In Plain Sight Transcript


00:11 Michael Gaines: Hello, and welcome to NOV Today. I'm your host, Michael Gaines. As a brief introduction, NOV Today is the company's official podcast that gives you insight into the people, places, and technology that drive our company and industry. For more information, check out for additional episodes.

00:35 Michael Gaines: Have you ever been in an airport waiting for a flight, and just stopped to look around at all of the people there? Maybe you've asked yourself, "What brought each person to this specific airport, and what's their story?" Maybe I'm alone in this category, but I think about that every time I fly, partly out of general curiosity and also because I know that, for each person, there's a unique sequence of events that led up to them being at the airport, and it makes me wonder what their backstory is. Likewise, when I visit NOV facilities and meet employees, I often think of similar questions. What brought them here, what's their story in this tapestry of a company we call NOV? On this episode, we're going to have the opportunity to answer a few of those questions, and help put a voice to some of the people helping NOV develop leading energy and industrial technologies.

01:31 Michael Gaines: Brodrick Stringfellow, Jeremy Grzywa and Megan Phelps are three different examples of life at NOV, and we'll share how, no matter your life experiences or background, everyone can find a seat on this journey we call NOV. We start our story at 7:00 AM, as a local freight train rolls through this industrial area of Navasota, Texas.


02:11 Brodrick Stringfellow:
I'll just come this way and walk through here instead of going all the way around.

02:14 Michael Gaines: Oh, okay.

02:21 Brodrick Stringfellow:
I usually have a buggy, but my guys, theirs broke yesterday, so I left it for 'em.

02:25 Speaker 3: Mr. String.

02:27 Brodrick Stringfellow: What's up Ricky? 

02:28 Speaker 3: Good morning.

02:29 Brodrick Stringfellow: You might hear some people throughout the day say Stringfellow, they're talking about me.

02:34 Michael Gaines:
Brodrick Stringfellow, 31 years old, is a newly-minted supervisor at the Grant Prideco plant in Navasota, Texas. Standing at 6 feet tall, Broderick confidently moves throughout the facility, greeting almost everyone he comes in contact with this early morning.

02:53 Brodrick Stringfellow:
And where we're heading is this building right here, right in front of us, the big building.

02:57 Michael Gaines: Building 59? 

02:58 Brodrick Stringfellow: Yes, sir.

03:00 Speaker 3: You need a ride? 

03:01 Brodrick Stringfellow: Go ahead, we're good. Thank you. That's actually one of my team leaders right there, we call them leadmans in the blue shirt.

03:08 Michael Gaines: Okay. So how many team leaders do you have? 

03:14 Brodrick Stringfellow: I have three on days and two at nights.

03:17 Michael Gaines: Okay, so y'all are running 24 hours? 

03:19 Brodrick Stringfellow: We run 24 hours over here. So over here, one shift, one line can produce about 120 pipe a day, so we can easily do up to 700 a day.

03:30 Michael Gaines: Oh, wow.

03:31 Brodrick Stringfellow: Easily.

03:32 Michael Gaines: As we walk into shop 59, you'd never know that less than five years ago, this Air Force veteran was working as a machinist on the shop floor here, having served in that capacity for over four years. His approach to work and interaction with fellow NOV colleagues has been shaped largely in part from his life experiences before joining the company.

03:55 Brodrick Stringfellow: I have been here at Grant Prideco going on five years. A little bit about my background, going all way back. I graduated high school in three years, mostly all my high school classes I took when I was in junior high, so once I found out I was having a child, I had to make things shape, which... That's why I decided to graduate high school in three years. And after I graduated high school, I went to the military. After the military, I changed routes and I went to work for the state, where I worked at a facility in Burnham. It was called Burnham State School, where we took care of individuals with special needs.

04:37 Brodrick Stringfellow: So I worked there for almost three years, and I decided to have a career change, which is when I got into CNC. CNC, I went and worked for a company out in Bryan-College Station where they made cabinets, and that business was doing pretty good until a little while. I was there for about two years, and once business declined, I went to work for elsewhere, which is where I went to school for HVAC, which is Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning. So when I went to school, and in the process of going to school, I got with this little company out in the College Station as well that gave me opportunity to be one of their installers. So I worked there for about two years, and that was just something that just wasn't working out.

05:30 Brodrick Stringfellow: And once I left there, that's when I came over here with Grant Prideco through a temp agency, and I've been here ever since. When I first started here, I started off as a CNC machine operator, and while working at the machine, I was working at night, so I was able to go to school and complete my bachelor's and master's degree, which has led me to the position I am today as a supervisor.

05:54 Michael Gaines: Work isn't just work, especially when you're doing it with people you love, according to Stringfellow. Do you like being in the oil and gas industry? 

06:04 Brodrick Stringfellow: I don't really like being in it, actually; I love being in it. So Grant Prideco has been a different, a life change for me, especially the individuals here that work here has a huge role in that. So I think once you're working with great people, sometimes the field, the job that you do, is nothing compared to the relationships that you're building.

06:25 Michael Gaines: Having faced numerous life experiences at a young age, Brodrick says there's one thing that drives him more than anything else.

06:33 Brodrick Stringfellow: So family is a big thing for me, especially with my son. He had complications when he was born, so I try to spend as much time with him as possible. And as I say, growing up during my childhood, my parents both had to work all the time, so seeing them when growing up was very rare because they worked whenever I was out of school. So when I went to school and when I made it home, my parents were still at work, so most times, they had maybe one or two jobs, so I try to give my kids something that I didn't growing up, which is time. Time is something you can't get back.

07:14 Michael Gaines: Given the nature of this manufacturing facility, the operations are 24 hours a day, and as such, requires a constant eye on the future. Likewise, the same concept applies to Brodrick and his passions, as he shared his view of the future for he and his wife.

07:31 Brodrick Stringfellow: One day, me and my wife, we got into foster care where we have an individual who lives with us, and that's because, really, nobody else wanted him. Whenever the time we got him, he was actually in a hospital because he didn't have any guardianship, so that's why we got him. But me and my wife, we have plans of one day opening up a group home facilities. It would be a residential care which specializes in individuals with special needs, so we'll be providing them a home like we're providing this individual right now.

08:07 Michael Gaines: Being responsible for ensuring the drill pipe is straightened and ready for the tool joints to be welded on is one of the critical steps in this manufacturing process. Any slow down in the process means a bottleneck ripple effect up and down the line. This ultimately impacts the business for our customers and their production. Indeed, this is a very high-pressure portion of the production process to be responsible for, but you'd never know that talking with Brodrick. A smile, pat on the back, and an encouraging word is all you'll see as he quietly plays his part in ensuring high-quality drill pipe makes it out of the door on time.


09:02 Michael Gaines:
While many aspects of business can be tweaked and modified to achieve peak performance, nothing can get done if there aren't people there to make it happen. It takes dedication, training, and support to ensure we're consistently crossing the finish line first. For one particular NOV employee, this idea runs deep through her veins. For seven-time marathon participant and Boston Marathon qualifier, Megan Phelps knows that success is something that doesn't come overnight.

09:32 Megan Phelps: I love being in human resources as it is now. I think if I would have been in HR previously, maybe a decade ago, I wouldn't have enjoyed it as much, as we weren't... We didn't have a seat at the table, we weren't in any decisions, we were like the afterthought. "Oh, here, go push this out to them, let them take care of it." As we're now... We're there, we're helping make decisions, we're guiding managers to help make the best decision based on the resources they have. And we get to dabble in everything, so we know what's going on with the business completely, and that's a fun place to be in.

10:05 Michael Gaines: As the HR director for the Process & Flow Technologies business unit within the CAP segment, Megan knows the value of hard work and the strategic benefit that she and her colleagues apply to NOV's success, today and in the future. Her passion for helping ensure the alignment of the business strategy, and the people who make it happen, stem from her early career and clear understanding of the fuel that drives the organizational engine.

10:32 Megan Phelps: Because the manufacturing or the shop floor employees, they are the bread and butter of our business, they are the ones that make us money, they're working the 12 hours, six, seven days a week sometimes. And I came from manufacturing, so when I worked at Artex, I had a really close relationship with all the shop guys. You can just walk out of the office and it was right there, and so I came from a manufacturing plant, and you could see how hard they work, and how much passion... They love what they do, and they take pride in their work, and so... And they all have ambition as well, whether it's... Some of them maybe don't want to go and be a manager or VP, but they still want to move up and be a supervisor and be a lead, and we kinda lose sight of that the further away from the manufacturing facilities as we get.

11:14 Michael Gaines: The level of ambition and focus Megan displays year over year comes from one of her lifelong influencers.

11:21 Megan Phelps: So it was just my mother and I. I grew up in a small town. I lived in Somerville, Texas, but went to school in Brenham, which is where Blue Bell is made, [chuckle] as anyone knows what Brenham is. And I didn't play any sports, I didn't participate in any extracurricular activities. I was taught that you go to school to learn, not to play, and that if you went to school and got a degree and worked hard, that you could do anything you wanted to do and succeed in life, and so that was kind of my... My childhood was reading books and being a nerd, always sitting in the front of the class. Not that I didn't have fun, but it wasn't what I think typical people do for fun when they're in high school, or even in college years.

12:08 Michael Gaines: A self-described introvert growing up, Megan spent many stressful days and evenings alone studying, forgoing extracurricular activities and social functions, many times to the detriment of her overall health. One day, her English teacher and highschool cross country coach approached Megan, and simply suggested that she try out the sport, just once.

12:30 Megan Phelps:
So my junior year, I started to drive the summer after my junior year, and one of my English teachers was a coach for cross country, and she asked me to join the team.

12:40 Michael Gaines: Somewhat wary, Megan accepted the offer. What followed was the beginning of a lifetime love and passion for running and developing community, a journey that continues today.

12:53 Megan Phelps: And so that summer, I practiced every day, ran two miles every day in the summer until when the fall season started my senior year. I came back, I was able to drive, so that is a sport I participated in, and I was actually pretty good, and it gave me the confidence that I think I lacked probably through all of my high school, junior high years of putting myself out there. I was just this nerdy, quiet girl. And then when I joined cross country and was good at it and had someone who invested in me, not only academically, but also like, "Hey, be more active," and showed me something different than just going home every day after school and studying, that was a big factor for me, and then I carried that on through college running, and it kinda became my outlet for stress because I didn't have one, so that was a big, big part of my life, and still is.

13:44 Michael Gaines: Megan's health improved and resulted in the development of a renewed way of looking at herself and others. The impact of someone taking a personal interest in Megan and her future development continues to influence the way she approaches work and home life. Just like she shares with her four-year-old daughter, Megan says she believes that everyone has a voice and they should use it and not be afraid to challenge the status quo because we weren't meant to live in boxes.

14:11 Megan Phelps:
Don't be afraid to challenge the norms. I would say that's probably carried me the farthest at NOV, is don't... Because every... You have these... I was obviously a rule follower. And so, you wanna follow rules, especially being HR, you wanna stay in the lines, but that's not where growth happens, and that's not where new things transpire from, so don't be afraid to push the limits that are there. Not to be completely disregarding them, but if you think that something is a good idea, or you think something's not right, speak up, say something, because if everyone's just silent, nothing changes.


15:11 Michael Gaines:
Solving challenges and being readily available for customer's needs is a concept often spoken by businesses across the world. Making the leap from idea to reality, however, can oftentimes be a challenge. In the case of Jeremy Grzywa, Senior Manager for Digital Marketing in Rig Technologies, his career has allowed him to put the concept of "customer first" into true practice. One such example was the unique way in which Jeremy and NOV interpreted the idea of 24/7 customer support. He began by sharing his origins with NOV.

15:48 Jeremy Grzywa: I started in NOV as a part of the Next Gen program, and it was a rotational leadership development program, where they were trying to bring new college graduates into the oil and gas industry, and then give them a taste of different parts of the company. So from there, I ended up working... I was afforded an opportunity to work in Singapore, and I took on one of NOV's largest offshore drilling contractors as an account. I was based in that contractor's technical support office, so I was kind of the first point of contact for anything that happened in the region, and we would figure out what needed to be done, and I would go home at night and ping the NOV powers that be and in Houston, in Norway, in the Middle East, wherever we needed the answers from. I was kind of that point of contact to expedite communication across all those time zones, so that was a good introduction to one of our customers and how their business operates. I did that for a few years, and it really gave me a good insight as to what drives our customers, what's important to them, and it made me look at NOV in a different way too.

17:16 Jeremy Grzywa: So when that came to its end, I found myself in the marketing group. After a few years working in the customer's office, I was ready to try something different and get back to the roots of the company and work internally for a little while. I really wanted to try my hand in a managerial role, and I was given the opportunity to manage a small team in the marketing group, and that was a really great experience as well, leading right into the downturn, which was another learning experience. So I've been with the marketing group for the past four years, and that's kinda how I ended up where I am today.

18:02 Michael Gaines: With his trademark short-cropped beard and brown-rimmed tortoise shell glasses, Jeremy evokes a quiet confidence about himself and a deep understanding of this industry he serves. With his wife and their firstborn on the way, Jeremy is a man of deep relationships and concern for those around him. When asked a question about an account or customer, there is little to no hesitation as he casually recalls rig names, locations, and other customer statuses, as if retelling a story from dinner the night before, and then immediately recalls a personal fact about the person with a twinkle in his eye, a true testament to his overall passion for the business and specific drive to know those he comes in contact with. When asked his thoughts on why NOV has been successful in the marketplace, Jeremy states that, at NOV, you can choose a career path that best suits you as an individual.

18:58 Jeremy Grzywa: Yeah, I think it comes from... We have this culture at NOV where you can kind of choose your own adventure, choose your own career path, and I wouldn't say that it's a right or wrong way to do it, but there's some companies that are extremely structured and you know if you wanna end up at this point 20 years from now, here are the jobs that you need to take every two years.

19:24 Jeremy Grzywa: NOV is just not that kind of company, so the people that you come across in your day-to-day interactions have held jobs in engineering, in marketing, in manufacturing, and they just have this broad perspective, and I think that that helps. People don't get absorbed in their world view at the company where they only care about one thing. And the direction that you get from managers throughout your career is, if you're not passionate about what you're doing now, then find what you are passionate about and go do that, but you can do it at NOV; you don't have to go to another company to pursue what's fulfilling to you. So I think that's a pervasive attitude throughout the company.

20:14 Michael Gaines: While he's firmly focused on enabling our customers' businesses, Jeremy shared that he also has a deep commitment to leveraging his skills for others around the world through several organizations.

20:25 Jeremy Grzywa: I serve on the board for an organization called Rock Foundation Cambodia, and that was a connection I made while working in Singapore. Just a mutual friend who was coming through town who was the executive director of Rock Foundation was just looking for a couch to crash on while he was visiting with his wife, so I had a spare bedroom and offered to put them up and, yeah, we've been working together ever since. So I've been helping them with some of their marketing efforts and had a chance to visit Cambodia a couple of times while I was living there to see the ongoing work, and they're doing some really great things in the space of water-well drilling and providing medical supplies for the people in Cambodia, so it's a great initiative.

21:23 Michael Gaines: With an always-changing energy landscape, according to Jeremy, the future of NOV is exciting and bright.

21:30 Jeremy Grzywa: I'm pretty excited about some of the direction our rig group is going right now, actually. We've ventured into this new space, our new business called Marine and Construction, and you've seen some of the news out there of acquisitions that we've made for companies like GustoMSC, Remacut, and it's an exciting thing because it broadens our scope past just oil and gas. There's a lot of work out there in the construction side, whether it's laying pipe or cable, offshore wind installation.

22:11 Jeremy Grzywa: We can take a lot of those best practices that we learned by integrating so many drilling equipment manufacturing companies and outfitting all these drill ships in the last build cycle. Well, here we are doing a similar thing in the construction space and the wind installation space where we can now supply an entire lay system, and we can design a vessel for an integrated lay system for the construction market, and we can use some of those same best practices for executing projects and commissioning and integrating and translate that into that space. So I'm excited to see where that goes, and it's cool to be a part of that renewable side, as well as the oil and gas side.


23:20 Michael Gaines:
NOV and cars have more in common than you might imagine. According to a major global car manufacturer, a typical passenger car can have upwards of 30,000 individual components. While many of the components are easily seen such as the steering wheel, dashboard, and seats, there are many other pieces that go unnoticed but still play a critical role such as the engine, suspension, and chassis. In the same way, behind the faces of NOV employees, lie untold stories and experiences that are all bound together by a sense of belonging to a global family, a commitment to service above all, and a drive towards purposeful innovation.

24:05 Michael Gaines: We hope that this small glimpse into three of the more than 36,000 NOV employees across 64 countries helps provide more perspective into what we put into each one of our technologies. While hidden in plain sight, each NOV story drives us further each day towards meeting the ever-changing needs of the energy industry in ways as creative, imaginative, and diverse as each person that makes up our organization.


24:35 Michael Gaines: Thanks for listening to this episode of NOV Today. We'd like to hear your feedback. Share your thoughts by tweeting us @NOVGlobal and using the hashtag NOVToday, or you can contact us by sending an email to [email protected]. To stay up to date on the latest episodes, visit our website at There, you can find show summaries and links to subscribe on iTunes, Google Podcasts, SoundCloud, or wherever you get your favorite podcasts. For NOV Today, I'm Michael Gaines. Thanks for listening, and we'll talk to you later.