I was at a crossroads with my major. It was the beginning of sophomore year, and I realized that I did not want to be a chemistry major. My first mentor in science was my AP Chemistry teacher in high school, who was a chemistry major. I even had a good taste of doing graduate level research in a lab on cancer drugs in high school for a summer at University of Northern Colorado, which further persuaded me towards undertaking chemistry as a career.
So I decided to embark on an experiment during my freshman year in college at Colorado School of Mines. Could I handle a full course load, while also performing experiments in a chemical engineering lab? That was the ultimate test—it would describe the lifestyle of a graduate student. The loud answer was no. I did not do well for hours at a time, by myself, synthesizing bioplastics.
That summer after freshman year, I decided to a do a course correction. Some friends at the time were considering petroleum engineering. When I visited the department, it was very collaborative and interdisciplinary (working with geologists and geophysicists), and fit my personality. To fully make the change, and test the waters again, I decided that I needed to have an internship in the petroleum industry to see if I liked the working environment and more importantly, the people.
I decided to get the nerve to go ask the career center to critique my resume. It takes courage and a thick skin to even initiate that type of conversation, to get feedback needed for improvement and what type of presence I projected. However, the resume and personal projection weren't necessarily the most important components.
As I was getting up to leave, I want to clarify on timing, and make sure my assumptions were correct. I decided to ask the question to my career center. "Should I have my resume ready for the spring recruiting fair?"
That one question was pivotal.
"Oh no!" replied the director of the career center at the time. "All of the energy companies recruit in the fall around September!"
In two short weeks, I had my newly updated resume in hand, as well as a story on why I changed my major from chemistry to petroleum engineering. It is incredibly rewarding to know that because of my work, I was able to contribute, for example, 10 million barrels of oil equivalent to a development plan of a field. That's roughly equivalent to powering half a million households for a year (assuming no transmission losses).
That was a pivotal moment for me. Through just asking that one question, I was able to get prepared, go to the fall career fair, and land my first internship in the oilfield between my sophomore and junior years in college. In turn, that internship helped me to land another one for the follow summer, this time with a supermajor. This was the same company that I signed on with in the autumn of 2008. Four years later, I haven't looked back.