There are those people who do amazing things in their careers. And, then there are those people who take things one step further. They don’t just climb the ladder themselves—they also turn around and offer tools, resources, and encouragement to help other people make their way up each and every rung.
Without a doubt, Ally Cedeno fits into that latter category. Not only has she built a successful career and traveled all across the globe, but she also launched WomenOffshore.org—a website dedicated to helping other women make names for themselves in the energy industry.
Needless to say, Ally (who’s currently working in South Korea!) has a lot on her plate. We chatted with her about her experience in the industry, her new website, and her best advice for women who want to follow in her footsteps.
Getting Her Start
In 2008, Cedeno received a bachelor’s degree in Logistics and Intermodal Transportation from the US Merchant Marine Academy (USMMA) in Kings Point, NY.
“I started working in the oil fields in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 and was fortunate to land a position as a Dynamic Positioning Operator (DPO) trainee to earn a dynamic positioning certificate,” Cedeno says.
“My first DP experience was on a dive support vessel, and I really enjoyed the challenges of operating the vessel alongside platforms while a diver worked below,” she adds.
Climbing the Ladder
Since then, Cedeno has continued to push forward in her career—all the way to her current position as a Senior Dynamic Positioning Operator for a major drilling contractor.
“We are currently building the ship I am assigned to in shipyard, but we will soon transit to the Gulf of Mexico where I’ll be responsible for keeping the vessel on station while we drill,” she explains.
In fact, Cedeno is currently in South Korea working in a shipyard for a month at a time. “It has been an eye-opening experience seeing the ships under construction,” she says, “I greatly admire the organization of the shipyard and how efficiently it operates.”
Yes, South Korea is a long way from home, but Cedeno considers all of that travel to be one of the greatest perks of her job. “I have been fortunate to sail all over the world, including in Antarctica,” she adds.
As far as what an average day on the job looks like for Cedeno, long hours are the norm. “A typical day for me is 12 hours long, monitoring the DP system to ensure the vessel stays over the wellhead,” she explains.
Women Making Waves
It’s no secret that Cedeno is thriving in a notoriously male-dominated industry. “I have often been the only woman on board or the only woman outside of catering,” she explains. But, Cedeno doesn’t necessarily consider that a bad thing—and has actually managed to use that to her advantage.
“I have been lucky to have some great male mentors and wouldn’t be where I am without those platonic relationships,” she adds.
But, Cedeno also admits that there’s a shift happening—she’s seeing more and more women involved in the industry. “On the last ship I worked on, amazingly, there were women working all over the rig,” she says, “There were so many women, I don’t even know them all. I really enjoyed the camaraderie I found on that ship and the fact that I wasn’t an anomaly on board.”
With that in mind, Cedeno took steps to launch WomenOffshore.org. “The industry is evolving to become more diverse and inclusive,” she explains, “I founded WomenOffshore.org to report on the latest news in how the industry is changing, connect women to resources that foster long-term careers, and highlight the amazing, diverse group of women who work in operations. They all have a story to tell and hopefully their stories will inspire more women to pursue similar careers.”
Words of Wisdom
Indeed, Cedeno has tons of great insights to share with people—both men and women—who are hoping to forge careers in the energy industry. And, according to her, it all starts with networking.
“Reach out to those you know working offshore and keep in touch,” she advises, “If you don’t already know someone, look for organizations such as Pink Petro and check out WomenOffshore.org. There are some outstanding resources out there and a lot of people who want to help.”
Cedeno, who’s a Pink Petro community member herself, found out about Pink Petro in a rather surprising way—from a male friend. “I was surprised he knew so much about Pink Petro and was very enthusiastic about what they were doing in the industry!” she says. It’s just further proof that you can receive some inspiring career help from unlikely sources.
So, when it comes to the very best career advice she’s ever received? Cedeno has an important reminder for all of us. “Early on in my career, I was told to ‘normalize discomfort in learning,’” she says, “My supervisor told me to not be afraid to dive in deep into manuals, ask questions, and get dirty searching for answers to learn the ins and outs of the systems I work with. Basically, he didn’t just want me to know what button to press, but instead learn how and why it functions the way it does.”
Indeed, we’re all never done learning. And, Cedeno is living, breathing proof that—when you continue to search for the “why” rather than the “what”—you’re bound to do big things.