It is not easy being the boss of a key business in the oil and gas industry.
Long hours, hard work, crucial decisions to make and the heavy burden of responsibility are almost constant pressures facing anyone in such a position.
Doing all that and finding enough time for the competing demands of a family at home is an even tougher challenge. Just ask Neil Poxon, managing director of Aberdeen-based Industry Technology Facilitator (ITF).
It was not too long into our discussion before the first mention crept in of his wife, Cecille, and four children: Jessica, 17, Zoe, 15, William, 12, and Jade, nine.
It soon transpired that Mr Poxon, 41, spends much of his time away from work ferrying children around to various extracurricular activities from their home at Mannofield, in Aberdeen.
William is a keen footballer, which means much of Mr Poxon’s weekends are spent driving to and from matches and the devoted dad also helps out with coaching his son’s teams.
So, between work and family, there is not too much time left over to listen to those old Stiff Little Fingers and Ultravox albums Mr Poxon enjoyed in his younger days.
Back at the office, there is a big and very important job to be done helping to meet the technology needs of 22 major oil and gas operators and service companies.
ITF is an internationally recognised champion for innovation within the energy sector, acting as a conduit between technology developers and the industry.
Its key objectives are to identify needs, foster innovation and facilitate the development and implementation of new technologies.
To date, it has spearheaded the delivery of 120 new and revolutionary oilfield technology projects to the market and secured direct ITF membership funding of about £35million.
Mr Poxon, who was appointed as MD two years ago, has seen huge progress and a much higher profile for the business in the past 12 months.
He said: “Being recognised is one thing and being credible is another, but I am pretty certain that one of the greatest achievements for ITF in the past year has been the surge in our industry status.
“I won’t say it has been easy, but I am still sometimes astounded at how far ITF has come.
“This is all down to a shared vision, a common goal and a team that is made up of the very best this industry has to offer.”
ITF was established in 1999 by major operators and the Department of Trade and Industry.
Since Mr Poxon’s appointment and a recent shift in emphasis by ITF – it is now more global in its outlook and focused on implementation – the not-for-profit group has signed 12 new international members, including major service companies.
In the past 18 months alone, Mr Poxon has overseen the implementation of 15 new technologies within the industry.
ITF’s star has risen so high in industry circles globally it is now regarded by many people as the world’s most influential technology development programme.
Mr Poxon said: “During 2007 and 2008 we have superseded our targets. Nevertheless, we are far from becoming complacent and we are always driving forward new initiatives to continually improve how we operate and the value we can deliver to the entire industry.”
ITF is said to have achieved a 20-fold return on the investments of its owner-members, who include all of the oil majors plus service giants such as Halliburton, Technip and Weatherford. A further example of ITF’s status and success is its co-ordinating role in the establishment of a new collaborative global funding programme, which Mr Poxon spoke about at the recent Royal Bank of Scotland North Sea conference in Aberdeen.
He said: “For the very first time in history, we will bring together our American, Norwegian and Canadian counterparts from government and industry to discuss how we can all work together to hone in on common areas of interest.”
This is no mean feat and Mr Poxon sees it as a major triumph not just for ITF but for the industry as a whole.
ITF’s boss, who has been widely credited for the new vision adopted and now being executed by the organisation, has always been something of a hard worker, a go-getter and a man who believes nothing is unachievable.
He said: “I suppose what attracted me to ITF in the first place was the challenge it presented. Its enormous potential was obvious, but having carved my career in the commercial service sector I wondered how different it would be to work for a not-for-profit organisation. It turns out that it’s not that different, except I have to do twice as many presentations.”
After graduating from Sheffield University in 1988 with an honours degree in chemical process engineering with fuel technology, Derby-born Mr Poxon joined oilfield production chemical business TR Oil Services in Aberdeen as a technical service engineer.
Following an initial spell in the north-east he embarked on a series of roles that kept him overseas for the best part of 12 years, working in various locations in Africa, the Middle East and south-east Asia.
It was during his long sojourn in foreign climes, specifically in Abu Dhabi, that he met his wife, who was working at a hotel in the Gulf state at the time.
Ambitious and determined to work his way through the ranks, Mr Poxon moved into his first management position at Baker Performance Chemicals and was later appointed Middle East regional manager for US-based chemical company Champion Technologies.
Following the birth of their fourth child, the Poxons returned to the UK for good in 2000.
Mr Poxon became the regional manager in Aberdeen for Cetco Oilfield Services and was later appointed as a general manager.
By the time he left Cetco in 2006, it had 42 people based at the regional headquarters in Aberdeen servicing clients in the UK, Norway, Kazakhstan, Africa, the Middle East and in Asia-Pacific.
Mr Poxon was lured away by the challenge of his current job at ITF, whose recent progress suggests the appointment has been a big success all round. The MD said, however, credit must also be given to the rest of the ITF team plus a number of other factors.
First and foremost of these, he said, was the vision of the board and its support. The ITF management team and technology developers were also singled out for praise.
Mr Poxon added: “The industry has evolved over the years and, as hydrocarbons became harder to locate and recover, new technology became recognised as the answer to increasing recovery factors.
“We are now beyond just increasing sustainability – cost-effective exploration and production, increased efficiency in mapping reserves and advances in subsea processing are all hot topics for ITF at the moment.”
Despite all his achievements – past and present – Mr Poxon was in no doubt which one of them was the most important of all, replying candidly that it was his family.
It appears that his earlier career aspirations have rubbed off on at least one child. Jessica plans to follow in her father’s footsteps and study chemical engineering when she goes to university.