Women in Oil and Gas: ‘Life’s Too Short to Be Unhappy in Your Job’
“Imagine trying to use a straw to get to the delicious liquid chocolate filling located somewhere inside a large cake,” says Selin Pedrosa, a field engineer with Baker Hughes, a GE company. Her job is to help guide the straw.
Except, it’s not a straw, it’s an advanced drilling tool for oil and gas wells and the cake is thousands of meters of rock!
As a Logging While Drilling Field Engineer, Selin operates the advanced drilling tools equipped with sensors that help steer the drilling equipment into the oil or gas reservoir. It’s crucial she and the team she works with guide the drill into the reservoir and keep it there. Otherwise, the result could be lower production and lost time.
Selin also is responsible for collecting, analyzing and reporting all types of data from downhole, including the location and orientation of the drill string, and information about the well hole and surrounding reservoir geology.
Her work must be “flawless,” she says, because this data is crucial to the success of the drilling operation. She also uses her information to assist in troubleshooting any downhole issues.
Because “time is gold” in the oil and gas business, delays can be incredibly costly, she says. The high stakes involved in this field are the cause of one of the biggest surprises Selin had when beginning her work in the field.
Her biggest surprise at work
Nothing about the engineering was new; she understands the field, as her father was an engineer, and her mother was a science teacher. “Engineering is in my blood. So, when I face any kind of problem, I go to the root cause of the problem, and I try to develop a step-by-step approach.”
Instead, what surprised her was “the stress of the job. In the oil industry, there’s no time to lose. You need cold-blooded, quick responses. Especially when you’re involved in troubleshooting something that’s caused the operation to stop.”
“But soon, I got used to it, and it’s fine.”
Her advice to young people considering a career in oil and gas is to be aware that jobs like hers are “not easy, for either a man or a woman.” Before you take a job like this, she says, you need to assess yourself carefully. “I’ve met many people who are not happy in their jobs, whether in my field or others. Life’s too short to be unhappy in your job.”
To avoid this, she suggests getting experience in the job you think you want, whether through an internship or part-time work, “so you can really see the environment before you pick it.”
‘Outside your comfort zone’
For those considering work as a field engineer, Selin says, there are two particularly important considerations. “You should have familiarity with being pushed outside your comfort zone, because you will be in this job.”
Teamwork also is key. “You’re working with total strangers, with coworkers, with customer, all from different backgrounds and nationalities. You may even find people hard to work with, but you need to be able to work with them. So, you need to think to yourself, ‘Am I okay to work as part of a team?’ ”
If after all that, you know it’s what you want to do, “then don’t let anything hold you back!”
As a female engineer, the only time she has trouble is at the beginning of new projects. When she gets to the rig site and the non-BHGE male engineers see a woman, they expect that “I’ll complain or give up or do a bad job.”
“I’ve toughened myself [to that] and just focus on my job, and then they see my work and start to see me as a ‘normal’ hard-working engineer.”
A clear career path
Part of the reason Selin was so eager to work at BHGE, was because of the company’s training programs. During the interview process, she could see “they had a plan for me. I liked the technology opportunities and that they offered a clear career path.”
The training more than lived up to her expectations. “First, BHGE helped develop me regarding technology. But it was more than just telling us plug this tool next to that one. They explained the thought processes of why doing this was necessary and useful – an approach that made me feel like a true engineer.”
One example of the tremendous professional opportunities available to Selin was participating in the drilling of the deepest geothermal well in Turkey. What made it so exciting, and the most interesting project she’s worked on so far at BHGE, was the challenge.
It was a directional drilling project, which meant that they were drilling at an orientation and inclination that was not straight down. As well, they were drilling extremely deep, in a formation that was more difficult than traditional oil and gas fields, with “a temperature that was crazy hot. There were a lot more parameters to monitor.”
Equally rewarding was the great teamwork, not just within BHGE, but across the project with the other partner companies. “I made such nice professional friendships,” she says.
As someone who is continually eager to learn, Selin loves her job, where “no day is the same as the previous one, and each day is dynamic.”
It’s also why she is glad to be at a fullstream company. “There are so many other fields to develop myself. I can go into one of these in the future. This excites me. I’m a person who likes to learn and be challenged, and this creates even more challenges.”
To hear more stories about BHGE and GE engineers, click here. Find more stories here about how BHGE helps Turkey and other countries in the Middle East, North Africa, and Pakistan region by providing fullstream capabilities.