Don’t Give Up on Your Dreams – Advice From Rig Engineer Virginia Moore

From NASA's Neutral Buoyancy Lab to BP's oil rigs, engineer Virginia Moore has built a fulfilling career that aligns with her passions and talents.

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Don’t Give Up on Your Dreams – Advice From Rig Engineer Virginia Moore

“Don’t Give Up on Your Dreams” was written by Virginia Moore, a BP rig engineer.

I used to work in NASA’s Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory, training astronauts underwater in preparation for the zero gravity environments on the International Space Station. As an avid diver with an engineering mindset, it was my dream job. But after five years I began to reflect on my future: I knew I couldn’t be a diver forever, since it’s so physically demanding. I felt the need to be more challenged as an engineer.

Virginia Moore in NASA's neutral buoyancy lab
Virginia training astronauts in NASA’s neutral buoyancy lab

The inspiration for my next career step actually came from my dad and grandfather – who had both worked in oil and gas. Before joining NASA, I had considered being a diver in the energy industry, but my dad had responded: “No daughter of mine will ever work in oil and gas.” He felt that it wasn’t the right environment for women. Over time, however, he witnessed first-hand a great deal of change as the number of women engineers rose – especially at BP where he worked. He therefore encouraged me to consider an offshore career and be the third generation in my family to enter that line of work.

It was scary to step away from my dream job in aerospace, but with the support of my family I applied for the BP Wellsite Leaders of the Future Programme in 2009. There were 1,100 applicants and I was one of the 19 selected. Despite the changes witnessed by my dad, there were only two females who succeeded within this 19. Most people in the programme had prior experience in the energy industry, and I was the only female BP Wellsite Leader globally who had never worked in energy before. Undoubtedly, it was a very steep learning curve for me. Still, I found similarities between NASA and BP as they both look to leverage innovative technologies and make sure that the equipment is safe and effective.

After completing the programme, I moved through roles including rig audit lead and engineer. As a rig engineer, I got to continue my passion for diving as I worked both above and below the water. Now, I am a planning and performance engineer: I conduct data analysis on safety and risk management to make our businesses safer and more competitive. While this is an office role, I still travel offshore to work on rig intakes, lead incident investigations, and prepare rigs for start-up by verifying conformance and compliance with industry standards. I really care about safety, and it has massively influenced my career choices, as I love being in roles where you actively make a difference.

As an LGBT female in male-dominated industries, I avoided questions about my personal life at the beginning of my professional careers in both aerospace and energy. Gradually, I’ve become more open and transparent about who I am, which has helped build trust and respect with my crews and team. As a result, we’ve been able to work together even better. Of course, there have been challenges along the way, but I can honestly say that the business is supportive and inclusive. There is zero tolerance for disrespect.

When I first joined BP, I had a female team leader who I truly looked up to. I thought: “I want to be like her one day.” Ten years later, I strive to inspire other women to pursue exciting, rewarding engineering careers in the energy industry too. I have seen more women being hired – both in the field, in BP offices, and in leadership roles. Reflecting on what has been quite a diverse career, I would say that you shouldn’t give up on your dreams and always be ready for the next challenge.

“Don’t give up on your dreams, and always be ready for the next challenge.”

– Virginia Moore, BP rig engineer

About the author:

Virginia Moore headshot
Photo courtesy of BP

Virginia Moore is a Rig Engineer at BP, based in Houston. After starting out in veterinary medicine at college, Virginia moved to business development as she was attracted to working in a more business-oriented environment. Virginia started scuba diving as a hobby when she was young, before deciding that it was what she wanted to do in her career. After working in NASA’s Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory for five years, she moved to BP in 2009, to become a rig/well engineer where she has been for a decade. In her spare time, she enjoys driving around in her classic 1967 Ford Mustang and taking her Labradors to play at the beach with her wife Lily.

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