Halliburton executive Eric Williams this month marks three years in Oklahoma City as one of seven North American vice presidents at the international oil-field services company.
This is Williams' fourth stint as a resident of the Sooner state. Of his 35 years with Halliburton — or Halliburton acquisitions — he's worked nearly 10 years here.
Early on, Williams lived and worked in Watonga, where his family attended and loved the First Baptist Church; his adult sons started school in Broken Arrow; and in the mid-1980s, Williams and his wife, Jan, a former Edmond schoolteacher, even built a home here. But they got to live in it only 13 months before the market downturn.
As midcontinent area vice president, Williams oversees the company's technical, sales and operations functions for a territory that stretches from Kansas to the Barnett Shale in north Texas, and from the Texas Panhandle to Fayetteville, Ark.
His organization — which includes about 2,500 Halliburton employees — provides “oil-field solutions,” involving well construction to completion, to more than 400 clients, Williams said. Halliburton's manufacturing operation in Duncan lies outside of his duties.
From his 20th floor offices in the Oklahoma Tower at 210 Park Ave., Williams, 60, sat down recently with The Oklahoman to talk about his professional and personal life. This is an edited transcript:
Q: Tell us about your roots.
A: I grew up in Southern Illinois. My hometown, Enfield, had a total population of about 800, including 30 in my graduating class. But Enfield is just 40 miles west of Evansville, Ind., and 120 miles east of St. Louis, so I had the best of all worlds. My grandparents, on both sides, were grain farmers. In the summertime, I often rode my bike to their nearby farms. My father was a drilling superintendent in what was a small drilling community and my mother was a homemaker. I'm the oldest of four children. My sister and two brothers still live in the Southern Illinois area, near my father. Our mother just passed away last month.
Q: What were the highlights of your school days?
A: I played center (I'm 6'1”) on the basketball team, third base on the baseball team, and on the track team, ran high hurdles and threw the shot put and discus. I met my wife, Jan, when I was a sophomore in high school on a trip to the “big city.” She's a year younger and lived 10 miles east of me, in a town of 7,000. I and a carload of young men met her and a carload of young ladies cruising either A&W or Dairy Queen, which was at the opposite end of Main Street.
Q: And college?
A: I attended Eastern Illinois University, where I studied to be a physical education teacher and coach. Jan, who also earned an education degree there, and I married after my freshman year. I was 19 and she was 18. We lived in married student housing, where we made a lot of good friends.
Q: So you started your career as a teacher?
A: Yes. I taught for two years at separate schools in central Illinois and, to make ends meet, coached (track, basketball, baseball and wrestling), drove a school bus and worked summers assembling radiators on a manufacturing line. By that time, our older son was born, and Jan stayed home with him. She didn't start her teaching and counseling career until our two sons were both in school.
Q: What was your entry into the oil and gas industry?
A: My introduction to the field came through a friend of my father-in-law's, who owned adjacent property to him on a lake in Kentucky and then worked and lived in Oklahoma City. I'd told my father-in-law that I, after realizing there was very little compensation in teaching and coaching, was considering changing careers. I started out as a drilling fluids engineer for Baroid Drilling Fluids sampling well sites in southern Illinois.
Q: You've moved and traveled all over the place with Halliburton. Give us a quick overview.
A: From Illinois, where I joined the company, we moved soon after to central Michigan for a year; then to Watonga for three years; then a few years in Great Bend, Kan., where I was promoted to district engineer and my sales career took off; to Tulsa for a few years; and then to executive sales in Dallas. After some five years there, I served my first stint in Oklahoma City as a sales manager, back to Dallas and then onto Houston to Halliburton's North American headquarters. The company has a second headquarters in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. We moved here from Dallas, where we've been based the longest, about 15 years total. Internationally, I've traveled to Trinidad, Canada and Argentina, where Jan once accompanied me during one of her teaching spring breaks.
Q: I understand Halliburton is constructing a new facility in El Reno. Can you tell us a little about that?
A: We're building several multipurpose facilities on 80 acres a half-mile west of Banner Road north of Interstate 40 and south of Highway 66. When they open in mid-2014, they will house many of the employees who, at various leased spaces across the metro, work in Sperry Drilling Services; Halliburton Completion Tools; cementing, fracturing and other services. Engineers based there will be able to observe, in real time, 15 to 25 operations. We also expect to add staff; we‘ve hired several hundred per year over the past five. The beauty is we'll be across the street from the Canadian County Technology Center, so we hope to have a workforce right there.
Q: Your younger son, Worth, is employed by Halliburton. What's it like working for the same company?
A: It's fun. He works in sales in the Dallas area, and is calling on customers I used to call on. The oil and gas business is like a small fraternity.