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First, he explains, “we had to bring in every bit of mate- rial and equipment, and build a small city before we could even start to think about building the actual project.” Once the facilities were in place, oil from the African interior could be pro - cessed to separate it from water and gas, then piped through Chad and Came r - oon, and ultimately loaded into tankers off the coast of Cameroon. Vennema appreciates the multidisciplinary nature of his work. He’s not boxed into any specific solution, he says, but can use all the ideas and meth- ods at his disposal “to see where the opportunities are and how to take advantage of them to save time or cost or mitigate risk.” Creative thinking is re- warded in his business, he says. “If you have a narrow focus, you will miss opportunities and be left only mitigating vulnerabili- ties.” One problem-solving ex- ample: when “schedule erosion” had nixed the pos sibility to build a hard-surface airstrip to fly huge gas turbines into an inte- rior construction site, engineers developed a miniproject to link a series of low river crossings and road upgrades to bring in the turbines on special trucks. “This way we were able to keep the project on schedule for a successful completion,” he notes. A few years ago, Vennema and his family moved to South Korea so he could help facilitate the fabrication of the largest FPSO (floating production, storage, and offloading) vessels in existence. The two marine behemoths are now in use off the coast of Angola.

Of course, the oil business is inherently risky. Part of Ven-

nema’s job is to supervise those who assess what might happen before, during, and after the execution of a major oil project. “All the planning and assessments we do are to insure the work is executed safely,” he says, pleased that teams he supervises have recently reached a one-million-hour safety milestone. Currently Vennema is business manager for ExxonMobil’s huge conversion project to redeploy two offshore drilling rigs in the frigid North Caspian Sea. Outside of occasional trips to the US, or to the Kazakhstan work sites during the ice-free season, he lives with his wife and three children in London. —Paula Hartman Cohen

Architect of ambiance “I get to spend a lot of time in good restaurants,” says Hector Mendoza ’05. He’s describing one of the perks of his business as an acoustic architect. His company, Et Musique Pour Tous, does “sonic branding” for New York City restaurants, hotels, and other venues by creating ambient music with playlists specifically designed for each setting.


His blog, also named “Et Mu sique Pour Tous,” has described his inter- est in “space-age bachelor-pad music”—borrow ing (or sampling?) that motif free ly from Esquivel, the 1950s and ’60s “king of space-age pop.” Thanks to the popularity of the blog, Mendoza started getting asked if he could design “sound- scapes” for various establishments. Two years later, his clients include some of the finest restaurants in the city, such as Nobu, La Esquina, 60 Thompson, Le Premier, and Tu Casa. It’s been an interesting musical journey for the kid who was born in the Dominican Republic, moved to New York, sang with

the re nowned Boys Choir of Harlem, and then enrolled at Skid- more, where he encountered jam bands like Phish. After gradu- ation, with a business major and a self-determined major in music production, Mendoza went on to music mogul Jay-Z’s Roc-a-fella Records, where he worked as a freelance producer before striking out on his own. “I don’t see myself working for anyone else,” he says. “I always wanted to do my own thing.” Doing his own thing now means being hired for his discrim- inating musical taste. When he meets with new clients, they discuss the ambiance, the crowd, even the menu. From these interviews he weaves a tapestry of sound—hand-picking each selection—that will complement and enhance the customer experience. He delivers his custom playlists of some 600–700 songs over a proprietary online system from his library of over 200,000 songs.

Mendoza is using an interdisciplinary mix of aesthetics, psy- chology and technology to enhance human interaction in a creative, interpretive way that he says he was first introduced to in Skidmore’s Liberal Studies 1 curriculum, where he became aware of the connectivity among experiences. Naturally, he has to follow up on his soundscape installations and test them in person. So he gets to hang out in some pretty swanky joints, grooving on the ambiance, the food, and, of course, the music. —Jon Wurtmann ’78



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