This week in our profiles in GRIT series, we introduce you to Elyse Knudsen, Major Capital Project HES Advisor at Chevron; a company that works to meet the world’s demand for energy by exploring for oil and natural gas.
Beyond her work at Chevron, Elyse is also a team member and active contributor to Women Offshore, an organization and resource center supporting a diverse workforce on the water.
Elyse’s story is a true depiction of perseverance and how staying the course and finding the courage to think outside-the-box can pay off.
We were thrilled to honor Elyse at the first-ever GRIT Awards back in March, and now we’re pleased to share some of her story with you.
PINK PETRO: What’s the biggest challenge you have faced and how did you overcome it?
EK: One of the most valuable turning points for me was my first offshore crew truly trusting “this safety girl.” When I first visited the drill shack, no one spoke to me, more specifically everyone ignored me. I didn’t give up or get mad, I just put in my time. I showed up every day and stayed engaged. A few months later, I was on the rig floor painting lines on pup joints, changing out equipment on the rough neck, and manning the Assistant Drillers Chair.
PP: What’s one mistake you made and what did you learn from it?
EK: Our traditional safety view tells us we must strive to do everything the right way every time. There is one minor flaw in this philosophy: if we must be perfect then there is no room for mistakes, it doesn’t allow us to discuss how we can truly learn.
A mistake I have made in the past was thinking that the mistakes I made were not okay. I felt ashamed and embarrassed. I am learning now that mistakes are normal. We are human and we all make them. And like this question alludes, we must learn and improve.
PP: What’s been the most rewarding part of your career?
As a night Safety Advisor on a Drill Ship, I had the opportunity to spend most of my time getting hands-on experience troubleshooting issues in the engine room, changing out equipment on the iron roughneck, conducting isolations with electricians and performing inspections in confined spaces with the marine crew. For me, this work was essential experience on the path to becoming a reliable safety professional.
My latest offshore role in Angola, Africa provided me fast paced, hands-on experience but maybe something even more valuable, perspective. I had the unique opportunity to work with individuals from over 11 countries. What made this so special was the fact that not only did I work with these people, but I learned about their lives, their families, their culture and they learned about mine. By truly listening to them, they opened up to me about deep-rooted culture concerns, roadblocks to executing work safely and resource struggles. I took away from this experience a deeply rooted personal platform around leading safety differently. Leading safety as a listener, asking better questions and truly supporting a solution that does not blame or punish but empower and promote the people that do great work for our organization. This gives me the passion to come to work every day because we have a long way to go in our current culture.
PP: Who’s been a “gritty” role model for you and why?
EK: Gritty role model, mentor, thought partner, confident: this decision is easy; it was my team lead during my offshore campaign work. I saw her as a trailblazer not only as the only female lead on a project of over 1500 men but because she stayed true to herself, spoke her mind and did not settle for the status quo. She opened up to me about her personal and professional struggles and allowed me to do the same. She promoted my out of the box thinking and provided me a platform to be heard. I aspire every day to be a leader like her, a leader who enrolls and encourages their team!