A conversation with Lindsey Walton clarifies why she calls Oklahoma City, her hometown and headquarters as vice president of engineering at Native Exploration Holdings LLC, the “perfect place for me in that it’s laid back and comfortable but also growing and ever-changing.” Like her favorite city, Walton puts people at ease yet never gives them cause to forget her acuity.
Freshly-graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a bachelor’s degree in petroleum engineering, Walton joined SandRidge Energy Inc.’s corporate reserves team in 2007, as the company went public. “At 22 years old, it was clear that I knew nothing about an IPO,” Walton recalls, “and the people who could mentor me immediately weren’t available during the day.”
Still, she “wanted to think creatively and search for opportunities above and beyond [her] day-to-day responsibilities.” When an operator near SandRidge’s northwest Oklahoma position succeeded in drilling an economic horizontal well, she realized the same reservoir could be present under [SandRidge’s] acreage positon. After forecasting production and evaluating the economics of a position overlooked by senior engineers, she received approval for the Mississippi Lime project, which paid off tremendously.
The discovery would become SandRidge’s “main drilling focus.” After the first well was successful, “[the operation] grew to run over 30 drilling rigs,” and she was “promoted to senior reservoir engineer only three years after graduating from college.”
Doing more with less: Always a “restless learner,” Walton continues to develop her ability to do more with less—now perhaps more than ever, as a one-person reservoir engineering team at Native.
“It’s a successful feeling to know I’ve managed this on my own,” she says. “I enjoy understanding every aspect of my work and knowing what it takes to get the job done.”
Her hunger to learn “all aspects of [Native’s] operation” helps her maintain “control over all databases, inputs and outputs, presentations, and company reserves and economics.” As she says, “a general understanding of every discipline helps me make better decisions and more useful suggestions for strategy and development.”
In fact, her wide-ranging knowledge helped the Native team obtain a $200 million capital commitment from Kayne Anderson Capital Advisors LP in 2017.
“Ask tough questions often–about everything. Be curious, inquisitive and learn as much as you can from your colleagues, mentors and supervisors.”
A give-and-take: Walton shares her learning style: “Ask tough questions often— about everything. Be curious, inquisitive and learn as much as you can from your colleagues, mentors and supervisors.” As she recalls, “I’ve always had too many questions, and I’ve never regretted asking any of them.”
To Walton, learning is a give-and-take. She enjoys “being able to teach someone something that I know and they might not have a good handle on” and has led classes at Native in which individuals can learn about each other’s focus areas. “I love it when people ask detailed questions,” she laughs, “it means they didn’t sleep through class.”
Line for the Ladies: Walton supports those who are younger than the typical industry professional—and not of the gender that predominates.
She mentors youths alongside her friend and peer, Lindsey McCarty, who is developing a non-profit organization called “Line for the Ladies, which encourages girls to pursue STEM, specifically engineering fields. Though the engineering field has improved, Walton notes that “[it] has fallen behind other fields like law and medicine in terms of gender parity,” such that “less than 20% of engineers are female.”
The name of the non-profit addresses the fact that “almost everywhere that you go, there is a line for the ladies restroom … but whenever you attend an oil and gas conference [such as] NAPE, there is not a line for the ladies.”
And so, Line for the Ladies asks younger girls, “You know what a doctor does, what a lawyer does, but what about an engineer?” Both Walton’s and McCarty’s hope is that with the right inspiration, more women will get outside of their comfort zones and embrace the field of engineering—just as they did.