S. Rutt Bridges
Not wishing to be provincial in considering Rutt Bridges for recipient of the Enterprise Award, the Honors and Awards Committee sought the opinion of Mike Cox, chief geophysicist with BP in London. After hearing a description of the nature and intent of the award, Mike's response was, "Do you mean someone like Rutt Bridges?" Such is the international reputation that Rutt Bridges has earned through his dedication to and success in providing technology that works in the day-to-day practice of seismic exploration.
Within only two or three years after its introduction in 1987, the PC-based MicroMAX system, which Rutt conceived and jointly developed with programmer Larry Stoiber, had become the most widely used field seismic processing system in the world. In the words of Mike Cox, "It has set the industry standard in field seismic data processing throughout the world."
Beyond the creativity, ingenuity, and achievement in developing MicroMAX and its successor, ProMAX, Rutt put his personal resources and future at risk by introducing the MicroMAX system in 1987, not a good year for exploration and barely a year after his company, Advance Geophysical Corporation, was almost put out of business as a result of the drastic plunge in oil prices. According to Bill Schneider, President of Golden Geophysical Corporation, "Rutt has that remarkable talent of being able to translate his technical and professional experience into visions of new products and services needed by the industry. The success of MicroMAX (a daring venture undertaken when the industry was heading into a major slump) attests to his business acumen, and ProMAX appears to be headed for the same fate."
That business acumen is founded on Rutt's outlook: When evaluating a joint venture or an agreement with another company, learn to see things as clearly from your potential partner's viewpoint as from your own, and seek a 60-60 deal; that is, one in which both parties can win and are therefore willing to work hard for its success.
With hindsight, it is easy to spot leadership in the making. Two years after receiving a BS degree in physics from Georgia Tech in 1973, where he co-authored the Georgia State Gravity Map, Rutt was awarded the Sigma Xi Award for Best Masters' thesis (in earthquake seismology). During his five years with Chevron Geosciences, he rose from party chief for an experimental three-component seismic recording crew, to processing supervisor for Eastern and Central US, and finally to area seismic applications geophysicist for the Western US, including Alaska. While in that position, although not actually in the programming group, he demonstrated his drive to resolve technical problems of practical importance by authoring a program to detect field geometry errors. Speaking of the Chevron years through the present, Chuck Edwards, director for Landmark/Exploitech, describes Rutt as "the most energetic and innovative individual I have ever known."
In 1980, Rutt took the bold step of founding Advance Geophysical, with the visionary goal of applying emerging microcomputer technology to geophysical problems. Within a couple of years, the company introduced what has become the most widely used microcomputer-based system for processing survey notes, and a year later, it introduced a PC-based software product for nonlinear vibroseis sweep design and EPROM programming that is also still widely used in the industry.
Rutt attributes his success with Advance to a desire to make technology accessible and understandable to the working geophysicist. Mistakenly considering himself not to be a particularly talented geophysicist or mathematician, he correctly describes himself as tenacious. His management philosophy is simple: Hire the best people available, put them in an environment with the tools to succeed, point them in the right direction, and leave them alone. He adds, "I seldom get exactly the software that I originally wanted; I often get something better." If there is a secret to his success with people, it is that he sincerely cares about the people with whom he works; it just comes naturally to him. The fun and enjoyment he gets from finding workable solutions to geophysical problems is contagiousShe has fun, and he functions so that those around him can, too.
Sharing Rutt's risk and sacrifice throughout the building of Advance Geophysical has been his wife, Barb, who has always been much more than the understanding and supportive wife. As Advance's vice-president of finance, Barb kept the wolves from the door during the tough years in the middle '80s, allowing Rutt to keep focused on developing MicroMAX at a time when others throughout the industry were cutting back.
Part and parcel of that focus has been Rutt's early and clear vision of the essential role that microcomputer technology could play in exploration geophysics. Rutt stepped down from the presidency of Advance Geophysical a couple of years ago to become its director of technology so that he could devote full effort to leading the development of new products. Nevertheless, in his spare time, while Chairman of the SEG Committee on Computer Applications, he organized the 1989 SEG Symposium, "The Future of Desktop Computers in Geophysics," and was also Technical Program Chairman for the very well attended 1989 Midwest SEG Meeting.
Many elements comprise the criteria for selecting an individual for the Enterprise AwardScourage, ingenuity, achievement, risk of one's own resources and future, accomplishment, and distinct and worthy contribution to the industry. Rutt Bridges embodies all of these elements through indefatigable dedication to finding workable solutions to practical technological problems and to working out 60-60 business arrangements where all parties win.