Discover a Path to Success from These Engineers' Inspiring Success Stories

It takes a particular type of person to become a successful petroleum engineer.
Nader Mowlaee
Engineer working with valvesserts/iStock 

Petroleum engineers are in demand, and for good reasons. Oil and gas companies often find it cost-efficient to contract out petroleum engineers and seek engineers who possess the highly valuable skills they need to perform tasks successfully. It's no wonder this high-paying role helped engineers earn a median pay of $137,170 per year in 2018.

But creating a successful career path and devising ways to extract oil and gas requires a plan. Here are some inspiring stories from petroleum engineers and the steps they took to be successful at what they do.


What Do Petroleum Engineers Do?

Petroleum engineers are responsible for creating and improving ways to remove gas and oil from underground deposits. Some of the typical tasks you can expect to complete in this role involve ensuring the proper maintenance, operation, and installation of equipment, developing methods to force out more gas and oil, and designing oil and gas extraction equipment. Petroleum engineers also help remove gas and oil from older wells. Thus, you can expect to use testing, analysis, and surveys to assess the production of wells.

What Skills Do Petroleum Engineers Need for Success?

If you want to be a successful petroleum engineer, you should have essential skills to help you accomplish your duties on the job. Most petroleum engineers often develop these skills by getting a sound education from an ABET-accredited program and earning at least a bachelor's degree. Successful petroleum engineers have quality skills similar to geologists, such as problem-solving skills and communications skills. Other essential skills you'll need to be successful include analytical skills and creativity.

You'll also need to understand calculus and have other advanced math skills to design, troubleshoot, and analyze data effectively. Collaboration skills are also critical to have if you want to be a great petroleum engineer as petroleum engineers often work together with geologists to implement and create recovery methods that are effective at reducing costs.

What Jobs Can Petroleum Engineers Do Successfully?

There are several career paths you can take as a petroleum engineer, including positions as a drilling engineer, completion engineer or production engineer. Some engineers also obtain their Professional Engineering or Fundamentals of Engineering licenses to advance in their career and take on leadership roles. But the career path of a petroleum engineer goes beyond fulfilling a petroleum engineering role. Use these success stories of petroleum engineers as a source of inspiration for the different career opportunities and steps you can take to become a successful engineer.

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Lindsey Williams. Lindsey Williams studied petroleum engineering while at Louisiana State University and earned her bachelor's degree before taking on her role as a reservoir engineer at Chevron. Her success in her courses led to internships at Chevron that eventually led to her reservoir engineer position. Williams relied on the problem-solving skills she developed during her studies to be successful as a reservoir engineer and works alongside geologists on a cross-functional team. While she initially was reserved in her role, she learned to ask questions and be a good listener to move forward in her career and believes that not being afraid to speak up can help aspiring engineers to be successful in their careers, too.

Mark E. Ellis. Before Mark E. Ellis became Linn Energy's CEO, president, and chairman, he started out learning his craft as a petroleum engineering student at Texas A&M University. While Ellis knew he wanted a leadership role, he took on rotational jobs beyond his engineering role. For instance, Ellis learned different sides of the business by completing transactional activities and taking on marketing roles. His experience working for five different companies helped him learn different styles of leadership and the importance of organizational culture and human resources. But Ellis path to CEO was not without challenges. During the 1980s when geologists and petroleum engineers faced hard times getting a job, Ellis worked in marketing. However, his time in his marketing role helped him realize he wanted to stay in operations and he's never looked back since. Ellis progressed in his career to eventually transform Linn Energy and help take it out of bankruptcy when he became CEO of the company in 2010.

Linda Zarda Cook. Linda Zarda Cook went from a role as a petroleum engineer at Shell to one of the top executive roles at the company. Cook broke boundaries in this predominantly male-industry when she became CEO of Shell's Gas and Power in 2001 business based in London. But before Cook climbed the ladder to success, she studied petroleum engineering and earned her bachelor's degree from the University of Kansas in 1980. Her career path led her into several managerial and technical roles before becoming a member of the Exploration & Production leadership team of Royal Dutch Shell in the Netherlands in the late 1990s. Her journey to success as an engineer carried her from the Netherlands to Canada, where she progressed from director roles to that of the CEO of Shell Canada. By 2004, Cook was named an executive director at Royal Dutch Petroleum in the Netherlands. In addition to her executive role, Cook is also a member of the Boeing Company's board of directors. As a result of her progress and efforts in the field, Cook is recognized as one of the most powerful women in business.

Final Thoughts

Creating a career path for success requires you to create a plan of action that maps out the steps you need to take. But instead of coming up with a plan alone, you can take advantage of the success stories mentioned here for ideas on the various career paths you can take. By reviewing these success stories, you can save time mapping out your strategies for a successful petroleum engineering career.

If you're stuck and don't know what you're next step should be in career planning, remember that it's always best to begin with the end in mind. And when it comes to job searching, this means you should first create a list of the companies that you can work for. This means building a list of 20-30 companies where you can apply your technical skills as a petroleum engineer. Taking this step first will give you clarity as to what's expected from you in those jobs. 

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