The Hydra project for National Oilwell Varco (NOV) was a crash course into an industry I knew nearly nothing about but proved to be a complex and fascinating subject. NOV, a “worldwide provider of equipment and components used in oil and gas drilling and production operations, oilfield services, and supply chain integration services” recognized that its suite of applications was not keeping pace with its competitors and needed updating. As one of two Lead Architects on the project, we conducted user research and job shadowing in Houston, TX and Dubai, the company’s two main headquarters. To understand the needs, goals, and frustrations of its users and identify opportunities to leapfrog NOV’s solutions beyond their competition, we employed a mental model methodology to analyzing our research data. The result was a restructuring of the ecosystem in which the solutions exist and the redesign of NOV’s online tools. Due to the knowledge of the industry this engagement afforded me and the work I produced, I was twice brought back to NOV as a freelancer years after leaving the agency.