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Graduate Programme: First Months at Sulmara
George's journey from interview to first deployment in Houston, Texas
George Barker Large

Interview - 23/11/23

After finding Sulmara on LinkedIn, I applied for the Offshore Survey Graduate role. I had seen the Drix USV in action, completing Sand-Wave Migration Surveys in Taiwan, which resonated with my dissertation on 'How is sediment distributed in Shelf Seas'.

Before applying, I studied Geological Oceanography at Bangor University in Wales for three years. Following that, I worked as a clean water process engineer at Yorkshire Water for 2.5 Years.

Jamie Johnston, the Training and Competency Manager, and Claire Spink, the Talent Recruiter, conducted my interview. They provided insights into the role and its broader responsibilities and tested my understanding of Geodesy and Survey techniques to pinpoint my areas for development. 

The entire process was not only relaxing but also inspiring. The interview reaffirmed my ambition to join Sulmara, a company I deeply admire for its unwavering global environmental awareness and impressive track record of efficiently completing projects.

One week later, I received news that my application was successful, and since then, I have not looked back.

Training (Week 1) - 22/01/24

My journey at Sulmara kicked off in Glasgow, where I familiarised myself with the company's operational systems, leadership introductions, and 1-2-1 industry briefings led by Jamie Johnston. Jamie's wealth of industry experience helped seamlessly bridge the gap between my university theory and practical application. 

I received a warm welcome from Sulmara's CEO, Kevin McBarron, and COO, Carlo Pinto, both great supporters of the graduate program. 

The team wasted no time in making me feel at home, with Andrea Henderson (HR Coordinator), Callum Shaw (Marketing Coordinator), and Louise Dawson (Project Coordinator) facilitating my integration, from arranging travel logistics to gaining access to the company portal on day one.

My third day overlapped with my 24th birthday, a fact Jamie quietly acknowledged with a gift and card. The entire office joined in to celebrate - a clear testament to Sulmara's people-focused culture, evident from the get-go. 

Training (Week 2) - 29/01/24

Sulmara wasted no time enrolling me in an EIVA Survey Processing Introduction course. As a graduate, they prioritised placing me in a role where I felt most comfortable while providing me with a healthy context for the Graduate Offshore Survey role. 

The EIVA processing course underscored the significance of accurate Geodesy and data refinement and introduced me to patch testing for the first time. Patch testing involved calibrating vessel instruments to a known datum, often a physical object within the survey scope's proximity.

The steep learning curve was made manageable with guidance from experienced surveyors like Svetlana Klockova, Matthew Catterall, and Richard Morrice.

Training (Week 3) - 05/02/24

In my third week at Sulmara, I attended an introduction to EIVA Survey Software alongside more experienced surveyors, many of whom were trained in QPS Software. 

Senior Offshore Surveyors John Crennel and Ed Betton delivered great encouragement, immersed me in the Offshore way of working, and offered ongoing support.

During my training, I honed my skills in creating survey lines and boundaries, incorporating various instruments into vessel models, and familiarised myself with offsets for the vessel I had modelled.

Quality checking and precise instrument setup are integral aspects of the Surveyor role, and with this training, I now feel equipped to meet Sulmara's high standards for correct survey operations. 

BOSIET and Aberdeen Workshop – 14/02/2024 to 24/02/24 

After a week at home, Sulmara arranged for my BOSIET and MIST training, alongside some time at the Aberdeen workshop, to enhance my understanding of survey equipment and procedures. 

During my workshop, Alan McDonald (Engineering and Technology Manager) and his team guided us through the setup and offset application of the GNSS positioning system. 

Since surveyors frequently work remotely from operational vessels, self-reliance on equipment is crucial. Alan instructed us on wire coupling, soldering, and retrofitting components to ensure continuous survey functionality, even in challenging offshore environments. 

Thanks to the instruction from the Aberdeen team, we are better equipped to adapt and resolve issues as they arise. 

The BOSIET took place at the 3T training centre near Aberdeen International Airport. Training included classroom instruction on: MIST (Minimum Industry Safety Training), HUET (Helicopter Underwater Escape Training), CA-EBS (Compressed Air Emergency Breathing System) and OGUK Medical (Oil and Gas UK).

The training was thorough and engaging, featuring 7 underwater escape scenarios from the Helicopter Crash Simulator in the 3T pool. Additionally, it included sea survival scenarios, helicopter rescue drills, and offshore installation emergency disembarkation. 

The high standard of training has instilled in me the confidence to react effectively to emergencies should the need arise.

Training (Week 4) - 04/03/24

After another week at home, Sulmara offered me a course on QPS to enhance my understanding of survey software within my role. I found the principles to be similar to EIVA. Throughout the week, I had the opportunity to meet more experienced surveyors like David White, Andy Wood, and Octavian Banica, as well as a fellow graduate from the previous intake, Kayleigh Allison. 

I also met my Line Manager, Danny Boyle, who was eager to deploy me and pleased to see that I had taken the course. The experience was encouraging and professional, and I enjoyed interacting with another cohort of Sulmara employees. Each course has built upon and reinforced my knowledge from the previous. 

Surveying requires hands-on experience to develop, and these courses have provided me with the best foundation to start my journey as an Offshore Survey Graduate with Sulmara. The team has been truly outstanding.

First Deployment (Houston, Texas) - 24/03/24

Four months after my interview with Jamie and Claire, I found myself in Houston, Texas, for the closing weeks of a USV Bathymetric and Geophysical survey operation. 

The team was comprised of Nick Ridley (USV Field Engineer), Stephen Crotty (Senior Survey Engineer), and Sathesh Kumar (USV Supervisor), who was outstanding. 

Sathesh guided me through the intricacies of USV anatomy, deployment protocols, and maintenance procedures. Nick taught me piloting techniques, considerations for meteorological factors, and sound velocity data acquisition. Throughout the experience, Steve encouraged me to fully engage with each aspect, from the initial launch to data acquisition and subsequent monitoring.

USVs are increasingly shaping the future of the offshore industry, with Sulmara continuously pushing boundaries with each new project. The survey in Texas involved running 500km of survey lines to assess the Bathymetric, Magnetometry, and sub-bottom profile of the area for future carbon capture pipelines.

The WAM-V, powered by electricity rather than a conventional diesel-burning vessel, represents Sulmara's commitment to reducing emissions and minimising the carbon footprint of operations on a larger scale. 

Spending time on the tow vessel with Nick proved invaluable in comprehending the scale of offshore infrastructural projects. 

After receiving positive feedback from the client, including remarks about the "best data we've seen" from a USV, Sulmara extended an invitation for me to join a subsequent project in Texas to test the capabilities of USVs further. 

Sulmara provided me with flexibility regarding my return travel, allowing me to spend time experiencing Houston before flying home. With a week to myself in Texas, I was eager and conveniently positioned to return for this testing phase without leaving the country.

Are you ready to make a difference?

Sulmara is now ready to welcome a new class of graduates later this summer with ongoing interviews. If you are interested in learning more about our Graduate Programme, contact our talent acquisition team at