Close this search box.
Energy Workforce & Technology Council 90th Anniversary
Close this search box.

PESA High-Performer Spotlight: Gayle Abrahams, Director, Financial Planning & Analysis, Exterran

Gayle Abrahams, Director, Financial Planning & Analysis, Exterran

Gayle Abrahams, Director, Financial Planning & Analysis, Exterran

What influenced your decision to enter the oil and gas industry?
I joined the oil and gas industry back in my mid-twenties when I decided to move back to my hometown of Houston. I wanted to be part of a truly global industry with an abundance of opportunities for professional and personal growth – in Houston, there’s one obvious match to that description, and it is oil and gas.

What was your impression of the industry beforehand and how has it evolved?
Oddly enough, I grew up in Houston but did not have any family working directly in the energy industry; my parents sell office supplies in the region, so I could have told you that oil and gas businesses use a lot of paper and binder clips!

I had heard the stories about the industry being a “good old boys club,” which can be daunting for anyone who (a) had not grown up with industry connections and (b) is a woman. But that impression changed almost immediately given the reality of industry’s international nature. In my first roles, I worked for a very diverse group of leaders. Getting to know people from many different backgrounds is my favorite part of the industry today.

What have you found to be the most surprising about the industry?
I have been pleasantly surprised by the increased focus on ESG (environmental, social and governance) initiatives across the industry, including the efforts PESA has made to promote training and action around the topic. The value that investors, employees and customers place on ESG is growing exponentially, and the oil and gas industry is proving that fossil fuels and ESG are not mutually exclusive. There is plenty that we can do for sustainability while continuing to support global energy needs.

What do you find most challenging and most rewarding about the industry or your work?
It’s a common refrain, but I’ll join in on the chorus: the cyclical nature of the oil and gas industry is difficult to manage through. There is a lot of personal development and growth that occurs during a down cycle – and we all await the light at the end of the tunnel where it cycles back up – but it doesn’t make the tough decisions any easier when you’re in the down cycle. As a Director of Financial Planning & Analysis at Exterran, I partner with company leadership to forecast where we are headed based on market dynamics and company strategy. I enjoy the challenge of assembling all the inputs to figure out where we are heading financially, but it’s a lot more enjoyable when we’re heading toward growth.

Where do you hope to see the industry develop over the next five years?
Two things come to mind, the first being ESG as I mentioned previously. Many companies in the industry have begun to dip their toes in the ESG ocean, especially as it pertains to expanding environmental oversight and making steps toward diversity in leadership roles. I hope to see further progress across the industry, to the point where these efforts aren’t thought of as special ESG initiatives but rather are engrained in the standards of how we operate.

Secondly, I hope – and expect – that we will continue to use data in smarter ways. There is so much information to be gleaned from our operations – out in the field, in the manufacturing shop, in the back office – that can help us mitigate risks and increase productivity. I see the bigger challenge not in the collection of the information but in the analysis; how do we define and measure meaningful metrics without being inundated with numbers that begin to lose meaning as we review them over and over again.

What role do you believe you will play in the industry’s future?
I am excited to be a part of the industry movement toward increased diversity with more women and other underrepresented groups in leadership roles. In the early stages of my career there were several senior women leaders at my company, and I understood it to be quite normal that there were large groups of women represented in all levels of the company. However, as my career has progressed I have begun to find myself in situations where I am one of the only women in quite large, important meetings. While I am glad to say that I have never encountered any problems feeling equal to and respected by my male peers, I am enthusiastic about coaching and developing the next wave of women ready to step up to the conference room table.

How has your involvement in PESA supported your career goals?
PESA has provided me with fantastic networking opportunities that have allowed me to expand my horizons by learning about other companies and sectors of the industry, as well as focus on my own development. Being a member of PESA’s Executive Leadership Program has introduced me to a group of very impressive professionals who have provided advice and shared common challenges and successes. The coaching and mentoring opportunities have exceeded my expectations and helped me to look at my career path from new angles.

Tell us about some of the people you’ve met while working in the industry and how they’ve impacted your thinking.
Being in finance I would be remiss to not mention my favorite piece of advice I received years ago: “cash is cash, the rest is negotiable.” That negotiable part is highly influenced by the ability to build strong relationships and develop a clear communication style, which transcends beyond any one particular industry.

Additionally, coming into the oil and gas industry without an engineering background, I have benefited from peers who have given me their time and their patience to teach me a bit about the technical side of petroleum. Early in my career I sat next to an engineer who had worked in oil and gas for over 25 years. I would assemble lists of unfamiliar words and acronyms that I picked up around the office and then every couple months this engineer would give me a couple hours of his time to learn the meaning behind those words and phrases – I hope he’d be proud of how much I’ve learned now.

What are you most excited about for your career, your company and your industry?
I have been lucky to have avoided much repetition in my career; each job I have taken has allowed me to tackle a new challenge and learn something that I didn’t know before. I am someone who does not enjoy being bored, and probably to no one’s surprise, this industry keeps me plenty busy. My favorite part of working in finance is using numbers to tell the story of my company’s operations. I get to be front and center in evaluating our performance, and I am excited to keep up the real-time learning as we evaluate and plan for new strategies and initiatives.

What would you tell someone who is thinking about entering the oil and gas industry?
Getting involved with PESA has opened my eyes to the sheer number of companies across oil and gas – there are so many small- and medium-sized businesses out there focused on all sorts of niche areas. When you’re looking for career opportunities, take the time to check out companies that may not be on your initial radar.

What do you wish other people knew about oil and gas?
Take the time to learn the history of oil and gas and the energy industry. Oil and gas has a long history deeply intertwined with international affairs and development. The day-to-day work is a lot more enjoyable when you can see how what we do today situates in the bigger picture of the global energy landscape. There are great resources from a number of organizations to talk about both the history of oil and gas and today’s dynamics – in addition to the many trainings available through PESA, I am a big fan of the Baker Institute’s Center for Energy Studies.



Stay Connected

Sign up for the Energy Workforce newsletter to stay on top of the latest energy news and events.