Executive Feature: Janeen Judah on The Downturn, Industry and the NextGen

Blog Post created by pujajavalagi Advocate on Oct 14, 2016

Each year, the Society of Petroleum Engineers selects one qualified and dedicated member as their International President. This past year, this role fell to Pink Petro member Janeen JUdah. Ms. Judah, who is based out of Houston, has held many SPE leadership positions and was even named a Distinguished Member of SPE in 2003. Her list of accomplishments is endless, and is only getting longer. Thanks to Pink Petro, I was able to get a chance to learn more about her achievements and the work put in to get her to where she is now. 


Where did you study? What was your major?

I actually have four degrees. I got my Bachelors and Masters Degrees in Petroleum Engineering at Texas A&M, followed by an MBA at the University of Texas of the Permian Basin, followed again by a JD from the University of Houston Law Center. However, I would not recommend studying law after engineering. It is difficult to combine law and engineering as there are limited opportunities in the industry to effectively combine both petroleum engineering and law.


It is amazing that you will be the first female SPE president in more than a decade. Do you see yourself as a role model for young women? What strides do you hope to make regarding reaching out to budding engineers while in office?

I have learned that I am a role model whether I choose it or not. There are not a lot of women in any industry with engineering backgrounds to look up to. I embrace it and try to give advice to make other women’s paths easier because mine was hard. I try to give general life advice, especially when I get approached by millennials.


Speaking of work-life balance, how do you yourself balance work and life?

You don’t. It is difficult to get a perfect balance. I generally warn people who ask about balance because I don’t know any women that have had it all, all at one time. I would describe it as a juggling act. Sometimes, the work is more dominant, and sometimes, the family is dominant.


Students that want to get into management need to understand that management demands your time. There are choices that you’re going to have to make in your life, but there is no reason that you can’t have a wonderful career and family. Many people don’t realize that the technical ladder is more flexible. It is better for family and/or anyone on a dual career ladder and you can get almost as high as you would on a managerial ladder.


In your JPT article, you discuss the importance of environmental stewardship. I believe that not enough people talk about the environmental aspect of petroleum engineering. Many people think that all oil products are ruining the environment. How do you hope to address that/change that?


At this point and time, there is not much for the industry to do to overcome the general media view of climate change because facts are often not relevant. Everything you do has an impact on the world around you. I learned firsthand dealing with the full life cycle of what we do when designing projects. Most people are not used to designing projects keeping the end of its life in mind. It is our job as an industry to minimize our impact and our footprint through these designs. An investment now will pay off in 40 years. No one cared about their footprint in the 1930’s, but we are getting bad press now because of this.


Pink Petro and others conducted a survey, Energy 2021 regarding the loss of talent during this downturn. What are your predictions? Do you believe that people will come back after the downturn?


There was a big influx of people between the 70’s and the 80’s that came in all at once. A majority of these folks have left the industry in this downturn.  Many of my peers are retiring now. The big crew change has mostly happened. So how do you deal with gearing back up again? This generation is starting to hand the reins off to a younger generation, allowing them to take leadership roles. Many of the older generation might come back, but probably in consulting roles rather than full time employees.


Have you had any mentoring/coaching that has helped you in your career?


Yes, but I haven’t had as much of it as I would have liked. There almost no women ahead of me, so I didn’t have women around to give me advice. All of my mentors have been men. I get asked to mentor a lot, but I can’t be every woman’s mentor, so I do a lot of public speaking and I try to be active on social media to make myself accessible. 


What advice do you give to the new generation of young petroleum engineers entering the industry in a downturn?


Our downturns are more spectacular because they get lots of press.


My biggest piece of advice is “Persevere through hard times. When things aren’t going great, don’t quit.” Society gives us women permission to quit.


I also advise people to search their heart. Why did I choose engineering? I was a problem solver, not a math wizard. I struggled through calculus just like everyone else. Perseverance will get you through it.


Lastly, life happens. Sticking through the hard things is worthwhile, whether it is differential equations or the current state of the business.


Thanks to Janeen JUdah for taking the time to talk to us at Pink Petro! #Janeen2017


What advice do you have for young engineers, readers? Comment Below!