This children's book tells a story of Gary's adventure as he explores Wind Energy versus Oil and Gas. Ms. Denson is the Director of Origination at Weston Solutions. I was able to talk to her about her life, her book, and her journey. It is always interesting to see where people start out and where life ends up taking them.
Me: I find it fascinating yet daunting that what you study doesn't always guarantee what you end up doing when you enter the real world. Where did you start and what was your experience in the industry like when you were young?
Barbara: My degree is in Civil Engineering, from the University of Pittsburgh with a specialty in building foundation design. Graduating as a woman in engineering, with good grades, I had job offers left and right. This was well before the internet age. I accepted a job as a petroleum engineer with Amoco because a friend of my room-mate told her that they had a good training program – which they did. It was just kind of funny how we learned things back then. I had not a clue as to how the oilfield worked. I thought gas wells must be underneath gas stations!
Me: You are now the Director of Origination at Weston Solutions. How did this opportunity come about?
Barbara: Weston Solutions is an environmental consulting company. It is made up of people that care deeply about the environment, myself included. I first came to them with some ideas about how we could have more green roofs in Houston. Houston doesn't provide a pretty ocean or mountain view. I thought if we could put green roofs all over the city, we could have pretty views every time we were on an overpass or looking out the window of a high-rise. A green roof is covered in live plants. They are expensive. My idea was that we could put company names or logos on roofs, and justify the expense with advertising dollars. I thought this would be a great alternative to billboards.
Weston liked the idea of promoting green roofs in the city, however they were more interested in my background in oil and gas. At the time, they had limited involvement, and didn’t really understand how they could do more. My job was to work with companies to try and find tools in Weston’s toolbox that could address those problems. That is what I have been doing for the last seven years. It was while I was listening to their problems that I realized the number one problem our industry has. That is that people outside our industry really just don’t like our industry at all. Farmers, golf courses and dry cleaners do way more damage to the environment, however, people love the idea of farmers and don’t want to give up their golf courses or dry cleaners. They never seem to value what our industry provides to them.
Me: How did you come up with this concept? Why a children's book?
Barbara: A friend of mine mentioned on a recent vacation he got on the plane and started reading and was appalled to see bad things said about Oil and Gas in the kids’ books. Over this past Christmas, I started wondering why no one ever wrote a book for kids that talked about the positive things about industry. Then I thought, “How hard can that be?” So I sat down and wrote it . That was six months ago, as it took quite a while to figure out how to find a publisher, an illustrator, etc.
You have been very successful working both in and out of oil and gas. What has your experience been like as a woman in an executive role? Have you ever experienced gender bias?
It was very difficult being a woman in industry in Louisiana in the 1980’s. People refused to believe that I was a petroleum engineer. This seemed strange to me, as I grew up in Pennsylvania and was always encouraged to be whatever I wanted to be. Because I was getting good grades in math and science, I had been encouraged to be an engineer and was told that women engineers were in great demand. However, in Louisiana, people always assumed I was a landman or a secretary. Not everyone was so bad. There was a dear old man named Lloyd Dendy, to whom I will always be grateful. Lloyd took me under his wing and taught me everything a petroleum engineer needed to know. I knew I could go to him and great straight answers. It made my time there a phenomenal learning experience.
My advice to young women:
- Do something that makes you want to jump out of bed in the morning and go to work.
- Listen to your gut and follow your heart more and not your ego. If I had done that, I probably would have transferred into the environmental science department while I was at Amoco.
- Never listen to the nay-sayers. Don’t let anyone keep you from pursuing your dreams.
I think I'm going to spend my summer wining, dining and writing about the most amazing role models I have in this great industry.
So, who's next? Tell me your story. We want to celebrate it.