“The first time, when I came here for my interview, and I really needed to go to the grocery store. I asked the guy at the front desk [of the hotel] and he said it was just across the street. I’m thinking, ‘Oh yay, I can go in my flip-flops and whatever pajamas I’m wearing. And I walk out the door of the hotel and I’m just walking and walking. I feel like I walked about ten blocks and I had to cross a huge highway. I guess they weren’t kidding when they said everything’s big in Texas. Now I take my car everywhere.”
Though learning the ropes during her first few weeks in town was definitely not a walk in the park, Carie has really started to enjoy her first job since finishing up graduate school. “[Schlumberger is] very interesting. They have a lot of cool technology and are very innovative. It’s nice going to work! It doesn’t feel like, ‘Oh man, I have to go to work.’” Working as a Sustaining Engineer for the Subsea Department, Carie is part of a team that develops safety valves for subsea wellheads for oil and gas drilling.
For those of us who are not oil and gas experts, here is a little bit about Carie’s position. Basically, Schlumberger’s customers are drilling in far away locations around the world, many times off of rigs in the middle of the ocean. When the drilling and oil collection process is complete, the drill site must be sealed off in order to prevent leakages and possible pollution. Carie tells us, “I am part of a team that manufactures a series of valves that provide an emergency safety feature during completion of operations in the well. For example, if there is bad weather and the crew needs to leave immediately, our valves come into play to close the well to ensure that there is no leakage or possible pollution or any blowout hazards. When everything is clear the crew can come back and resume completions operations easily by reopening the valves and connecting other tools required for completions.” The seals that Schlumberger manufactures consist of a series of valves specially designed for high pressure and high temperature conditions. Carie’s department is in charge of making small redesigns to these systems in order to accommodate issues that field engineers and manufacturing personnel encounter.
I guess they weren’t kidding when they said everything’s big in Texas!"
However, being a sustaining engineer is a far cry from what Carie thought she wanted to do when she started college at Boston University in the fall of 2008. She had just moved to the US from Dubai, where she spent most of her childhood. Before living in Dubai, Carie lived in India, Japan, and Abu Dhabi, also in the United Arab Emirates. Carie decided to make the move after traveling to visit family friends in Florida two years prior and touring Duke University. “I thought, ‘Oh wow this is really cool, they have such great resources. There are so many opportunities to grow.’ It was a dream to study here.” In Dubai and India, she tells us that you are expected to pick a career track and stick with working towards that profession. There were not as many opportunities to change your mind and switch specialties. “You don’t get to do that exploring.”
Carie discovered this when she was in the very middle of the admissions process for early entry to Boston University’s School of Medicine. “I actually cancelled the interview…I stopped the process halfway through. It all happened in one summer. When we all came back to school I was like, ‘I’m a mechanical engineer now!’ Everyone was like, ‘What?’” she says laughing. I personally don’t remember being that shocked when Carie decided to switch. After all, she is such a brilliant engineer. It really is a perfect fit for her. (I even remember how beautiful her problem sets were—she always knew the most elegant way to approach the problem!) After college, Carie decided to also pursue her Masters in this field at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.
Though Carie may have surprised herself, I’m not sure her parents were too surprised. She lists her father amongst one of her greatest influences to pursue a scientific career. “My dad, who is also a mechanical engineer, has been the biggest source of inspiration. He has always encouraged me and supported me. He wouldn’t hesitate to get me little toys that were science-oriented or books,” she laughs. This technique seems to have been very effective. “I feel like I don’t know anything other than science...from when I was little to be honest. I guess I just never found myself comfortable with other fields. Even from grade school, the science project was the one I was good at!” She tells us that the first project she can remember is conducting electricity through an ionic solution. “I remember being pretty excited about it, making the light bulb go on! I also feel like it’s the culture. Back at home, people were very, very oriented towards science fields, or engineering, or math. Maybe that played a role, but personally I really enjoy it.” In addition, she tells us that while attending an all-girls Indian school in Dubai, she never had any sense that there were lower expectations for girls in the sciences. “They encouraged science a lot, and in that way there was no discrepancy. And after that I went to BU, which is obviously very diverse and everyone is encouraged.”
Heidi asks, “So, how big was it?” This makes Carie and I crack up and she answers, “Two to three meters. It was relatively big, and it was a tiny tape. I was like, ‘Okay, how do I do this?’ I was thinking, ‘I’m sure you have better tools, right? You’re a big company.’ My boss was taking notes as I measured, very serious. I found it completely weird!” Odd experiences aside, Carie decided to stick with her newfound passion.
Looking toward her future, Carie tells us, “Right now I don’t have much say in what I do at Schlumberger. I am going through the training program. But after that, there are two pathways you can take. One is a technical career path [equivalent to the research work of a PhD scientist] and one is a management career path. Then you progress as an engineer in one of these paths. Right now, I think I might go towards the management career path. You get to be an engineer, but at the same time have a project team. I really like the practical side of things, implementing it and seeing things happen.” The training program at Schlumberger is three years in length and includes classroom portions that allow new employees to learn about many aspects of the company. “It’s like going back to school. We had a final exam and we had to take quizzes everyday!” The company expects their employees to stay at the company for long periods of time and thus truly invests in their training. “It’s good. You really get into it [the details of the company] and learn a lot.”
It seems to us like she has found a new home, though she does tell us that if she had a super power, it would be teleporting. “I love going to new places and traveling and exploring. The whole time I was growing up I moved to different countries or traveled to different places. So that kind of stuff is very interesting.” And she admits, “Sometimes I do miss being back home [in Dubai]!” In the meantime (while she gets that teleportation thing worked out), Carie is excited to continue exploring her new home in Texas. Next on her list are the NASA Space Center and a visit to Austin. And, most importantly, Carie has escaped the Boston winters and is enjoying the Houston heat, reminiscent of Dubai. A job she loves and warm weather year around? She’ll take it!
I really like the practical side of things, implementing it and seeing things happen."