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Engineering Our Natural Resources
Find your engineering career spark in energy, gas and utilities, where you can help manage much-needed resources and protect the environment.
There are more women in engineering today than there were in 1960, according to a study published by the Society of Women Engineers (SWE). In 1960 only one percent of engineers were women. The percentage rose to 2 percent in 1970, 11 percent between 2000 and 2010, and 12 percent in 2013.
A U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) report shows that in 2016 the highest percentage of women engineers, almost 25 percent, were computer hardware engineers. A little more than 20 percent were chemical engineers and almost 11 percent were civil engineers.
In recent years an increasing focus on the STEM and engineering in general among girls in grade school through college is resulting in a slow, but steady rise in those numbers.
However, more work needs to be done as opportunities are abundant in the engineering disciplines, especially in the energy, gas and utility sector where implementation of evolving tech and infrastructure and grid upgrades are needed.
So why aren’t there more women engineers, despite an increased focus? One reason might be that there aren’t enough role models. Well, take a look at four woman engineers powering toward success at Duke Energy, Anadarko Petroleum, Occidental Petroleum and First Solar who could serve as role models for students and early careerists.
Coleman Ensures Efficiency at Duke Energy’s Plants with a Green Mindset
Ashley Coleman, a civil engineer at Duke Energy, one of the largest energy holding companies in the U.S., admits that, as a child, she didn’t know anything about engineering until she shadowed a family friend at his engineering job.
“He explained what engineering was and how my talents could be useful,” she recalls. “It really sparked an interest in me.”
She went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in architectural engineering and a master’s degree in civil engineering with a focus on energy efficiency.
“I was drawn to a career in the utility industry because of the environmental impact to reduce our carbon footprint on a larger scale,” she explains.
Later, while at college, she attended a career fair and spoke with the Duke Energy representatives there. “They told me about a three-year plant engineering rotational program at their Roxboro Steam Station [in Semora, NC]. It sounded like an exciting opportunity to me.”
She submitted her resume - both in person and online - and, later, received an invitation to come for an interview. ”I wanted to put my best foot forward as a candidate, so, during the interview, I provided a small portfolio and resume of my previous internships and the college work that I did.”
Coleman was hired into the internship program. “I worked on an operations crew for a year, then worked in maintenance for a year, then supported fuel flexibility in strategic engineering,” she explains.
During that time, she worked with fellow engineers gathering structural drawings, estimating projects for bid and making site visits in the field to oversee projects.
After completing the program, and with her bachelor’s degree in hand, she became a full-time employee. She had positions in strategic and project engineering, supporting power plant operation and maintenance.
“My responsibilities included trending operational data, coordinating fuel tests, writing white papers, participating in inspections and managing projects,” she details.
As a civil engineer, Coleman describes her current role: “I manage many different projects to make sure the power plant is running optimally. I do anything and everything from fuels-testing to project management. On any given day I might be managing a project to replace steam valves or conducting a boiler inspection for our power plants.”
She makes certain Duke Energy’s plants operate as efficiently as possible. In summary, she says, “I help keep costs down and the lights on for Duke Energy customers, and I take great pride in that.”
In her various roles at Duke Energy, whose headquarters is in Charlotte, NC, Coleman has received mentoring from individuals who provided career and technical guidance that helped her build her confidence as an engineer.
She also attended various technical training sessions to learn about plant systems and operations, and participated in personal and business development training. She’s learned it’s all right to be yourself in the workplace and to speak up when seeking new career or job opportunities. Plus, it’s better to be positive and supportive of your colleagues, rather than “walking over people in order to get ahead.”
Her advice to younger people interested in a career in the utilities industry would be to stay open to new opportunities.
“Take chances to explore different internships and job opportunities that may interest you, even if you don't have prior experience,” she says. “Find a mentor who inspires you and is willing to share their experiences in their respective fields. Mentors can also help open doors for you so make an effort to network.”
She adds that because a personal interaction with an engineer kindled her imagination about engineering, she now volunteers “to speak to students about math, science and engineering, especially at minority and low-income schools.”
She concludes: “You can’t dream about something you don’t know about.”
View duke-energy.com/our-company/careers for career opportunities with Duke Energy. Visit illumination.duke-energy.com to read stories about people, innovations and community environmental topics. Connect with Duke Energy on Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, YouTube and Facebook.
Powering Duke Energy
Electric power holding company Duke Energy supplies and delivers electricity to approximately 7.4 million U.S. customers, and distributes natural gas to more than 1.5 million customers. Its commercial business owns and operates diverse power generation assets in North America, including a portfolio of renewable energy assets.
Occidental’s McIver Manages Petroleum Resources
Angela McIver, a senior reservoir engineer at Houston-based Occidental Petroleum, earned a Ph.D. in chemical and biochemical engineering because, she says, “they both promote problem-solving ability using math and science. They’re also versatile, with many opportunities to work in different industries and various roles.”
Internships in unrelated industries while she was an undergraduate enabled her to develop her teamwork, project management and problem-solving skills, which were transferable when she was ready to begin her career.
A former mentor encouraged her to look into the petroleum industry. “The opportunity the petroleum industry offered to work on a multidisciplinary team and lead innovative projects drew me in,” she explains.
Occidental Petroleum (Oxy), an international oil and gas exploration and production company with operations in the U. S., the Middle East and Latin America, seemed like the perfect company for McIver.
“Employees said it was a great place to work - good benefits, a fun environment where people cared about their work and each other. There was a good level of activity and opportunities to advance in either a technical or management capacity. I was especially impressed by Oxy’s growth and willingness to provide all of the training I would need to be successful.”
She applied for an open position, had a phone interview with an Occidental representative followed by an on-site interview in Houston, TX at the company’s headquarters.
“The on-site interview lasted a half day, and I met with several managers in the company,” McIver remembers. “They took the time to get to know me, and shared their history and experiences at Oxy.”
She joined Occidental five years ago as a staff reservoir engineer. “Since then,” she says, “I’ve been promoted to senior reservoir engineer, a role that allows me to be a mentor and a leader within my team.”
Today she’s a senior reservoir engineer responsible for reservoir management at some of Occidental’s properties in the Permian Basin, one of the leading oil basins in the world, located in West Texas and southeastern New Mexico.
She explains that reservoir management includes optimizing base production, developing and executing a reservoir depletion plan, project management and estimating reserves. “The most exciting part of my job is the freedom to be creative and propose new projects with my team members.”
Looking back at her first months at Occidental, she says, “I began a two-month training program designed for non-traditional hires, those employees without a petroleum background. The first month of training covered geology, reservoir engineering, drilling, production engineering and facilities engineering. The second month was field training where I learned about operations.”
After her initial training, her “first mentor introduced [her] to reservoir engineering and what day-to-day management is like.”
Since then McIver’s taken more specialized training for her role as a reservoir engineer. It’s also helping to further develop her awareness of other disciplines such as production engineering.
“All along the way,” she says, “I’ve had the support of and encouragement from our chief reservoir engineer and other more senior engineers.”
McIver knows that, in the future, as she increases her technical skills, she can either progress further in reservoir engineer roles or move into another technical disciplines such as production engineering. She could also choose to move into management roles.
One of the things she likes best about working at Oxy, besides the employee development, career advancement opportunities and corporate environment, is that it values the work of women.
“I’m surrounded by women in management and leadership positions,” McIver explains. “As examples, my team lead, our general manager and our CEO are all women.”
She shares the advice she was given to always aim high, take initiative to drive results and keep learning. “They’ll help you advance in your career. Also, there are always opportunities to learn and grow, even if you have to seek them out yourself.”
To this, she adds her own suggestions for engineers who would like to work in the petroleum industry: “Seek out relevant industry experience as early as possible. Learn what companies [in the industry] are doing.”
College students should apply for internships during freshman year, attend on-campus recruitment fairs and attend industry events, McIver further points out.
For graduates interested in a future career at Occidental, she advises, “apply online and take the opportunity to meet Oxy representatives at industry events and conferences like SPE [Society of Petroleum Engineers International Conference and Exhibition]. It’s important to be intentional and proactive.”
More career information about Occidental can be found at oxy.com/careers. Connect on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
Powering Occidental Petroleum
Occidental Petroleum Corporation (Oxy) is an international oil and gas exploration whose midstream and marketing segment gathers, processes, transports, stores, purchases and markets hydrocarbons and other commodities. Its wholly owned subsidiary Ockham manufactures and markets basic chemicals and vinyls.
Munoz-Cortijo’s Degrees & Diverse Experience Are Valued at Anadarko
In her 12 years at Anadarko, one of the world’s largest independent oil and natural gas exploration and production companies, Eulalia Munoz-Cortijo has taken on various roles in Anadarko’s onshore U.S., Gulf of Mexico and international assets.
“These roles have been quite diverse and challenging, from engineering to commercial development, and included interacting with foreign government officials,” she notes.
Munoz-Cortijo has always had a passion for integrating different fields in science and economics, which she attributes to her parents, who, she says, “instilled in me the importance of education.”
This is why, she admits, she selected different disciplines for each of her college degrees. She earned a bachelor’s degree in physical chemistry in Barcelona, Spain, and three master’s degrees, one in biochemical engineering in Germany, a second one in petroleum engineering and a third in economics. The latter two were earned in the U.S. and all three with scholarships, she adds.
During her undergraduate days, Munoz-Cortijo had two internships that were related to chemical engineering and one as a reservoir engineer. She had other, unrelated internships and work experience in countries such as Slovakia and Libya, all of which, she says, “broadened my understanding of different cultures.”
She was drawn to the petroleum industry for several reasons, which still hold true now. The industry aligns with her passion for working in multicultural and diverse environments. It provides essential resources: energy and petrochemical derivatives. And she likes the idea of working in an innovative, challenging and dynamic engineering sector.
Munoz-Cortijo was studying petroleum engineering when she became interested in Anadarko, which is headquartered in The Woodlands, TX, and has additional locations in the U.S. and in 11 countries around the world.
“Every time I crossed paths with an Anadarko employee while studying at the Colorado School of Mines, the common characteristic was the positive energy and dynamism they exhibited when talking about their jobs at Anadarko,” she recalls.
She also remembers they talked about the company as a place where you could develop your skills.
It was while she worked as an earth-modeling consultant for a service company that supported Anadarko on a deepwater project in the Gulf of Mexico that she had the chance to see what it would be like to work for Anadarko. She liked the environment, so she submitted her resume to the company.
“I passed the interviews and was hired as a reservoir engineer,” Munoz-Cortijo says. She received training “by dedicated and passionate mentors” who guided her so she could grow in her responsibilities and develop her skills.
She’s now a development manager in the Mozambique LNG subsurface team.
“My main responsibilities include subsurface development strategy, reservoir engineering and simulation of one of the biggest natural gas assets in the world,” she explains. She also provides training in those same areas to Anadarko’s Mozambican employees.
After working in the petroleum industry for 15 years, Munoz-Cortijo has only positive things to say about its future: “If you’re environmentally conscious, like I am, then our industry is helping to make the transition to a low-carbon source of energy. The industry has been reducing emissions through innovative strategies and promoting the use of renewable energy in a sustainable manner with a diverse mix of energy sources.”
She feels the principles that brought her to the industry will still appeal to younger engineers.
For more information about Anadarko jobs, go to anadarko.com/Careers. Connect on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube.
Global independent exploration and production company Anadarko Petroleum Corporation explores for, acquires, and develops oil and natural gas resources vital to the world's health and welfare. Its portfolio of assets includes premier positions in the Delaware and DJ basins onshore U.S., and oil-focused opportunities in the Gulf of Mexico and deepwater basins worldwide.
Environmental Interest Leads Ali to Career at First Solar
Mubeen Ali, a global manufacturing engineering manager at First Solar, an American photovoltaic (PV) manufacturer of solar panels and provider of PV power plants, was inspired by her mother, an environmental scientist, to be “environmentally conscious.”
Her mother’s positive influence led her to initially consider studying chemical engineering in college. She made her decision to do so “because it offered a broad spectrum of opportunities in a variety of manufacturing and environmental industries.”
While pursuing her bachelor’s degree in India, she realized chemical engineering was the perfect discipline for her. “It includes the basics of different kinds of engineering, chemistry, material science and finance. With my analytical nature, I felt this discipline would ideally fulfill all of my criteria.”
Ali did an internship in India, where she worked on a project that entailed analyzing data, reporting on it and developing next steps. “That opportunity was an eye-opener for me, as a young developing engineer, to the world of process development.”
After graduation the chemical engineer relocated to Toledo, OH, and posted her resume on a few job websites. A recruiting company contacted her and took her through a screening process via a phone interview on behalf of First Solar. Then she interviewed with First Solar’s research department for an entry-level position.
Ali had what she calls “the perfect opportunity to be associated with the green industry through First Solar,” which she knew was one of the leaders in the industry and had a presence in Perrysburg, a suburb of Toledo.
Besides having a chance to be involved in the green industry with First Solar, whose headquarters is in Tempe, AZ, she also has the chance “for growth and learning in an entrepreneurial environment, which includes research and high-volume manufacturing.”
Ali joined First Solar in 2006 as an entry-level development engineering technician, where her job was to assist a research scientist in cutting glass for a new measurement development and processing solar cells at a laboratory level.
She’s been promoted several times since then, reaching a full engineering position in 2009. In a development engineer position, she explains, “I was responsible for new process development, implementation and identifying manufacturing process improvement opportunities.”
Ali next became a group leader manufacturing engineer. “I led a team of engineers and technicians in continuous improvement of manufacturing lines,” she shares.
The group leader role led to her becoming a global manufacturing engineering manager, her present position, in 2014.
She handles the global implementation of new technology with a focus on increasing factory throughput or increasing solar panel conversion efficiency and the sustaining and alignment of product performance globally.
“As an integration manager,” she adds, “I work cross-functionally with research, operations and other manufacturing engineering teams. I employ a Six Sigma approach in understanding risks to the product and mitigation planning.”
At First Solar Ali has received “significant” on-the-job training, Six Sigma training, critical understanding of process development and implementation on high-volume manufacturing.
“Most importantly,” she notes, “I was broadly mentored in the cross-functional alignment of strategy and team planning to make a project successful.”
The best advice Ali’s gotten in her career at First Solar came from one of the company’s vice presidents, who, in an internal managerial training session, told the trainees, “You need skill set, opportunity and a sponsor to advance you in your career.”
At First Solar, Ali says, “I have always had great managers who gave me opportunities to develop my skill set and were great sponsors for me.”
Ali has this advice for fellow female engineers: “If you want to change the world and help in the revolution against global warming, then the solar industry is for you. The industry offers you an opportunity to utilize abundant and free sunlight in making a better world.”
Anyone who’s interested in a career at First Solar should know “opportunities are plentiful here for technical and career growth if you’re willing to work hard.”
She further notes that her colleagues are great to work with, which makes First Solar a great place to learn and grow.
Learn more about First Solar’s open positions at firstsolar.com/careers. Connect on LinkedIn, Twitter and YouTube.
Powering First Solar
First Solar, Inc. is a global provider of comprehensive photovoltaic (PV) solar systems. Its integrated power plant solutions deliver an economically attractive alternative to fossil-fuel electricity generation today. From raw material sourcing through end-of-life module recycling, First Solar’s renewable energy systems are designed to protect and enhance the environment.
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