From Enron to the Great Oil Bust

Blog Post created by chappella on Mar 24, 2016

Although we all have different crazy and busy lives at the end of it all, we are humbled and flawed humans with so much to learn.  My childhood was never one to reflect back on yet I find myself doing so often because of who I am today. The strength and perseverance it took to rise above poverty and abuse amazes me still to this very day.  I never considered myself a victim, rather, I see myself as a survivor.  To be honest, I am grateful for the unfortunate circumstances I grew up in because it enabled me to see things from an open perspective and adapt too many situations.  Although I was not raised in a religious home, I knew there was always something better to life than the one I was in.


Who knew when I was a child I would find myself in the Army where I met my husband and we would move to Texas.  It’s not something you can predict, you just follow life as it goes along.  With the military being my only background, I sought opportunities as an assistant.  I worked many temp assignments throughout Enron before landing a permanent position and that is kind of where this story begins.  We all know about the downfall of the champion of energy deregulation.  Five years of 401k savings were no longer worth a penny, we were practically homeless and penniless.  My husband was in the fire academy and paramedic school when the collapse happened so my income was the main source for living expenses. I was also taking classes at the University downtown but had to quit shortly thereafter due to our finances.  My father-in-law paid my car note and let us live in his rental without paying rent until we got back on our feet.  Without his grace, we would have been living on the streets with our two boys.

Because I am a survivor, I hustled.  It took about six months to find something long term but it was only temp work with no benefits so when CMS closed its doors in Houston, I was without income for a couple months but we were in a better place with my husband now working for the city.  Still, we needed two incomes to survive and raise our family in a decent environment. I bounced around as an executive assistant for a few years before landing at National Oilwell Varco.  A challenging yet wonderful blessing in disguise. Within four months of contract work, I was offered a permanent position as a quotation associate and began learning all about the capital equipment NOV manufactured.  I was eventually promoted to quotation specialist and had nine product lines at one time.  I worked in that role for about 5 years then moved onto our pressure control facility briefly then back to rig systems as an Inside Sales Representative.  NOV was one of the best work families I have ever had. When Pete Miller was CEO, he would personally meet with the employees at the annual Christmas party and thank us for our hard work.  He always said the people are who make NOV great!


January 15, 2016 was very emotional when I was escorted out of the building.  I cried, my director was physically upset. All he could say going down the elevator was how sorry he was and all I could do through tears was say “it’s not your fault oil tanked”.  I received so many phone calls and texts from colleagues, friends, and previous supervisors. I was truly touched by their kind words but it wasn’t enough for me to not feel like I failed although I knew it wasn’t me, it was the state of the market.


The brain is an incredible force to reckon with if I must say.  All of the things I have been through in my life never prepared me for this emotional roller coaster I have been on since the day of the layoff.  I don’t think I have ever cried this much even when losing loved ones, I am able to control my emotions for the most part but this was like a piece of my heart was ripped away and stomped on.  I was good at what I did and loved it.  How will I find that again?  Why me? Why not this person?  Why keep people who plan on leaving anyway?  I wanted to retire from NOV!  How come I got laid off?  All of this and more randomly kept me awake and opened flood gates of feeling sorry for myself in-between applying for unemployment, looking for opportunities, doing phone interviews, school work, and daily life.

In all of it, that girl was still there in my head.  The girl who grew up in a volatile home and foster care who always knew there was more to life, she took over once again and helped me get back on track.  We can survive this, you have been through so much worse.  Don’t feel sorry for yourself.  Go after what may seem impossible, just do it! And she did! This girl did it! She is starting a new career in renewable energy. 


Katie encouraged me to write this blog as a ray of hope for all of us going through the same thing right now.  Without Katie’s kindness and small little pep talks on Facebook, email and so forth, I would have never had the courage to share my personal story.


Here is to strong wonderful women!  Have faith, be kind, and never give up!



Katie Mehnert