Day in the Life of a Petroleum Engineer: Dr. Shawn Simmons

Dr. Shawn Simmons is an Environmental and Regulatory Manager at ExxonMobil. Learn more about her work in the energy industry and how you can #BeThatEngineer!

I credit my middle school science teacher, Ms. Moore, for introducing me to the idea of being an engineer.  My mother was also a mathShawn Simmons teacher and my dad worked in the petrochemical industry as a chemical operator. Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) were always a part of my environment growing up.  I found that I enjoyed math and science classes. I discovered petroleum engineering when I visited the University of Oklahoma and saw a life-size working drilling rig. I asked, “what kind of engineer gets to work with that piece of equipment?”  The response was – a petroleum engineer. I was so fascinated and couldn’t wait to learn all about the facilities. On top of that, being born in Louisiana and raised in Texas, I was very familiar with the oil and gas industry.  After a few internships in the industry, I knew I wanted to be a petroleum engineer.

I attended the High School for Engineering Professions (in Houston) and that helped to solidify my interest in engineering.  I was part of a program called Inroads that gave me the opportunity to work in the oil and gas industry right after high school graduation. I really enjoyed the experience which reinforced my interest in engineering.  I then received my bachelor’s degree in petroleum engineering from The University of Oklahoma. The University of Oklahoma (like many colleges) hosts career fairs and as a freshman, I went with the intent to “practice” my presentation and interview skills.  I didn’t expect to get an internship offer since most employers prefer students with some coursework or industry experience. I was fortunate to be one of the few freshmen that landed an internship that year with Exxon, now ExxonMobil.  I enjoyed 6 internships with the company which set the stage for a full-time employment offer. Later, I received my master’s degree in environmental engineering and my PhD in environmental toxicology.

Currently, I am the Environmental & Regulatory Manager for all of ExxonMobil’s Russia operations.  I have enjoyed a 20-year career in the industry, all in the safety, security, health, and environmental job family.  Combining my petroleum engineering background with my environmental expertise lets me hold a variety of assignments and understand how to effectively balance these two important aspects.  I sincerely believe that it can be an “and” not an “or” when it comes to energy production and environmental protection.  I love taking on the hard problems and bringing people together. Day in the Life of a Petroleum Engineer: Dr. Shawn Simmons Shawn Simmons

One of the best experiences I had was a 5-year assignment in Africa.  My family and I had a great experience. I got the opportunity to work with a diverse team to really bring value to the business and the community.  While there, I took my passion for mentoring young students to a Women’s Network that sponsored an Introduce a Girl to Science and Engineering program. The program exposes engineering to approximately 30 girls a year at a nearby school. It has been sustained and has been ongoing for the last 10 years.

The only way to solve some of the complex problems our world faces is to have the next generation ready and prepared in STEM-related subjects. I encourage young people, especially girls, to explore the possibilities that engineering can bring.  Engineering is a great foundation to do anything you want, whether it is technical, or business, or entrepreneurial.  An engineer can excel at many things – literature, art, music – but we can also be scientists and invent technologies. There is a misconception that you can’t do or be both. You have the potential to be anything you want to be with the right training, experience, and mentorship.


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