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Stephanie Zoutenbier didn’t set out to work in the oil and gas industry. After studying meteorology and engineering in college, she worked in the space program before realizing she wanted something more fluid and exciting. To find this, she entered the energy industry and hasn’t looked back.
“Before the energy industry, I was in the space program for a few years after college and worked with the 45th Space Wing, supporting the Space Shuttle, range support rockets and SpaceX,” Zoutenbier said. “It was cool, but as I started to settle and look ahead for career planning, I realized many people were doing the same thing every day for decades. I can’t do that; I am not wired that way! I want a dynamic and changing environment, and energy and operations are just that.”
Now Zoutenbier works as a commercial engagement leader for Baker Hughes in Houston in the “dynamic and changing environment” she craved.
“I started in Midland, Texas, supporting the Permian region. I am proud of my experience in the field and in testing new tools. Not many people have the opportunity to spend five years in the field, especially helping train others on new tools. I helped train others on new tools like AutoTrak Curve and AutoTrak eXact–even writing new telemetry on the fly with another lead when a customer made last minute requests. We programmed the new telemetry to the tool and tested while hanging in the derrick. Talk about last minute!
I am proud of my reputation; I am known as someone who takes on challenges, gets things done, and does so with a big smile and fun personality. Our OilField Services Digital (OFSD) team has awards every quarter, including team culture/core value awards given by our SVP. I’ve been honored with two of these awards, once for ‘Be the Owner’ and once for ‘Execute like Hell–and I’ve been told by people that they’re relieved when they find out I’m their main point of contact for a project or during a customer engagement because they know it’ll get done right the first time.”
Collaborating as a team
“Working with the OFSD leadership team to create Baker Hughes’ new digital team and infrastructure and truly building a digital presence from the ground up was a memorable experience. Digital in the energy sector hasn’t had the huge breakthrough we’ve seen in so many other industries, so it is a race to find the silver bullet for our industry. We are steering nearly 800 people across the OFS Digital team and tackling new ways to approach industry-wide problems. We are integrating static data and data-in-motion, agnostically and holistically while allowing for interoperability and compatibility across applications. Using my field experience and knowledge alongside changing the way we approach digital with our relaunch has been a wild ride for sure.”
Leading the way
“My current role is leadership by influence, not by direct reports; therefore, and especially when it comes to customer facing deliverables, I often need to get buy-in from multiple stakeholders across product lines and across the globe. When it comes to responses to a tender, I have to ensure everyone across the digital horizontal and throughout the individual product lines are aligned on what I need from them and how we, together, want to respond in by the customer first.
The single piece of advice that shifted my professional mindset was what a previous leader said to me: ‘A good leader doesn’t have to know everything, they surround themselves with those who know or those who can find out.’
During my transition from the field to the office, and into leadership, a senior leader in Baker Hughes mentored me and helped me define where I wanted to go and what I wanted to do in my career. Now, I am continuously growing through several trusted colleagues and fellow leaders who coach, mentor and teach me, including the senior director of technical OFSD, senior director of forward engagement and the vice president of OFSD."
“It sounds really cliché, but the biggest thing is a new perspective and approach. We need to align the industry on standards and on an approach for digital and a lot of this comes with fresh ideas and approaches. There’s a lot of work being done with Energistics and OSDU, to name a few examples, on the standardization of data, but the discussions will impact the industry globally. We want to make sure what we’re developing and offering is future proof and in line with future energy planning as well.
So many parts of the industry are still hesitant to go digital, whether utilizing digital applications on a here and there benefit model, or allowing for the aggregation of inconsistent data streams. Your desire for Machine Learning and AI is only as good as the data quality will allow it to be."
“[I’m motivated by] ever-changing operations; no two days are the same. Digital is a dynamic and hyper-active work environment, and the impact I’m making is the drive that keeps me passionate about what I’m doing. Because there isn’t a lot of industry standardization, we have the chance to make a real difference in every aspect of the industry; from drilling practices and KPIs, to impacting decarbonization strategies.
Leave your ego behind. True progress is hindered when people are arguing over who’s right or who gets credit. Find your passion and your happy. I enjoy what I do as it blends my love for travel with my outgoing personality so, work to find your perfect fit even if it’s a deviation from where you thought you’d be or your original field of study! Follow the path and see where your passion and happiness takes you."
Three More Things
- I’m the first female to graduate college in my family
- I was the first female Baker Hughes MWD/LWD field hand in the Permian Basin.
- I’m fluent in Dutch and English with working knowledge of French. I love learning new languages and, because of a weird wanting as a kid to study Latin, I can understand other root languages and read through immersion quickly.