Growing up in Port-au-Prince, Haiti—where her parents were missionaries—you could say that Stephanie Sirt’s life and career story are anything but typical.
Now working as a Senior Director of Engineering, Procurement, and Construction (EPC) Business for Emerson Automation Solutions in Houston, Texas, we chatted with Sirt to get the lowdown on her journey, her current role, and her very best career advice.
Finding Motivation Early
While Sirt’s early life calls Port-au-Prince home, she moved back to Houston following high school. From there, she pursued an Associate of Applied Science degree in Engineering.
After completing her degree, she found herself at a crossroads. “I was a single mom at 20, just out of college with a two-year degree and determined not to be a statistic,” Sirt explains.
It was that very inspiration that pushed her to continue her education—she now has a Bachelor of Science in Information Technology—and grab the reins to advance her own career in the oil and gas industry.
“I have worked in refineries, offshore, in chemical plants,” she says, “I have been in oil and gas my entire career.”
Advancing a Career
With her involvement in the oil and gas industry, Sirt’s career tells a cohesive story. However, she’s held numerous different positions throughout that time.
She has over 12 years of project experience, working as a Project Manager, Instrument and Electrical Designer, Business Development Manager, Contract Manager, Configuration and Graphics Programmer, and Field Designer in the chemical, offshore drilling, and upstream industries.
Most recently before joining Emerson, she worked as the Vice President of Main Automation Contractor (MAC) Programs for Maverick Technologies. When she found herself wanting to try something new in her career, Emerson felt like the perfect opportunity.
“I had been in projects my entire career. I wanted manufacturing exposure,” she says, “I interviewed with John Gardner and really liked his vision. He wanted to build a group that would lead in integrating Emerson and solve customer problems. He was singing my tune.”
So, Sirt joined Emerson in 2010 as the Strategic Account Director for Chevron—a position she held until 2016. In October of 2016, she moved into her current role as Senior Director of EPC business.
Her Current Role
“Currently, I manage the executive level relationships for about 14 of our strategic EPC accounts,” Sirt explains, “I am an escalation point, so I manage a lot of challenging situations.” She’s also responsible for leading and coordinating the global teams assigned to the EPC accounts.
Because of her heavily involved role, Sirt needs to spend a solid chunk of her time in meetings and on the phone solving problems and strategizing with customer teams. And, she loves that her job challenges her to solve complex problems.
“Every day is a new adventure,” she says, “It’s impossible to get bored, and I have been fortunate to work for some fantastic leaders.”
Life in a Male-Dominated Industry
For 95% of her career, Sirt mentions that she was the only or the first woman on a certain team.
She was the only woman in the detail engineering group offshore. She was the first female Global Strategic Account Executive reporting to John Gardner. She was the First female EPC director at Emerson in North America. The list goes on.
“Most of the first 10 years of my career, I had to share the men’s restroom,” she says.
But, with a go-getter attitude and the support of numerous outstanding mentors, Sirt was still able to build a successful career in an industry that’s notoriously patriarchal.
There’s no doubt that Sirt will continue to make her mark on the oil and gas industry. And, she has some sage words of advice for anyone else who’s looking to do the same.
“Charge the hill,” she explains, “It’s evolved a lot in the last 25 years and the sky’s the limit. Figure out what you love to do and the rest will fall into place. Treat everyone with respect, from the CEO to the janitor. Relationships and trust are the currency of the energy industry.”
When it comes to the very best career advice she’s ever received? Sirt concludes by providing some encouraging words for us all.
“You are either part of the problem or the solution. Be part of the solution.”