The importance of a good work ethic
Alumni Series Where are they now?: Wadsworth Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering alumna Sandra Gentile
Benjamin M. Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources
Working two jobs and being closed out of interview sessions her senior year did not derail Sandra Gentile’s dream of becoming an engineer.
“I knew I always wanted to major in something where I could utilize my math and science skills,” the Morgantown native said. “Engineering seemed like a good option as it would allow me to not only grow my knowledge of math and science but also help me achieve my dream of owning my own construction company.
“My career, however, turned out very different from what I had ever dreamed.”
While construction was not in her future, engineering certainly was. And so was travel.
Gentile has spent more than 35 years in the petroleum industry, working in more than 20 countries for Texaco and Hess Corporation. Highlights of her career include serving as a key member of the negotiation team with the Ghanaian government to secure a petroleum agreement for the West Keta deep-water license and successfully negotiating a medium-term gas sales contract for select North Sea fields.
“When I was getting ready to graduate, I didn’t have much money, so I planned on working for several years to earn enough money to start my company,” Gentile said. “I had hoped to get a civil engineering position with Texaco; however, all the interview slots were filled.”
While most students might have been deterred, Gentile plowed on, finding out the name and office location of the person from Texaco who would be conducting the interviews.
“I called Texaco’s New Orleans office and asked for Pete Bremer. I explained to him that all the interview slots were full and suggested perhaps we could talk over lunch instead. He agreed to lunch with me, and I was offered a position as a petroleum engineer at a rather generous salary. It was too good to pass up, and I figured it might be interesting to learn a different industry for a few years.
“Several months after I started, I inquired why I was offered a petroleum engineering position versus civil,” Gentile said. “I was told that there was a shortage of petroleum engineers and they found my approach to getting an interview both creative and ambitious. They thought these traits would make me a good candidate to be able to switch engineering disciplines in a timely manner.”
Within two weeks of starting at Texaco, Gentile found herself traveling via helicopter to offshore drilling rigs and production platforms, spending about 10 days a month offshore.
“It was wonderful to actually see the work taking place,” Gentile said. “While in the office I got excellent exposure to the senior engineers and management, which greatly helped me increase my knowledge of the industry. Crude oil is one of the most important commodities in the world, and I enjoyed learning not only the technical aspects of the industry but also the business side, such as what influences oil prices.”
Over the past 16 years, Gentile’s career has taken her from England, to Scotland, to Azerbaijan, to Ghana. That’s quite a lot of travel from a girl who spent the first half of her life on Grant Avenue in Sunnyside.
“My parents were my mentors. My father graduated with a degree in chemistry from WVU and worked as a safety engineer for the Bureau of Mines. My mother raised five kids and always managed to have dinner on the table each night,” Gentile said. “Although I didn’t know it at the time, those family dinners were a good foundation for learning how to share not only food but our thoughts and perspectives on various topics. My parents also highly stressed the importance of having a good work ethic, which I find missing in so many people today.”
Gentile stresses that it’s important for students to give some thought to what career success means to them.
“Too often students jump into a job and/or industry that really isn’t the right fit for them. They should first consider what it is that they want out of a career,” Gentile said. “Is a work/life balance important or are you happy to work 10-12-hour days? Do you want to be a technical expert or move into a leadership role? Do you want to work in a team environment or are you more content being an individual contributor? Is working for a major global corporation attractive or would you prefer a smaller company? Do you want to settle down in one location or are they mobile and if you’re mobile, would you consider positions outside of the United States?”
She retired from her position with Hess Corporation in 2016 and is currently working as an adjunct instructor in the Statler College’s Department of Petroleum and Natural Gas Engineering. She was also recently inducted in WVU’s Academy of Civil Engineers.
“Sandra has a great deal of experience in the oil and gas industry, and she is poised to help us with our teaching in the future,” said Sam Ameri, chair of the department.
Contact: Paige Nesbit
Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources
304.293.4135, Paige Nesbit
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