Ulrik Friis

Outside-in

With years of experience and industry know-how, Ulrik Friis brings tremendous value to Wärtsilä’s new Oil & Gas team. See how his deep understanding of the industry can help foster greater collaboration between partners.

Text: Ann Törnkvist Photo: Esben Salling

As the helicopter touched down on the rig, Ulrik Friis surveyed the restless, grey North Sea. He was happy to be back. “A rig is like a small city,” he says. “We depend on each other, we have to keep drilling, and we have to have good teamwork for safety.”

Keep going, keep safe. Those values, along with a deep understanding of the Oil & Gas industry have helped Friis over the decades, both on and offshore.  “Sales and safety are core drivers of the Oil & Gas industry and its players. Particularly long-term sales,” he says. “I’m used to working with long-term and big-scale projects.”

This experience eventually turned out to be a valuable asset to Wärtsilä when Friis was appointed Senior Product Development Manager for the new Oil & Gas team. “Understanding the decision processes of players and stakeholders in the oil and gas industry is crucial,” he explains “and having been part of these processes myself, I can see how companies like Wärtsilä can support players and stakeholders throughout.”

Friis’ acquaintance with Wärtsilä first started in 1998, when he sailed on containerships powered by Wärtsilä engines, straight after he received his Marine Engineering Degree from the Svendborg International Maritime Academy in Denmark. This was also the time he first started to truly appreciate and value Wärtsilä’s products and solutions.

Then, in 2016, the offshore-drilling industry he was working in started to go through a rough patch due to fluctuating oil prices. This tightened the oil and gas industry’s margins and made a lot of his colleagues anxious. Around this time, Wärtsilä was collaborating with Friis in a thruster-replacement project which required the replacement of four thrusters. While the project went ahead smoothly, Friis realised that his skills could possibly help improve things further.

Ulrik Friis

When Wärtsilä set up a specialised Oil & Gas team, with a base in Denmark, he took note – perhaps he could contribute? He had been scouting for new opportunities and his family, after nine years in Dubai, wanted to go back to Denmark, which he says has always been ‘home’ to all of them. However, Friis was certain he would consider something ‘only if the right job came up'.

In that case, was this not just the perfect job for him to put his knowledge to use? After all, Wärtsilä would benefit from someone who could translate the oil and gas industry’s needs for them. “I didn’t hesitate to apply for the job as Senior Product Development Manager,” he says, “because I had always liked Wärtsilä’s values and solutions, and the way this new team was set up was very appealing to me.”
  

Ulrik Friis

Friis bet that his experience working with Class projects and his maintenance background would make him a strong candidate, and he was right. Once he had accepted Wärtsilä’s offer, in July 2018, Friis and his family left Dubai’s scorching heat and touched down in Copenhagen where they were welcomed by a 20-degree summer. The emerald greens of late summer and the reds and yellows of fall provided a refreshing change to him and his family. “My old colleagues were delighted for my sake,” he says, adding that he can see himself building a long-term career within Wärtsilä as he helps deepen collaboration between various stakeholders.

While Friis couldn’t be happier in his new role, he does admit to feeling a little out of his ‘comfort zone’ working with sales. However, he sees similarities between his old and new jobs. Not just because his knowledge is valued, but also because of the sense of fellowship. “I get a lot of questions from my new colleagues. We help each other a lot, just like we would on a drilling rig. When I can assist, I do,” he concludes.

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