Early in her career as a production engineer in Houston, Maryam Schellstede was assigned to a work field on the west side of the city. “Oftentimes as an engineer, your field area is far from your office desk and it can make it challenging to see the ins and outs of working in the field,” she says. “I was able to see a high volume of the ‘big and small’ of operating gas wells and could simultaneously gain exposure to the corporate and business sides of the business.”
Why did you enter the oil and gas industry?
“I grew up in Katy, Texas, with the energy industry all around me, and my dad worked offshore major projects. Even with that influence, I didn’t know I wanted to be in the industry or an engineer early on. After getting accepted into UT-Austin, I was drawn towards engineering because I was good at math and thought it would be a unique undergraduate degree for a law school hopeful. At orientation, I worked with the engineering school to switch to petroleum engineering. I was selected for an engineering internship after my freshman year and, after that summer, I was hooked on the problem-solving nature of engineering and the global impact and diversity of the energy industry.”
Which of your professional achievements are you most proud of?
“One professional achievement I am particularly proud of is the transformation of the natural resource development team at University Lands. University Lands is an institution with a one-of-a-kind mission which makes working at UL unique, challenging and rewarding. I felt this potently in my work conceiving and implementing the transformation of the natural resource development team at UL to a truly best-in-class group of professionals.”
What qualities do you think are necessary to be a good leader in the oil and gas industry?
“Resilience, empathy, integrity and authenticity. These qualities build a servant leader mindset that is integral to leadership in our industry and allow a leader to build and empower teams of high performing experts in their fields. They foster trust and accountability for teams, which in turn allows for clear communication and the ability to challenge each other, and you as a leader, respectfully.”
How have you exercised leadership to help shape your department?
“I endeavor for the employees on the teams I lead, and the employees on teams I don’t lead, to know that I am available to them for everything from mentorship and guidance to voicing concerns or ideas. I find it very rewarding to mentor eager learners on topics ranging from technical work, managing across disciplines, how to lead indirectly, asking (or responding to) difficult questions, and generally supporting colleagues through changes and hard work.”
What or whom do you credit for helping you develop leadership abilities during your career?
“I value the advice and research from Brene Brown and find her philosophy of ‘clear is kind—unclear is unkind’ to be very impactful. I think it is important to be direct and clear, and that having the courage to do so as a leader is critical to building trust and empowering high performing teams.”
Who are your mentors?
“Early in my career, I got the good advice to build a ‘board of directors’ of mentors. I didn’t do it methodically or in a calculated way, but I learned quickly that I didn’t have all the answers and valued seeing others’ perspectives. I have organically formed strong relationships with trusted and experienced mentors that I respect highly.”
- I’m not a fan of bugs and critters, but my kids are big animal enthusiasts. I’m often helping nurse strays or injured animals, housing multiple critters and helping catch and pin insects.
- I understand spoken Farsi fluently.
- I like having creative outlets and enjoy pursuing hobbies like painting and baking.