A Young Engineer's Perspective

When it comes to oil, it’s no longer just a man’s world. Career in recent years has become important to women. Today, women can be seen in research and development, production, consulting work, and even in field jobs. Women are climbing the corporate ladder and starting to fill top executive positions. As a woman, I have learned many lessons in my short tenure in the industry. Let me share with you some of the highlights.

Get Your Hands Dirty—Learn Operations 

When I graduated, I was interested in reservoir engineering but selected a production role because I thought it will be a good idea to get my hands dirty and learn about this important part of the industry. Initially, I was hesitant about the job, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. I just loved what I did! In fact, this decision turned out to be one of the best I have made in my professional career thus far. I spent significant time in the field, listening to the challenges confronted by the operating personnel. This practical knowledge aided me in addressing daily operational issues, writing procedures, and implementing measures in the field. Because of this experience, I have gained respect from my peers; and have increased my technical competency. This knowledge is invaluable, when being considered for new assignments and promotions. So take field assignments, learn operations, and be willing to get your hands dirty.

Build Relationships

I was very involved with the SPE chapter in college and held many student positions. I enjoyed it at the time, and looking back, I realize that the relationships built at that time provided the foundation for my success. Because of those relationships, I was able to excel in the SPE Delta Section. Build relationships by participating actively in networks and societies inside and outside your company.

Changing Priorities

When entering the workforce, I didn’t consider how my priorities would change with time. Since graduation, I have married, and we now have children. My main priorities upon graduating were a challenging job and travel opportunities, but now they have shifted to work/life balance and dual-career management. I have chosen to work part-time to be with my children while they are young. My company has offered me this opportunity and still is able to provide challenging work. I am very fortunate I chose a company that is able to match my changing values and priorities. But don’t count on luck. Research companies thoroughly to understand their culture and career options. Consider how your priorities may change, and decide on a company that is able to match those priorities.

Wonder Woman Is Fiction

By far the hardest lesson for me to learn was that Wonder Woman is only fiction. When I graduated, I thought that I could be Wonder Woman. I wanted an extraordinary career, to be a wonderful wife and daughter, and to be the mom who is always there for my children. I soon realized that there are only 24 hours in every day and that, unlike Wonder Woman, I could not be everything to everyone. Make certain that you think about what work/family balance means to you. Any career path you choose has tradeoffs, and it is important to understand what they are.

Look For Women Leaders

When choosing a company to work for, visit the company. Are there women in leadership roles there?  Seek time and speak with several of them. Companies are increasingly offering leadership roles to women. We are working in a wonderful time in history. Be sure that the company you choose not only accepts diversity, but also promotes it.

Be a Proactive Listener

Experienced employees hold a vast amount of knowledge, and I greatly respect them. When they talk, I listen. Many of these employees will be retiring soon, so take advantage of this time. Ask questions and absorb their knowledge.

Take Charge of Your Career

The person who cares most about your career is you. What would you like to be doing in 5, 10, and 20 years?  Find people in the company that have the particular responsibility and position you desire. Talk to them. See what career paths they took and what tradeoffs they have made along the way. Write down your near- and long-term goals, and chart your progress.  

Have a Great Time!

Most importantly, have fun. New hires have tremendous opportunity and are being trained rapidly to replace the many employees who will retire in the next decade. Exploration and production activity is high, and as the industry steps out into more challenging environments to find energy resources, they will need people with technical expertise, talent, and new ways of thinking to solve complex problems. You are the future of the industry. Absorb all you can, respect experienced employees, take ownership of your career, and have a great time!

 

Christine Bourgeois graduated summa cum laude from Louisiana State University (LSU) with a BS degree in petroleum engineering in 2001. After graduation, Christine joined Chevron as a production engineer in the Deepwater Gulf of Mexico (GOM) Business Unit. She also has worked as a reservoir engineer in GOM producing operations and is currently working in the Deepwater Exploration and Production Business Unit. Christine held many positions in the SPE Student Chapter at LSU, including serving as President. In her professional career, Christine has served as SPE Delta Section Secretary and Treasurer and SPE Deepwater Symposium Committee Treasurer and Session Chairperson. Christine was awarded the 2005 SPE Young Member Outstanding Service Award.