As a toddler, my parents knew I was good at math and science. I had a passion for counting and reading simple books about science. To foster this talent, my parents bought more toys relating to [those disciplines] and that’s how I devloped my passion. I was consistent in improving my skills by attending competitions and challenging myself with advanced courses. I am blessed to have parents that understood my talents and encouraged me to pursue STEM at a very young age. I was fortunate not to have encountered the barriers that some women face when even being exposed to math and science. Engineering and medicine seemed to be tangible goals for me.
Before attending high school, I attended a camp called GRADE hosted by the University of Houston. This is a five-day camp introducing teenage women to engineering through robotics and teaching other engineering concepts. There was one session during the camp where we got to meet people from different engineering disciplines around the Houston area, and I met a number of folks from the oil and gas industry. From that experience, I had petroleum engineering in the back of my mind, but I knew I wanted to pursue a STEM career even more after GRADE camp.
A fun fact about myself is that I was also on my high school’s speech and debate teams. While I was also thinking about a career in law, I learned a lot about current events from this activity, such as how the world economy works and the influence of energy on geopolitics. I knew I wanted to be a part of the oil and gas industry because of the dynamic nature of the sector and the level of influence it has on people’s quality of life. When researching for college majors, I did not know that a petroleum engineering degree existed locally (and at some of the best schools, at that). As a junior, I knew I wanted to pursue a career in petroleum engineering and study at the University of Texas at Austin.
My last year of college was formative for me in learning about petroleum engineering and even starting my career at that time. Our school district has a gifted and talented mentorship program, where high performing students would be selected from around the district to pursue a mentorship in their career of choice. In the first semester, students would write a research paper on a topic that interests them in their selected career. The second semester would involve finding a mentor and pursuing a mentorship until graduation. I stumbled across CO2 flooding as a high school senior when researching OnePetro papers in the University of Houston Anderson library and attempted to write a research paper on the subject.
We learned how to write cold emails near the end of the first semester of my senior year; little did I know that this would be essential for job searching in the future. Out of all the cold emails I wrote to industry contacts around the Houston area, I received one response, and that was my first mentor in the oil and gas industry. He worked for a consulting firm and invited me to interview. I not only ended up with a mentorship for the spring, but also a summer internship before my university studies.
My first mentor taught me a lot about the oil and gas industry. I learned about artificial lift as my topic of research for my final presentation for the mentorship program. He also introduced me to numerous SPE conferences, such as Digital Oilfield and the Offshore Technology Conference in Houston. I also was introduced to the Society of Petroleum Engineers (and an active Gulf Coast Section) and learned the importance of networking as well as building relationships in the industry. My passion for STEM opened doors for me that have benefitted my career to this date.
I am passionate about STEM not just because I was good at the subjects, but my experiences showed me that I can make a difference in the world by applying math and science skills. For instance, oil and gas are the world’s largest energy resources and the energy density alone can support the world’s demand. Applying my skills to learn how oil and gas can be efficiently extracted from the ground makes oil and gas a low cost, affordable energy, improving the world’s quality of life.
From my experiences, attracting others to STEM should start at a very young age. I was fortunate to have parents that observed my talents. Introducing young girls to math and science and fostering those talents can lead to advancement in those skill sets and an unstoppable career in STEM. The next step would be to build a community of support for girls getting into STEM by participating in competitions and advancing the STEM skills and passion. Finally, retaining women in STEM occurs at many levels, including in college. Having industry representatives notice talented women in STEM improves the recruitment rate entering the industry and later advancing in their careers.
Headline photo: Who says there was nothing to celebrate in 2020? On October 17, 2020, Yogashri Pradhan, senior reservoir engineer with Endeavor Energy, and Ryan Yarger were married by Dawson Hoover in Midland, Texas, on-site at the Tex Harvey Spraberry 941H. Two months later, on December 11, 2020, Pradhan graduated from Texas A&M with a Master of Science – Petroleum Engineering. Congratulations! Photo courtesy of Deanna Racca.