Carolina Sierra

Director, Technical, First Reserve, Houston
Sierra, Carolina

Early in her career, the native of Medellín, Colombia, worked as a field engineer on a male-dominated rig site environment. “This required me to live on remote rig site locations for weeks at a time, work long hours and get my hands dirty,” she says, “but it provided me the valuable opportunity to experience and understand the drilling and completions process first hand.”

Why did you enter the oil and gas industry?
“What initially attracted me to the industry was the global nature of the business. While the University of Michigan did not offer a Petroleum Engineering undergraduate degree, I sought out an internship with Schlumberger in 2006. I found this experience compelling and fulfilling and so I decided to join as a full-time field engineer after graduation.”

Which career milestone did you reach sooner than you had planned?
“I joined the board of a First Reserve portfolio company in 2021. It had been a goal of mine to be able to contribute to an organization at a strategic board level and I believe I reached this milestone earlier than I had planned as I had been able to demonstrate the value of my technical perspective and insights on other First Reserve investments.”

What qualities do you think are necessary to be a good leader in the oil and gas industry?
“I view adaptability as a key quality for oil and gas leaders. The industry is continually changing and evolving, i.e., the proliferation of unconventional fields and the potential impact of AI technologies, so it is critical for a leader to be able to adapt to these changes and influence others, as well.”

What or whom do you credit for helping you develop leadership abilities during your career?
“I’ve had the opportunity to work for and with various colleagues with very different leadership styles, and I’ve endeavored to absorb the positives of each style. During my time at BP, Chris Born (my supervisor at the time) instilled in me how leadership is made much easier through clear, thorough and timely communication within a team.”

What advice would you give other young professionals?
“Be willing to take on new roles to broaden your experience. Be proactive to develop knowledge and skills that you lack.”

What keeps you motivated and passionate about working in the oil and gas industry?
“The availability of oil and gas to the global population has been one of the most critical factors in improving quality of life and reducing poverty. The acceleration of the U.S. onshore resources over the past ~15 years has been nothing but overwhelming, and the technology and innovation needed to develop those resources has been a testament to the adaptability of the industry. As we progress, this same ingenuity and entrepreneurship will be needed to tackle challenges such as lowering emissions, using AI as a complementary tool to the knowledge base and energizing the next generation of subsurface professionals. I could not be more excited to experience and drive our industry through these challenges and be part of the industry that powers our world.”

Which transformations do you think the industry must undertake for it to thrive in the future?
“I believe the industry needs to better understand, recognize and embrace the role it plays in supplying the world with cost-effective, reliable energy that improves standards of living across the world, but that we need to do this in the most responsible and transparent way possible.”

Three More Things
  1. I came to the United States as an 18-year-old student-athlete with very little English knowledge. I swam for the University of Michigan.
  2. In 2009, I moved to The Netherlands to pursue my master’s degree in petroleum engineering and I lived there for 3 years, deciding to become a Mother during the last few months of my research thesis.
  3. I ran my first marathon in 2019 and currently love running with a local running club in Houston. I'm also an avid Formula One fan and have traveled the world following the Grands Prix.