Mary Johnson

Elizabeth Cambre is a case study on the power of women in energy technology

Blog Post created by Mary Johnson on Dec 11, 2017

Elizabeth CambreWant proof that women are powerful additions to the technical teams in oil and gas? Meet Elizabeth Cambre.


Cambre has worked in technical roles throughout her career, first at Schlumberger in Oman and UAE, and then at Baker Hughes, where her positions spanned from fracturing and acidizing technical instructor to global product line manager.


She left Baker Hughes a few months ago and is now strategizing her next move — while she focuses more intently on building up other women in all aspects of energy.


“I’m positioned to take a little bit of time to really try to discover my next step and a more meaningful role and also to try to lead this gender diversification,” Cambre says. “Something dramatic needs to change from the top down, where there’s more than an initiative, but a transformation of the corporate thinking.”


Cambre got her start in energy right out of college. She studied chemical engineering, with a focus in pharmaceuticals, at the University of Colorado at Boulder. But she lost interest in pharma after working for a pharmaceutical consulting company during her senior year of college. She saw firsthand the amount of time it takes to see a blockbuster medicine through development, clinical trials and into the marketplace.  


“For me, I wanted to see more impact and see it sooner,” she explains.


Growing up in Colorado, she’d always been familiar with energy companies, and her first interest was to go into renewables — specifically, solar. She also wanted to use the Chinese language skills she’d built up. So she took a job at Schlumberger, and was heading to China.


But plans changed, and instead, she was offered the opportunity to go to the Middle East. She took it and headed to Oman as a field engineer for Schlumberger. It was 2008, and Cambre was terrified of losing her job while she was trying to learn everything in the oil industry. But the experience of living and working overseas was life-changing.


Elizabeth Cambre in Oman“I lived in a frack caravan in the desert. It was a stressful year, but I got through it. And looking back at it, I learned a lot,” Cambre recalls. “That’s where I really started to see the value that I could bring to oil and gas. I developed a passion for the technology.”


Cambre was heavily involved in operations, and introduced Schlumberger’s diversion system for acidizing. She worked on a stimulation vessel and spent her days pulling up to rigs and pumping acid from her boat to the rigs.


“It definitely tested me,” she says.


From there, she moved to Abu Dhabi and took more of an office role with Schlumberger, with some offshore work designing treatments. But when she turned 30, she decided to move back to the States. She wanted to get married and start a family. She also spotted an opportunity as the Shale boom took off.


Cambre moved from Abu Dhabi to Houston and took a job with Baker Hughes as a fracturing and acidizing technical instructor. Three months after her move, she met her husband. Within a year, they were married. Now, they have two daughters: one is 4, the other almost 2.


Elizabeth Cambre and familyAs her personal life was growing, so was her career. As a technical instructor, she trained over 200 engineers over the course of two years. She then moved into a global pressure pumping competency role and was asked to take 14,000 employees from a 20 percent competency level to 90 percent within six months.


“And we did it,” Cambre says.


From there, she was promoted to global product line manager at Baker Hughes, generating $46 million in new product introduction revenue over the past three years.


As she began to consider her next career opportunity, Cambre started to notice the difficulties women have advancing in energy.


“These females are all highly qualified, very skilled. But they’re just not given the opportunity. And we lose them,” she says. “We have probably 7 percent females in pressure pumping this year.”


Cambre is working hard to see progress in this space. While still at Baker Hughes, she was elected to chair the women’s resource group for the company’s satellite facility in Houston. She also reached out to the owner of the Hydraulic Fracturing Journal and asked if he would dedicate an entire issue to female authors. He said yes. She just had to find the authors. 


Elizabeth Cambre at workSo she put together a committee that included representatives from Schlumberger, Texas A&M, Halliburton and others, and collected enough abstracts to publish the journal. Now she is putting together a reception on Jan. 22, the night before the SPE Hydraulic Fracturing Technology Conference kicks off, to honor those female authors.


While all of this constitutes progress, Cambre sees room for more — much more. She feels strongly that companies need to have a plan in place beyond simply tapping a more diverse pool of talent.


“In my mind, it has to be more than an initiative to hire more people. I think that females have to have that sponsorship from a very early time in their career because that sponsorship is what’s holding females from going forward,” Cambre says.


That’s part of the reason why Cambre joined Pink Petro. She’s looking to network as she searches for her next opportunity, but she also wants to stay on the frontlines of the conversation around gender diversity in energy.


“For me, I see Pink Petro as just a remarkable organization, especially with all the tools that I’ve already identified and taken advantage of,” Cambre says. “I know I’m hungry for it, and I’m sure others are, too.”