hiring best-of-the best was required. Therefore, company was specifically selective on academic partners and built strong relationships with universities from top 100 worldwide (including top 10). In addition to that, the fact that our company is following the principle of hiring from where we work, our university network quickly reached 400+ universities in more than 120 countries.

To ensure we have proper engagement levels with key universities and have opportunity to develop our relationships beyond current status, in 1998 we introduced the Ambassador Program. It focuses on a select group of world-class universities and colleges (depth rather than breadth) targeted for recruiting and engaging in research, education and community outreach. Today the number of Ambassador Universities has grown to about 80, selected based on several criteria, including their educational rankings (nationally or internationally), their research capacity especially relevant to advancing the science and technology of our sector, as well as their economic and social impact, nationally, regionally and globally.

The network of University Ambassadors serves as the main representatives for the institutions in which they are assigned to. Together, this group is tasked with building and maintaining relationships with selected universities and educational institutions across the globe. University ambassadors, in most cases, are alumni of the institution of which they manage and maintain ongoing relationships with them. I was an Ambassador for Moscow State University myself and know from first hand experience that establishing trusted relationships with academic partners can create endless opportunities.

Structure of university relations - Schlumberger
Fig. 2—Structure of the university relationships

In 2020 about 55% of all employees in Schlumberger are millennials, making universities of great importance for the company as a direct talent pool. Therefore, the majority of Schlumberger engagements with universities are focused on students:

  • We are sponsoring student societies and organizations – helping them realize their initiatives
  • Guest lecturing, hackathons – ensuring knowledge flow from industry to university
  • Support of student capstone projects – connecting students to the business
  • Guiding curriculum development – helping universities stay up to speed with industry trends
  • Software, data lab and equipment donations – empowering learning abilities
  • Internships and placements – allowing to students and graduates to taste the real world
  • Consortiums, technology collaboration projects, start-ups support – advancing ideas to practice

The COVID-19 pandemic changed many “set-in-stone” practices within universities and how we are interacting with students and professors. The safety and health of our employees and students and university personnel is the primary goal, so we need to be creative on keeping active relationships without in-person presence. We are exploring virtual platforms to give students the ability to “visit” Schlumberger well site, or office, or research and development centers.

We introduced our first-ever virtual field camp to allow continuation of our internships and field camp engagements. Our participation in traditional career fairs expanded to virtual platforms and LinkedIn. We introduced the summer insight series which aimed to provide information about Schlumberger and assist students with sessions focused on building their personal brand and job hunting in the virtual world. R&D collaboration also has an opportunity to move into cloud, thanks to standardized digital platforms that Schlumberger developed for work with data in the industry.

Author information: Marina Bulova is the Director University Collaborations for Schlumberger. She is developing and nurturing relationships with a large network of Universities worldwide, so the company has access to excellent talent, has innovative technology collaboration with world class minds, transfers knowledge from industry to academia, and helps students to understand the world.

Throughout her 17 years career in Schlumberger, Marina worked in Russia, Canada and USA. Majority of her assignments were related to the technology development or management in the technology part of the organization. Her two PhDs in Chemistry and Materials Sciences are helping her to speak the same language with academia representatives.

In addition to her current role, Marina is leading the Science Based Target initiative for the reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions for Schlumberger. This is a company-wide project aiming to estimate the current GHG footprint of the organization and develop targets for its reduction according to criteria set by the Paris Agreement.

Marina lives with her husband and three children, who are experimenting with blended virtual and in-person schooling (new reality!).

Marina Bulova

Marina Bulova

Director University Collaborations for Schlumberger


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