Amy Futral

How Suzanne Short became a rifle-hunting, thick-skinned and fearless petroleum engineer

Blog Post created by Amy Futral on Jan 2, 2018

Suzanne ShortFor Suzanne Short, a former longtime ConocoPhillips employee, her junior year of high school in Houston, Texas, was a turning point for her future career.

 

That year, she attended a recruiting fair for the Society of Petroleum Engineers – Gulf Coast Section (SPE-GCS), which brings together students, recruiters, and engineers for scholarships, networking, and volunteer opportunities.

 

Short was intrigued by their talk of the generational gap within the industry, so she stayed in contact with SPE and made plans to major in petroleum engineering at Texas Tech. It gave her insight into the industry — and resources to set her career off on the right foot.

 

The best advice I’ve ever received is to grow a thick skin, which I’m still not very good at,” Short says, laughing. “One of my best mentors came to the U.S. from Colombia not speaking English. He learned English, went to college and earned a degree in petroleum engineering. I thought that if he could overcome that barrier, then I have no excuse.”

   

That has been her mantra for just about everything in life. She went on to spend a decade at ConocoPhillips, in a range of roles. She’s spent five days hiking the Chilkoot Gold Rush Trail. She’s an avid rifle big-game hunter. And now she’s pursuing a master of business administration from Texas Tech.  

 

“Engineers need an advanced degree to set them apart in this modern era,” she says.

 

Suzanne Short taj mahalShort landed her first job with ConocoPhillips, a multinational energy corporation headquartered in Houston, Texas, after completing her bachelor of petroleum engineering degree from Texas Tech. At ConocoPhillips, she was a part of an 18-month rotational program as an upstream engineer. During this time, she worked in “all aspects” of petroleum engineering, ranging from project proposals to drilling rotations to writing procedures for hydraulic fracturing.

 

Short spent a total of 10 years with the company and held three different job titles: upstream engineer, production engineer and drillsite petroleum engineer.

 

“I spent five of those years in Texas and the other five in Alaska.  The last three of the years I was in Alaska, I was living a two-week rotational schedule on the North Slope,” Short says.

 

During her time in Alaska, Short was positioned as a production engineer in a processing facility, where she was responsible for solving day-to-day problems, preparing procedures to repair down-hole oil wells and supporting field operations.

 

“The people [in Alaska] are colorful and amazing,” she says. “It was hard work and exhausting, but I’m glad I did it.”

 

After her time at ConocoPhillips, Short decided to go back to school. The two-year master’s program at Texas Tech has Short devoting herself full time to earning her degree.

  

When asked about her ideal job within the energy industry, Short says she would like to do something that will allow her to diversify her background. She hopes an MBA will help her move into a broader role at a small to mid-sized company.  She describes moving around and seeing different fields within the industry and working in production engineering, as well as seeing different types of equipment and working on the East Coast, offshore or even overseas.

 

“What excites me about the energy industry are the technical aspects, types of equipment and new technology,” Short says. “The industry is always growing and changing.”

 

Suzanne Short bisonWhen she isn’t busy studying for her master’s degree or attending a SPE event, Short enjoys rifle hunting, hiking, backpacking and traveling.

 

“I take every chance I get to rifle hunt and visit different areas,” she says. “I recently shot a bison in South Dakota. I traveled a lot overseas when I was working in Alaska and I successfully hiked the Chilkoot Gold Rush Trail, which was 33 miles.”

 

Short notes that the unwelcome feeling many women working in the energy industry have experienced is something she has never felt.

 

“Inclusivity is important to me because women bring a different viewpoint to the industry, as well as unique talents,” she says. “Women may choose other paths because [the energy industry] is too difficult or unwelcoming, but I have never found that to be true for me.”

 

That said, Short recognizes the industry still has a long way to go to achieve greater inclusivity. So when asked about her advice to other women, she reiterates the importance of a thick skin.

 

“Put yourself out there, be fearless, and be confident in your skills,” Short says. “Don’t be scared off.”

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