2022May/June

Perspectives: Jamie Elrod, Baker Hughes – Industry must continue working to improve gender diversity within its ranks

By Stephen Whitfield, Associate Editor

The journey to a career in the oil and gas industry can take on many different forms. Some people are practically born into the oilfield, or they know from an early age that this industry is where they want to devote their working lives. Some people come into the industry through fortuitous circumstances. Jamie Elrod, Emissions Management Commercial Leader at Baker Hughes, falls into the latter category. 

These days, Mrs Elrod serves as a voice for the industry, pushing for greater gender diversity through her “Flipping the Barrel” podcast and promoting the industry’s role in the energy transition through her work. But growing up in Magnolia, Texas, she did not have dreams of a career in oil and gas. She was passionate about horseback riding, competing in showjumping events. She ran track and played volleyball. As a personable teen who loved working retail jobs, she figured that a sales career would be perfect for her. 

“I took a job at The Woodlands Mall when I was about 16 years old, and you had to upsell your customers, and all the salespeople competed against each other. There was a list where you could see who had the best sales numbers, and I really thrived off of that. It was something I was just naturally good at,” she said.  

Mrs Elrod attended Sam Houston State University on a volleyball scholarship, ultimately studying marketing and economics at the school. Shortly after her graduation in 2012, she was contacted by a headhunter who focused on placing college athletes into entry-level positions. That led to a two-year stint at Vopak, a company that offers storage services for products including biofuels, LNG and chemicals. She worked a number of trainee jobs before being promoted to Commercial Business Analyst in December 2013. 

Ten months later, in September 2014, Mrs Elrod joined Smith Bits, a Schlumberger company, as a Field Sales Representative. This marked her first foray into the world of oil and gas drilling – as part of the job, she had to assist in the development of new marketing material and analysis for the company’s drill bit products. 

After a year, Smith Bits promoted Mrs Elrod to Technical Sales Representative, where she worked primarily on selling small roller cone bits for plug-outs. Next came a corporate sales position at Thru Tubing Solutions and then a position as Senior Account Manager for C&J Services (later NexTier Oilfield Solutions), where she focused on commercial development in frac and wireline operations. 

Promoting the industry to new audiences

It was during Mrs Elrod’s time at NexTier that a pair of major life events changed things for her. First, she connected with Massiel Diez, MCA Reservoir Performance Sales Lead at Schlumberger, on Instagram. The pair bonded over their shared love of the oil and gas industry and their desire to help make the industry more diverse.

In September 2019, they launched “Flipping the Barrel,” providing women’s perspectives on oil and gas. The podcast features interviews with senior executives and other key industry figures on a variety of topics, such as the energy transition, technology adoption and the challenges in maintaining a work/life balance. 

“We wanted to share with the outside world that this is a great industry to be in,” Mrs Elrod said. “We’re tired of just talking about it in our circle. So, let’s start a podcast and talk about how can we empower the next generation? How can we inspire women to join this industry?” 

The second thing that happened to Mrs Elrod during this time was the birth of her daughter in January 2021. Her pregnancy led her to rethink the path she wanted to take within the industry, she said. “I realized how much I care about our industry and the environment. I was working in frac, and it has this perception as a horrible thing for the environment, and that’s pretty far from the truth. I think it’s one of the cleanest ways to get energy.”

This newfound perspective led Mrs Elrod to switch gears. In September 2021, she moved into her current role at Baker Hughes, where she promotes emissions monitoring, detection and quantification systems, as well as digital solutions for mitigating and preventing fugitive emissions.

While her job focuses on ESG, Mrs Elrod remains passionate about promoting gender diversity within the industry. On 9 March, Mrs Elrod gave a speech at the Diversity and Inclusion Session held during the 2022 IADC/SPE International Drilling Conference. She said the main purpose of her speech was to show how companies can encourage women to build long-term careers in oil and gas.

“This industry has done a very good job of seeking out more women for engineering roles and bigger leadership roles, but we still have a lot of work to do on developing an environment that supports women through the different challenges and changes in their lives,” she said.   DC 

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