The People of America's Oil and Natural Gas Indusry

Talking Energy and Opportunity

Mark Green

Mark Green
Posted March 12, 2014

I had an interesting – and very timely – conversation with the first group of API Fellows last week at IHS CERA’s mega-energy conference in Houston. Interesting – because the highly motivated men and women pictured here surely will be part of the next generation of industry leaders (L-R: API’s Elizabeth Padilla-Crespo, Baker Hughes’ Patrick api_fellows_reducedRodgers, Cameron’s Lesley Ann Hadella, BP’s Bethany Clarkson-Morgan and ExxonMobil’s Omar De Leon. Not pictured: Phillips 66’s Natalia Kalitynska). Timely, because a new IHS study projects great industry opportunities in the future for minorities and women.

We started out talking about the factors that attracted them to the oil and natural gas industry before branching off into a discussion of the opportunities they see ahead as their careers mature.

Patrick Rodgers, technical support scientist: Initially, I was in research and development for energy – sensors and detectors for an R&D company, but I was led to the oil and gas industry … by the opportunity to do R&D for Baker Hughes. I thought the opportunities could be good to learn about the business. So I have to admit I came into the oil and gas industry but very naïve on how much technology is in it, how much it takes to get the oil out of the ground, process it, how much it takes to evaluate it. I was very naïve to that. Since I’ve been here it’s almost like pieces keep getting added to the puzzle.

Elizabeth Padilla-Crespo, scientist working in external mobilization for API: During my second year of grad school, I’m doing my (degree) in environmental microbiology, I decided that I didn’t want a job as a professor, I didn’t want to be in academia. I wanted to have a real job and put my science into practice. So I started to search all the career options. … I wanted to know more about policy and science-based applications.

Omar De Leon, regulatory advisor: Before you join the industry, you get out of college and you’re thinking about a job and you’re thinking, well, I want to have a career and I want to do something that I studied. But once you go into the oil and gas industry you realize it’s a long-term commitment. … It’s one of those industries where you’re always going to be challenged, you’ll find interesting opportunities where you’re going to travel or tackle interesting problems. The folks that you meet – so far I’ve been very pleased with having a good group of folks to work with. It’s no-nonsense, it’s we’re out there to get the job done.

Lesley Ann Hadella, marketing manager: What’s making me stay is the family, the people who are in oil and gas. … The amount of networking and the ability to succeed is endless in oil and gas.

More than one noted the number of opportunities that can be found in the oil and natural gas industry – many more than they imagined when they started working. The IHS study details dozens of industry-associated occupations – from engineering and architecture to geoscience – which is part of industry’s allure to young workers. Below, video of Hadella talking about industry opportunity:

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Bethany Clarkson-Morgan, safety and operations risk; recruiting: I do a lot of university recruiting and a lot of students don’t realize (the number of career paths). They think oil and gas – either I have to be an engineer or a scientist and maybe a business person. I have one whole segment of our business that I recruit for that they’re really looking for that liberal arts major. It’s like, can you find me that philosophy major, can you find me that music major because maybe they can write.

De Leon: Most folks think that when you have a PhD and you go into the industry you have to go into research. You can do that if you want. … Companies in the oil and gas industry in general, it’s very meritocracy based. You come and give the effort and you can go a long way if you want. It’s not too many industries where that’s the case. There are so many opportunities now with the turning over of folks and attrition, folks retiring and what not. But, too, it’s a global industry, you have so many places to work in, so many opportunities, so many challenges. But if you show up at the table and give it your all it’s something that can go a long way.

Padilla-Crespo:  I’m amazed at the opportunities within the industry and how different it is from public opinion. As a scientist I believe in the data and what the results tell me. … I never thought oil and gas would be a place that I would be. I now find myself very lucky.

Clarkson-Morgan: It’s unfortunate when you start to deal with women and people of color, it’s very rare that they see something outside of that operator-level. Like, maybe my dad was an operator at a plant, I don’t want to be an operator like my dad. They don’t realize that there’s all this infrastructure above that operator at the plant.

All talked with the expectation that their careers in the oil and natural gas industry will be long and rewarding. The industry is strong and expanding and with it, so are the opportunities for skilled workers and young professionals who’re eager to be challenged.

Rodgers: I’m in a role where I get to learn about business, where I have to develop business acumen and make decisions. You’re up against a fast pace, you learn how to manage (profit and loss). It’s really opened up a door for me which I didn’t expect to happen. I just thought I would go through a technology track and become a technology fellow or advisor of some sort. … But now I have another avenue.

Clarkson-Morgan: I started in chems, went to refining. I’ve been in upstream for the past six years, and I’ve done a variety of different things in upstream. … It is an industry about people. It’s an industry about giving back.

Hadella:  Our business is the American dream. We can take just about any degree – music, psych, education, economics, the whole nine – and work with anybody. You can make yourself in this industry. … As an industry we are here for decades to come.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mark Green joined API after a career in newspaper journalism, including 16 years as national editorial writer for The Oklahoman in the paper’s Washington bureau. Mark also was a reporter, copy editor and sports editor. He earned his journalism degree from the University of Oklahoma and master’s in journalism and public affairs from American University. He and his wife Pamela live in Occoquan, Va., where they enjoy their four grandchildren.