Tracie Reed is President of Silverstream Energy Solutions and an Energy Workforce Board Member. She recently shared her thoughts on women in oil and gas.
Energy Workforce: Why did you get involved in oil and gas?
Tracie Reed: I joined the industry in the fall of 2010 for a “short contract” to help set up the sales and marketing organization for a startup OEM specializing in manufacturing new hydraulic pipe handling equipment, a company called Drillform Drilling Equipment. The challenges and complexity of the industry, coupled with the tenacity it takes to gain traction for new equipment and technology was enough to reel me in for the long haul and the short contract became eight years.
In 2018, I moved from drilling to the production side of the industry and founded Silverstream Energy Solutions to commercialize new equipment and technology in artificial lift. With producers focused on optimization of existing assets and working within cash flow, there’s been ample opportunities to engage end-users to discuss new solutions that offer meaningful improvements to productivity and safety. Meanwhile, it’s also been rewarding to watch Drillform continue to grow, with operations in Odessa, Tulsa and the UAE.
EW: What are the major changes you’ve seen during your time in the industry?
TR: Like everyone, I’ve seen impact of the economic cycles, but what really stands out is how the energy narrative has changed and the subsequent impact it’s had on our workforce. It’s made it difficult to attract new talent to the industry, so recruiting and retaining the people we need is tough right now. We are blessed to have incredible people in this industry, but it’s frustrating that our message of support for energy expansion, with fossil fuels as part of the energy mix, doesn’t resonate with the broader population. Ron Gusek at Liberty Energy is doing a fantastic job of highlighting how important this conversation is globally, and I applaud his efforts. We all need to step up.
It wasn’t necessary when I entered the industry, but we need to be vocal about our ability to provide the technical expertise and manpower to be an integral part of energy expansion, because with demand increasing we are going to need all reliable and consistent sources of energy to meet global needs.
EW: What do you think companies could do to retain female employees?
TR: Credibility is important for everyone, regardless of gender. Being transparent, working hard and asking questions will take employees a long way. Don’t be afraid to ask, ever.
For employers, I think redefining traditional work hours and providing adequate flexibility for women and men to be available as a caregiver for children or elderly parents is key. All employees balance multiple priorities in their lives, and they are re-evaluating what they need to feel supported in their careers. Too often though, it seems women are torn between work and family, and they choose family and seek roles that give them the flexibility they need to take care of the emotional well-being of themselves and their families. Traditional families have changed and with more single parents, employers who recognize this reality will be attractive places to work.
I believe diversity in hiring practices means more thoughtful and meaningful input as companies face day-to-day challenges. Women approach situations differently, and they bring that 360-degree view to work with them. I am a strong “you win or you learn” advocate, but have witnessed an increasing reluctance to adopt new technologies because the appetite for risk taking when it comes to innovation isn’t always encouraged, so they opt not to try. This situation amplifies the importance of diverse viewpoints and willingness to take calculated risks, which I think women are particularly adept at embracing.
EW: Do you have a mentor, and if so, how has mentorship helped you towards your career goals?
TR: I’ve had a ton of amazing mentors ranging from strong female managers to encouraging male senior leaders who all empowered me to take chances, make mistakes and learn from them. It wasn’t always pretty, but I was given the chance to learn to be successful. As an example, I was 20 and a summer student at DuPont, when an unfortunate accident meant I needed to step into a full-time role for the summer. Did I do everything right? Not a chance. Did I learn a ton about the job and myself? Absolutely.
EW: What advice would you give women thinking about a career in oil and gas?
TR: A resounding “Yes!” but don’t just listen to me. Spend a few hours or even a day with someone you respect. If necessary, find someone you don’t know and if they are generous enough to spend time with you, ask a ton of questions. Find an industry association and reach out to them to see how to get connected or ask to attend a networking event to see if we are your people. We have brilliant, talented, hard-working people in every aspect of this industry, and I am confident that once you’ve peeked behind the curtain, you’ll be intrigued!
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