Woman of the world
Published: 23 Nov 2015
Name: Luisa Rodriguez
Job title: Director
WHAT WAS LIFE LIKE GROWING UP IN COLOMBIA?
Growing up was fun, between school friends and neighbours we had plenty to do and although Bogota is an 8million people city, we still had plenty of parks nearby.
Music is an important part of your upbringing in Colombia and having four sisters it meant salsa dancing was a must. By the time you are 15, you are expected to be able to go to a party and dance any Caribbean music genres.
Family is very important in Colombian society so every Christmas and New Year we were at home, singing Christmas carols and having a massive street party on New Year just outside our house until the sun came up on New Year.
I went to a catholic school to start with and then a school for children of the armed forces personnel; so strictness was always part of my upbringing.
I have a pet hate about all the misconceptions about my birth country. It infuriates me when even the newspapers can’t get the spelling of Colombia right and spell it with a “u”. Other myths include that we are all in the drugs business, we all eat spicy food and our infrastructure is similar to a third-world country.
WHAT WERE YOUR CAREER AMBITIONS?
When I was growing up in Colombia I thought I could be anything. I was full of confidence and nothing could stop me. I loved reading books and would pick up any piece of literature, from a classic novel to the encyclopaedia. I had a thirst for knowledge and I enjoyed writing.
My other passion at school was maths and science. I was fascinated with finding out how things worked and my father and I spent hours working underneath the bonnet of his car.
WHY DID YOU STUDY ENGINEERING AT UNIVERSIDAD DE AMERICA? HOW MANY WOMEN WERE ON YOUR COURSE?
Despite being very young, I was confident that moving away from home would offer not only the opportunity for learning but also an interesting career. Deciding to study petroleum engineering at the Universidad de America was a huge decision for me as it meant I would have to leave my family and home – and that was a wrench as my four siblings and parents were very close. Engineering was a very male-dominated industry at that time and I was one of only five girls out of 35 students on my course.
WHAT WAS LIFE LIKE IN JAMAICA? WHY DID YOU GO THERE?
Once I’d finished my degree, I realised I needed a good grasp of English to get a well-paid job in this industry so I stayed with a family in Jamaica for six months and submersed myself in the language.
WHY DID YOU TAKE THE JOB WITH SCHLUMBERGER IN OKLAHOMA?
I was in the fortunate position to be presented with three fantastic job opportunities and at the age of 24 I moved to Oklahoma as a field engineer with Schlumberger. Starting my first job was quite a culture shock as I hadn’t anticipated just how sexist the industry was – I was a young woman trying to make a mark in a man’s world.
Only after spending time as a lab technician learning the theory behind fracturing and cementing was I given more complex field assignments. It took time to prove I was just as competent as my male colleagues and these first few years in the field were some of the most challenging, yet satisfying, of my career.
WHAT DID YOU LIKE ABOUT THAT ROLE?
Being out in the field working as a fracturing engineer in Oklahoma was an amazing time in my career. Although we worked very long hours, the team spirit was incredible – we were a little like an American football team. Standing on top of a frac tank watching the sun come up is a moment that will stay with me forever.
YOU SEEMED TO TRAVEL A LOT, DID YOU ENJOY THAT?
Absolutely, and I miss doing it more now. I love going to different places and learning from different cultures, however I do not like being stuck in a plane; it is probably one of the things I dislike the most.
Working in different countries meant I was able to make friends all over the world; I have not seen most of them for years, but we do stay in touch often. This means I am continuously in contact with people in every continent, which has also been convenient for our business.
WHAT STARTED THE JOB CHANGE TO GOREVEGA?
In 2009, following maternity leave with my third child, I decided it was time to take on a role which would allow me to stay closer to home. I joined GoreVega, a specialist provider of personnel and consultancy services for the well-intervention sector, as a company director.
It can be challenging at times as with anything new there is sometimes a degree of negativity when implementing a procedure that may be perceived as just adding to the workload. The role is very different to being out in the field but it’s still very satisfying to be able to add value to client operations.
WHAT DO YOU ENJOY ABOUT YOUR JOB?
I like the speed of how things change in our business, although it is hectic at times. I also like the thrill of dealing with new situations continuously and being able to come up with a solution to client needs within hours. For example, I had a phone call recently where they requested up to 20 people with a very specific technical skill immediately.
We managed to prepare a 12-people crew, their visas, flights, etc, within a week.
WHAT HAVE YOU ACTIVELY TRIED TO AVOID IN YOUR CAREER?
I’ve always tried to avoid making a fuss about being a woman. There have been several times in my career that I’ve come up against situations where being a woman has been perceived as negative.
My technical knowledge has been questioned in meetings before and it can be frustrating but I’ve never made an issue of it and in those situations I’m even more determined to highlight my expertise. My mother once said “never depend on a man” and that stuck with me, so I’ve always been fiercely independent.
WHO’S BEEN YOUR GREATEST INFLUENCE?
There are many people I’ve learnt from throughout my career but probably my greatest influence was Gilles Bourgade, who was my manager in the completions team at Schlumberger. We worked alongside each other for around two years and he helped me understand what makes people tick and to use this information to manage a successful team.
WHAT ADVICE HAVE YOU IGNORED?
In the third year of university, a teacher told me engineering was no job for a woman. Needless to say I ignored that career advice.
When I moved from fracturing and simulation services to completions I had to take a step back and start right back at the beginning – at the time, I felt it was the biggest mistake of my career.
But looking back I realise it was one of the best moves I made as it broadened my oilfield knowledge significantly and later it gave me a competition edge. I don’t believe there are life mistakes – just experiences and changes that you learn from.
BEST ACHIEVEMENT SO FAR?
To be able to have a full-time career as well as spend time with my children has to be my best achievement. It’s not easy at times but I find with a little planning, it is possible.
I try to arrange meetings in the morning, in case they overrun, and I work through lunch, which allows me to be home for teatime. Then it’s after-school activities, homework, dinner and bed. Thankfully my husband takes care of the cooking.
WHAT’S YOUR BEST CAREER ADVICE?
To work hard, to have objectives and stick to them. Like everything in life, if you put in the effort it will eventually pay off. Your career may take a different direction to what you originally planned but don’t see this as a setback or a failure.