Ten years ago, I started my career as a Field Service Engineer with General Electric after graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering. For over 3 years, I traveled to offshore and international locations to fix customer control systems and install new equipment on rigs that drill for oil and natural gas. The job was amazing! I was able to travel to countries like Singapore, Trinidad, Norway, South Korea, etc. It was a humbling experience to not only visit but interact with other cultures in their home countries. The job was fun and exciting, but it also stretched me to increase my knowledge of the product, understand how to communicate, and, above all, what it takes to grow and be successful.
Honestly, it wasn’t easy at first. As an introvert who didn’t travel or want to be in the spotlight, I was swiftly driven out of my shell. Field Service is a male dominated field, so being the only female on the team had its challenges. When I started the role, I knew what to expect, and, thought I was welcomed, my customers and colleagues had reservations about my ability to execute the job. Though I could have succumbed to the pressure and doubt, I instead decided to stretch. I knew my skill, proved my talent on each project and dug in deeper. I didn’t accept the reservation placed on me and took extreme pride in my work. I wanted to know everything I could about the role and I was a sponge. I kept a journal and every time I heard of a part or system I wasn’t familiar with, I researched and diligently took notes on it. Due to this preparation, I walked into each job with the confidence to resolve any issue that was put in front of me. Later, customers that initially doubted me, became the same customers that requested me to work on their rigs, and my colleagues became my lifelong friends.
I was able to build a positive reputation in the field, and I know that my first role set the tone for my career. Now I realize that my role, as a Field Service Engineer, was the most impactful position I ever had, and it was because it forced me to stretch. I had to move out of my comfort zone and try things that weren’t typically me. I realized there’s no growth, in life or in career, where it’s comfortable, and was proud that I didn’t shy away from the challenge.
So girls, though STEM may seem challenging and doubt may sometime surround you, the hard work does pay off. You have to conquer your fears and rise above the opinions others have of you. You can excel in areas you never knew you could, but you must stretch to grow!
Written by: Nyota Bey, Senior Systems Engineer Baker Hughes GE