SPEI 2017 President Janeen Judah Interview

Interview with the 2017 SPEI President Janeen Judah

Interviewed By: Raj Gautham Viswaprabakakaran & Meaghan Anderson

Ms. Janeen Judah is the 2017 President of the Society of Petroleum Engineers International. She currently works for Chevron, where she has held several executive and management positions, including General Manager of Chevron’s Southern Africa business, President of the Environmental Management Company and GM for reservoir and production engineering technology. She has B.S. and M.S. degrees in petroleum engineering from Texas A&M, as well as an MBA from the University of Texas of the Permian Basin and a JD from the University of Houston.

I think looking back, one of the biggest mistakes that I made early in my career was quitting a job too soon. I had a situation where I had just had a really bad boss. Now, you would call what he did to me bullying. I eventually felt like I didn’t need to put up with it anymore. Soon, a headhunter called, I got a new job and ended up quitting my old one. Looking back, quitting a job was a bigger decision than I thought. People often quit a job too soon, rather than trying to make more of their original position. Something better comes along or a headhunter calls and they make that jump. Quitting a job is a big deal that has more implications than most people realize.
Most of the students from better engineering programs, like A&M, have the technical engineering skills, but what they don’t always have is the ability to work in a team. A&M students are different since they are mostly very good team players. Chevron hires from a large number of universities so we can compare. A&M’s students generally have a really good combination of technical skills as well as interpersonal/teamwork skills, which are more important than you think they are since often the big differentiators in promotional opportunities are interpersonal skills. Being able to work in a team and presentation skills, are more important than people realize. The second mistake that I see young employees often making is having a “what’s in it for me” attitude. They end up concentrating too much on their own career development and not on the solving their boss’ or company’s problems. They forget that they are working for an employer and that they should be trying to create value for the company. Instead, they just move through their career seeing what’s in it for them. That mentality ends up earning them a reputation as a selfish person who is just looking out for their next promotion and not really trying to do a good job and they don’t realize that it can derail their career early on.
I think some of the leadership development opportunities that at least I got through being involved in SPE were really beneficial and some people on’t realize they exist. Opportunities like leading through influence, where you don’t have a direct position over someone but you have to gather resources from within the organization, is something that SPE allows you to experience really early on. With volunteering initiatives in SPE, leading through influence incentivizes people to work with you not because they have to but because they want to. Teamwork, public speaking, budgets, planning, event planning/coordination are all skills that are best learned by actually doing them. I personally learned and got better at a lot of those skills through SPE early on in my career. The managerial skills that you end up learning through implementation and execution in SPE are directly applicable to your real jobs when the time comes. The other huge benefit of SPE is the idea of your professional network. I think people underestimate how important that is. Your network is not just collecting business cards at ATCE, or making LinkedIn connections. My personal rule of thumb of what a network is if a person [in that network] would return my phone call. Would they call me back if I genuinely needed something from them? Building that network is extremely important and I started doing that in school through SPE. My broadest and most diverse network is from people that I met through SPE. People just don’t realize the importance of a network until they need data or information ot a job connection.
[Laughter]. There are plenty of things that I don’t miss. I heard some students talking about a Fluids test and I definitely don’t miss that! I think it’s the spirit of possibility. In college, you have all the youth and enthusiasm with your entire life ahead of you. That whole spirit of possibility slowly starts to disappear, as you grow older. You get married, have kids, get a mortgage, and get on the career path of your company and eventually your life starts to settle. In college, everything is still wide open and life is still uncomplicated. [Laughter].

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