Diversity Career Stories Engineering

Petro physical engineer succeeds with broad educational background and military experience

In this career interview with a petro physical engineer, he shares his quest for finding his calling, despite the misguided advice from high school career tests. His determination to not be pigeon-holed into a very specific niche in college served him well, and opened up career opportunities to a field he truly loves.

In high school there was a system to target students, based on standardized testing, for careers that would best suit them. The tests indicated a career as an accountant was a good fit for me. I wondered if they mixed my test scores with someone else. There was nothing I could imagine more boring than being stuck inside all day.

It was clear to me that my college education needed to prepare me to work with people, not numbers. I wanted a career that would allow me to use my education, travel and be outside. Fortunately, the first year of college requires a broad base of required courses. This allowed me time to decide which direction to take my education. I was not required to designate a major until the start of my 2nd year of college.

I had a strong interest in information technology. I was still uncertain what I wanted my career to be, so getting too specific with my major was a concern. If I chose electrical engineering, would that preclude me from other types of engineering careers? These were the types of questions in my mind. I decided on a double major in math and physics with emphasis in computer science. I was comfortable with the more general nature of that degree. I kept that major until graduation from college. It turned out that it was a smart move for me to pursue a technical degree with a strong general foundation.

College life was great but at first it was a big challenge. There were many temptations. Many of them made concentrating on my studies difficult. As an early riser my day was different from most of the men in my dorm. I found other persons who liked starting their day early and was able to develop a small group of friends. This allowed me to stay focused. My roommate was not in that group but I had a good relationship with him. It was good to have a group of friends that were not the same people living in my immediate dorm living area. Most of my study time was done in class or school facilities, libraries and labs.

I did not look for a specific job while I was in college for one reason; I already had a job. My college was paid for by the ROTC program. This meant I was to be commissioned in the military for my first job after college. I had to repay the government with 2 years of active duty service before I could start out on a civilian career. I thought this was a great plan. It gave me more time to develop a good foundation for whatever I would end up doing as a career.

I looked at my time in the military as a continuance of my college education. I chose a branch of the military that would allow me to get training in data processing, information technology and systems analysis. Effectively I looked at this time and training as excellent post undergraduate study time. Because of this attitude I had no problems in transition from college to the military. I was now a graduate student in the field of life and experience. My transition to a career would come after my military activity duty time.

After “graduating” from my post graduate studies I took a few months to get away. During this period I looked for a job that could lead to a career my education and experience would support. Sooner than I expected I found a job that must have been made for me. The education I had crafted for myself turned out to be perfect. I took a job as a field engineer in the oil service industry. This job required skills in math and physics. I admit the main attraction was that all of the work was, literally, done outdoors. It seemed like such a natural fit I was stunned. The recruiter said it was rare to find an applicant with such a wide range of educational experience. He also looked on my military time and training as a big plus.

I stayed in that career field, formally called petro physical engineering for many years. The broad base of my college education, and the fact that it was not specific to one engineering field, served me well. My transition from “graduate school” time in the military to my engineering career was not difficult for several reasons.

The military prepared me for focusing on getting a job done. Any traces of a green college student were faded into my personality. Knowing I had spent time in the military helped me to fit right in to my new career in civilian life. In my case there is nothing that I would change. Looking back it does seem amazing that all my non specific gathering of knowledge built upon itself. It seems the path I chose allowed me to gain training and experience that all led me towards success in the career I have had.

At the time I was in college there were no petro physical engineering degrees. Using my college and military time to build a broad, but technical, foundation was an excellent choice. I had set a course for being outside working with people to get a job done. Following my passion has served me well and been an excellent decision.