Steel-toe boots and transparency

Baker Hughes, a GE Company, (BHGE) has more than 64,000 employees worldwide. Alaina Sajatovic Nelson is one of them. She is a staff technical product manager and a recent recipient of a GRIT Award.

“When I first stepped into this job, I wasn’t sure I was ready. I soon discovered steel-toe boots are very useful when you need to jump in feet-first.”

Alaina Sajatovic Nelson, BHGE

Alaina Sajatovic Nelson , BHGE

Alaina says most digital products have a technical and a functional owner. That means, she usually has to wear both hats.  “I was challenged to make both technical decisions and decisions about what features the applications should have, and how they should work.”

She didn’t think she had the experience to make these decisions. So, she was always nervous she would make wrong choices.

Overcoming challenges

In Alaina’s case, she bought a pair of steel-toe boots and jumped into the manufacturing world feet first. She partnered with experts, visited factories, shadowed and interviewed operators.

“Growing my manufacturing expertise and confidence led to better relationships with my users and the development of a digital tool that really meets their needs.”

BHGE is the world’s first and only full stream provider of integrated oilfield products, services and digital solutions.  It helps customers around the globe safely maximize productivity across the oil and gas value chain and the lifetime of their assets, while minimizing environmental impacts.

Early in the development of the application, Alaina struggled with communicating with the stakeholders. For instance, she shared the date for a major release, but development took longer than planned. When her team missed the date, the stakeholders were frustrated. She says it was a major hit to the application’s credibility.

Learning transparency

In software engineering, it is quite common for things to take longer than planned. After Alaina’s communication glitch, her motto became “100% transparency” with all future releases.

“I used the biweekly steering committee to walk stakeholders through the work that had been completed, what was left to do, and any risks that I saw.”

Glitches lead to rewards

Alaina loves hearing about how the application she manages truly changes the way users work. Her tool helps operators handle safety concerns quicker and get them escalated to leadership faster. Plus, she appreciates the genuine feedback she now receives from operators.

“I believe they’ve come to see me as one of their own rather than an IT person from headquarters.”

If you’re not pi$@%ng someone off…

“If you’re not pissing someone off, you’re not doing your job well!”
These are words Katherine Culbert lives by. The CEO of K and K Process, LLC  learned this mantra the hard way early in her career after being named in a labor union grievance. Twenty years later, the GRIT Award winner recognizes she does not need to be the most popular person in the room to be a successful engineer. Culbert has faced her share of challenges, while climbing the proverbial ladder. Being dismissed by others in power is chief among them.

“I was always being told I don’t know what needs to be done technically and with regards to business advancement,” she says. “So, I have worked very hard to prove my abilities.”

Rather than crumble under the criticism, Culbert met the challenges head-on. She went back to school for an MBA and is currently studying law. She became licensed, got certifications, developed and honed her skills volunteering at non-profits and, ultimately, become her own boss.

“Now that I am the CEO, I am proving to myself and others that my technical and business skills are on point.”

Pink Petro profiled Katherine long before she was a GRIT Award winner. Read all about how she took the leap to entrepreneurship with a partner. In less than a year, the company turned a profit. The partnership didn’t last, but the business did. “Having a partner was a challenge because we did not have the same commitment to the company.” As a one-woman-band, she handles most of the technical tasks and all the business tasks. K and K Process, LLC  works with smaller oil & gas companies and petrochemical plants to comply with process safety management regulations. “My job is to protect communities, the environment, personnel and business assets.”

Talk about turning negatives into positives!

“It was very discouraging to be shot down with every idea I brought to the table.”

Clearly, that doesn’t happen to her these days . . . now that she’s at the head of her own table.