Women in engineering

BP is committed to America’s energy security today and in the future. A world-class workforce with a diverse mix of talented people is vital to meeting the energy needs of tomorrow – and women, more than ever, are playing their part.

By furthering the interest and confidence of girls to succeed in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) careers, BP aims to increase the number of women in the energy industry. BP set a global goal to have women in 25 percent of group leadership roles and 30 percent of senior-level leadership roles by 2020.

BP believes that the proportion of women in leadership should be reflected in our total workforce, and it is making good progress in attracting, developing and retaining more women. The Women’s International Network is a global business-resource group for BP employees, which, along with local women’s networks at many of our sites around the world, provides opportunities for informal development and relationship-building. BP also partners with national organizations such as Million Women Mentors and the Society of Women Engineers.  

A panel of BP engineers recently answered questions on Facebook, describing their career paths and sharing advice for young engineers making their start in the field.  
  • Topic: Women in engineering
  • Panelists: Nicole Rocha (controls and automation engineer), Kendra Pickard (subsea engineer), Julia Hatridge (projects control engineer)

Q1

Let's get started with our first question. Was your career path straightforward? What obstacles did you have to overcome?

My career path was not very straight forward. I began my engineering career by getting my degree in biomedical engineering. I decided on BME because I was thinking about medical school, but I wanted a degree I could fall back on if I decided that medicine wasn't right for me (which it wasn't). After working in a research lab for a couple years during undergrad, I decided that I didn't want a career in research and wanted to do something in industry. I pursued a masters in electrical engineering. Not 100 percent sure what I wanted to do after I graduated, I applied to several different types of industries for internships. My father worked in the oil & gas industry, so when I received an offer for an internship with BP, I decided I wanted to see if BP would be a good fit for me and my career. I had a wonderful experience and hired on full time after I graduated. - Nicole

I wouldn't describe my career path as straightforward, although I feel that it has just begun. I originally thought that I wanted to be a structural engineer, but after taking some courses I decided to explore some other sides to my major (Civil Engineering), namely hydraulic and hydrologic engineering. Before my internship with BP, I interned with at a power utilities company looking at commissioning a clarification system in order to supply one of their plants with an alternative source of water. I feel that my background in Civil prepared me very well for my current role in Project Services thanks to courses focused on project management, engineering professional practice and even some of my technical classes. - Julia

Q2

Another great question for our panelists, what advice do you have for college students who are just starting out?

Get involved with engineering student organizations. Joining these organizations can create so many opportunities; meeting other students to study with, scholarships, networking with professionals, career fairs, and design competitions to actually apply what you are learning hands-on. BP's Discovery Days are also open for applications. Discovery Days is a program designed for early experience and exposure within the oil & gas industry. To learn more, please visit: bp.com/careers - Kendra

Q3

Our next question is from @Maria Elemo. What steps did you take that made you stand out as women engineers?

Thanks for the question @Maria. As a female engineer, I tried to let my intelligence and work speak for my abilities as an engineer. I also found a mentor to help guide me through my pursuit of an engineering career. I found it very helpful to get advice from a woman who has already been there. - Nicole

Q4

Arnold Escubin: How is the career path in BP for less experienced professional?

Arnold Escubin There are many opportunities at BP to develop your career path as a less experienced professional through the Challenge Program and Excellence Program. The Challenge Program aims to give recent graduates experiences and skills in the first three to four years of their career in order to be self-sufficient in a particular role. For more information about our graduate programs, please visit www.bp.com/uscampus - Julia

Q5

July Paola Gómez Pereira: How can i apply for a job? Can i do some study with you? I am a chemist, but i am interesting in the engineering field.

July Paola Gómez Pereira To apply for a job at BP, we would encourage you to visit www.bp.com/careers for more information on current job openings. - Nicole, Julia, and Kendra

Q6

A great question came in from Shirley Sarradet. What made you choose this field?

@Shirley thanks for your question. II choose to go into subsea engineering, because it's a challenging discipline with a good mix of technology and management. We deal with high pressures, high temperatures and have to consider many different aspects when we design any equipment, as well as working with many different people to make our projects a success. - Kendra

Q7

@Naomi Lubkin did you play with Legos as a child?

@NaomiLubkin Yes! I still play with Legos when I see them around -Kendra

So do I! - Nicole

I did as well! - Julia

Q8

Irene Almazan: I do have a question. Do you think that your gender is an advantage or a disadvantage for your kind of work?

Irene Almazan In my experience, it can be both depending on the situation. Though the number of females pursuing a career in engineering is increasing, there can still be some challenges in the field of engineering. However, standing out as one of a handful of female engineers can be used to your advantage to demonstrate your abilities as a competent and confident engineer. - Nicole

Q9

Our next question is from @Janie Cruz. I am majoring in engineering what university would you recommend?

Thanks for your question @Janie. I personally enjoyed my time at Texas A&M University and would highly recommend it to anyone interested in engineering, as it has a very reputable program. I would also advise you to research schools that are known for their strong engineering programs as well as programs that may cater to a specific engineering discipline that you're interested in. Also, look for schools that offer engineering networking events, because these are extremely helpful in developing your career path and meeting industry professionals. For example, Texas A&M holds an entire career fair specifically for the engineering school. - Julia

Q10

A lot of people seem to have an interest in offshore life. Our next questions asks what's offshore life like?

Going offshore is definitely a unique experience. As a subsea engineer I usually go out on installation vessels to install subsea equipment. These are smaller than the production facilities or drillships that are also out there, usually its around 30-80 people on the vessel. Installation vessels are a lot like construction sites in the middle of the ocean. There are huge cranes that lift equipment from the deck, and lower it to our facilities about a mile underwater. Remote operated vehicles will then move the equipment in place and test it to make sure everything works. It's about a one hour helicopter ride from Louisiana to the BP fields. Once we are there, we'll work 12 hour shifts and we'll usually stay around 2 weeks. We all eat in the Galley and meals are offered 4 times a day. Everyone works together and there is a huge emphasis on safety. - Kendra

Q11

A question from @Natalia Cyngier: My question is when interviewing for those jobs what are some tips i could use? And as a woman what do you love about being in the engineering field?

Be confident! Thats my biggest piece of advice for interviews. As a woman I have really appreciated all the support I've had from other women in the field, there aren't a ton of us but I've never felt alone.  - Kendra

Q12

We received a question from Twitter: What inspired/nurtured your interest in engineering?

From the time I was very young, I always enjoyed solving puzzles and learning how things worked. I loved taking things apart to understand how they worked. My interests only grew as I started school and began learning about math and science. When I began thinking about what I wanted study in college, I knew that engineering would be a great career path for me. - Nicole

Q13

@Janice Minor What first got you interested in this field of science and technology?

@JaniceMinor - I started to get interested in science and technology when I was in high school. I took an architecture drafting class that I really enjoyed and also enjoyed chemistry. Junior year I joined my school's Science Olympiad team which is a competitive science club. It was a good opportunity because I could do science things outside of class and meet other kids interested in science. - Kendra

Q14

Another great question, as a Civil Engineer, why did you choose working for BP over working for a general engineering firm?

I chose to work for BP because I really enjoyed my internship this summer. I was excited to be offered a spot in the Challenge program. I am interested in pursuing a career leading towards a managerial role rather than a discipline engineering role. The Projects Challenge program allows me to do this by gaining many different experiences in order to build my skill set. The culture at BP is also really wonderful: people are welcoming, helpful, and willing to answer questions. - Julia

Q15

Pereira Kendra, can i apply to Discovery days? I finished my career the last year.

July Paola Gómez Pereira The Discovery Days program is open to freshmen and sophomores at the collegiate level. However, you can check out our careers page for any open opportunities for which you qualify: www.bp.com/careers

Q16

Our next question wonders how hard is it to switch between engineering majors?

I received a B.Sc. in Biomedical Engineering and a M.E in Electrical Engineering. I found the transition between the two was easy and mostly dealt with applying different formulas. Through my education, I have found that the base of all engineering disciplines is the same. Your engineering courses are designed to teach you how to approach problems and develop problem solving skills. The different disciplines just teach these tools using problems that are based in different sciences. Once you have started learning in one discipline, jumping over to another one is more about learning the new equations you need to solve the problems and applying your problem solving skills to a new field. - Nicole

Q17

Were your parents engineers?

My dad was. He worked as a petroleum engineer. - Nicole

No, neither of my parents were engineers. - Kendra

My parents were not engineers either. - Julia

Q18

Why did you choose Civil Engineering?

I chose to get my bachelor's degree in Civil Engineering, because I enjoyed math and physics. Also, I liked problem solving. I originally thought I would want to be a structural engineer, but after taking some courses I found that I was more interested in water resources engineering (also a sector of Civil). - Julia

Q19

What alternative energy solution is most promising, wind, solar, tidal? And what is BP doing in that area?

To learn more about our projections around future energy demands, we would encourage you to check out BP's Energy Outlook 2035: www.bp.com/energyoutlook

Q20

Did engineering take up all of your time in school?

A degree in engineering is time consuming. However, choosing to get a degree in engineering does not mean giving up everything else. In fact, I would suggest making time to participate in other activities. Doing so makes you a more well-rounded individual with varied interests and backgrounds. It also develops your abilities to interact and communicate well with people which is an essential skill needed in a career in engineering. - Nicole

Q21

What progress have you made towards new technologies being able to economically recover heavy oil on the north slope?

BP operates 13 oilfields on the North Slope (including Prudhoe Bay, Endicott, Northstar and Milne Point), which account for about two thirds of Alaska oil production. After 35 years of production, Prudhoe Bay remains the largest oil field in North America. Using enhanced oil recovery technologies, BP will be able to keep the field in production twice as long as first predicted.