WSPA Young Professionals Series: Part 2

To continue our “Young Professionals Series,” WSPA is excited to share the voices of recent college graduates who are entering the oil & gas industry. In this series, we asked them on how their career has enabled them to grow both professionally and personally.

In this post, we interviewed Olivia Thomas, a 2017 graduate from the University of Alabama. Olivia attributes her problem-solving, effective communication, and networking skills to her career in oil & gas.

Name: Olivia Thomas

Year Graduated College: 2017

School and Degree: University of Alabama; B.S. Chemical Engineering

Employer: Valero Energy Corporation (Benicia Refinery)

Job Title: Associate Environmental Engineer


What inspired you to pursue a career in oil & gas?
I wanted to pursue a career in oil & gas because petroleum products play such a huge role in improving the lives of people around the world. Obviously petroleum products allow people to travel every day, but they are also used to make many everyday products. I am proud to play a part (even if it is very small) in enhancing the lives of others.

How has the industry helped you grow professionally?

A refinery is a fast-paced environment, and working at a refinery requires you to think critically and work in teams constantly. It has challenged me and allowed me to develop problem-solving skills, and it has taught me how to effectively work in a team environment. As an environmental engineer I interface with operations and other engineers daily, but I also interface with agencies and outside organizations a lot. I think that interfacing with many different groups has also taught me how to communicate more effectively. Lastly, a lot of people say, “I never use any of the things that I learned in college in my job.” While that may be true some of the time, I feel like I do use the engineering skills and concepts I learned in college frequently. I have only furthered my understanding of technical concepts since I started working at a refinery, and I have learned so much about how the refining process works in just 2 years.

How has the industry helped you grow personally?

Personally, my career in oil and gas gave me the opportunity to move to Northern California from the Southeast. It has drastically changed my life for the better, and my cross-country move helped me grow personally by pushing me outside of my comfort zone. Taking the leap to move away from family and friends can be intimidating, but it has pushed me to rely on others more and build new relationships. In some ways I consider myself a perfectionist, and the team environment I have at work has made me realize that it’s okay to take risks and fail sometimes. Ultimately, my time thus far in oil & gas has been a time of constant personal growth.

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