True Story: I’m A Lady Geologist Living + Working On An Oil Rig

This is one of many True Story interviews in which we talk to people who have experienced interesting/challenging/amazing things. This is the story of Rachael and how she came to be a geologist if a very male-dominated field. 


Tell us a bit about yourself!

My name is Rachael. I’m 29 years old from Lafayette, Louisiana and I love to travel. I’ve been to 11 countries and 38 states. I’m an avid gardener and am currently restoring a 125 year old Cajun home in the country with my husband. I’m also a mother of a one year old daughter.

You’re a Logger aka Mud Logger aka Logging Geologist aka Surface Data Logger. What do you, well, do? 

When you just look at the bare bones of the job, Loggers are the eyes of the well. We have sensors hooked up to the most critical pieces of equipment and we monitor and document them 24-7. We are the first to see if something isn’t right and can call the driller if we see a kick. We have tons of equipment to maintain… A good Logger is someone who can troubleshoot, make good lists, and be well organized.
What sort of training did you need to get this job? 

 

To become a Logger you typically need a STEM degree – that’s a B.S. in Science, Technology, Engineering, or Mathematics. I have a B.S. in Geology, and a minor in Music. Most of the training is on the job, but my employer provides many training classes.

What drew you to this type of work? 

Money and half of the year off is what drew me first to the job. My husband stays at home with the baby and I work. As soon as we’re done with fixing the house we’ll be able to go traveling again. A Logger at my company who does a good job makes about $70k a year at the least and can make over $100k as a Lead (the one in charge). Keep in mind, we only work half of the year.

What’s your work schedule like? Can you tell us about a typical day?

I work 14 days on, 14 days off, and a 12 hour tour (pronounced tower) with a relief worker (also my roommate) working the opposite tour. I fly out to the rig in a helicopter, which is one of my favorite things ever.
A typical day for me starts with waking up at 10:30am and heading down to the galley to eat and chat with the fellas about rig activity, football, hunting, trucks, and babies. 11:30am we all go to the pre-tour safety meeting and discuss the various planned activities for the day. I then go up to the “logger’s shack,” the metal unit where I work, and talk with my relief about what happened during his tour and discuss ways to fix the thing that broke.
I then spend the next 12 hours monitoring the well, identifying the rock types coming out of the hole, and telling them if we’ve hit oil or gas. At midnight my relief comes, we have a handover discussion, and then I go back down to the galley and joke and laugh with the fellas as we eat dinner together. Afterwards I will either hit the treadmill for 30 minutes or hit the shower then spend an hour or two on the internet seeing what’s going on in the world before I go to sleep and do it all over again.
Are there any other women on your team? Have you encountered any issues working in such a male-dominated environment?

 

I am almost always the only female that doesn’t work for housekeeping or the kitchen and usually am the only woman on board. It has it’s pros and cons.
The older fellas typically look at me one of two ways. It’s either I’m a girl who’s not going to pull her weight, not know what’s going on, going to get myself hurt, and distract the guys so much that they’ll get hurt, OR (usually the really old ones 70’s +) they see me as a sign of the future and try to dedicate a little extra of their time to make sure I know where I’m going, what’s going on, or how things work. The younger guys rarely think like the first set of old dudes that I described.
They are a close knit group who see each other like brothers and once I make them laugh, I become part of the family too. They pick on me when I have bed-head, but will go out of their way to help me if I need help. I show them all that I’m a hard worker and can not only do my job, but I do it very well.

How have the people in your life reacted to your career?

I am the oldest sibling of 3 with 2 younger brothers. My mother is the oldest of 4 with 3 younger brothers. All of the men in my family work in or for the oil field. My uncles still ask every time they see me if I like my job and I always say that I love it. My girlfriends (all gardeners, musicians, artists, and environmentalists) always encourage me and seem to be impressed with my brave and strange decision to work offshore with all those men. Ha.
When I travel and talk with others outside of the South about what I do they always have the look of shock. I then tell them about the huge benefits, and how I am responsible for the lives of everyone on board and the environment of the gulf around me. That usually does the trick.
Has your work affected the way you think about gas and oil prices? 

 

I drive a Prius C, so gas prices don’t really matter to me, and I don’t like politics. They are not discussed offshore outside of a joke here and there and that’s the way we all like it.
Do you plan to do this for the rest of your career?

 

I’m planning on sticking with this. My goal is to work my way to Lead and work in the gulf for 3 – 5 years. After that transfer to work internationally (Russia I hope) and work 28 on 28 off and live in Seattle. I’m going to retire from the oil field in 21 years and then get a job identifying rocks and minerals in the back of a museum or something awesome like that.
What’s one thing you’ve learned on the job that any of us could apply to our daily lives?

 

One thing I’ve learned working out here is how much making lists can help any situation in work or life become less scary and goals more attainable. I write out everything and I get it all done. Lists turn goals into life.Thanks so much for sharing, Rachel! Do you guys have any questions for her? Do any of you work in particularly male-dominated fields? 

P.S. Two more interesting career interviews: I lived + worked on the South Pole and I’m a long haul trucker

7 Comments

Anonymous

This is so fascinating to me. The only thing I've ever heard about working on oil rigs is that 1) pay is great, 2), It's really dangerous and you can lose your arm, 3) It's really dangerous and you can die, 4) That is why the pay is great. I've never heard the bigger perspective, and you make it sound so awesome that I almost want to move to the gulf and do it myself. (I have a B.S. in Env Sci)

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Cailee

As an archaeologist, I love hearing about women in traditionally male dominated fields, and this is so great! Rocks can be so AWESOME!

I would be interested in hearing Rachel's thoughts on the environmental ramifications of oil/fossil fuels (outside of the politics)? I see she drives a Prius, which makes me think she's cognizant of it, so I would love to know more?

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Anonymous

What would your company do if a married couple worked for them? Would you get to go on the same shift rotation, or would you be on opposite rotation and never see each other?

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helena.heliotrope

Yeah, geology! 🙂

What made you want to go into logging as opposed to say, a geologist position at company headquarters? How did you find out about your current positron?

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helena.heliotrope

Yeah, geology! 🙂

What made you want to go into logging as opposed to say, a geologist position at company headquarters? How did you find out about your current positron?

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Vanessa

I loved this interview! It is so inspiring, the part about the older men who see you as a modern woman & a positive sign for the future. Thanks for sharing Rachel!

Sarah: quick note – there is a typo in your question about gas prices. It says 'old' instead of 'oil'. (Hope that doesn't offend. I just know how anal I am when it comes to typos in the content I publish.)

Reply

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