The Faces and Voices of Energy

Kara Byrne on chalking up wins and discovering true passions

Kara Byrne GRIT Award winner profile on Experience Energy

Introducing Kara Byrne

Kara Byrne is Americas Commercial Leader for Control Valves at Baker Hughes, a GE Company (BHGE), one of the biggest oilfield service companies in the world and she’s got GRIT.

Kara has spent more than a decade living and working in Houston, but she hails from Wisconsin. She earned a degree in mechanical engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and she developed her talent for fundraising in her home state where she began volunteering for United Way, Junior Achievement, and Habitat for Humanity.

Since her move to Houston, she has remained very busy – and not just at BHGE, serving for the last 13 years as a commercial manager, setting up teams to bid for major equipment contracts. She’s also an active member of the Houston chapter of the Women’s Energy Network (WEN) and began serving as the chapter’s President in 2018.

Unmatched tenacity

Kara’s track record at BHGE is replete with evidence of her grit and determination. She told us that her achievements owed much to her skills in team-building.

“I have been a very successful project manager of indirect reports, securing strategic projects for the past 12 years with a very high win rate in a very tough market,” she said. “Customers, colleagues, and BHGE leadership can depend on me to tackle a difficult project with tenacity and put together a team to win a project and deliver results – inclusive of securing many firsts for the company, such as many mega LNG contracts and other projects in a very risk-averse market.”

She also stressed, though, that her successes could not be measured in major contract awards alone. “My toughest challenge has been getting out of my comfort zone, moving past the self-imposed barriers of being an extremely successful individual contributor for my company and becoming an inspirational people leader,” she said. But she found a powerful reason to confront that challenge after suffering a personal setback: the destruction of her home in Hurricane Harvey in 2017.

Changing focus

Kara says that rebuilding her home after Harvey helped her realize that she was ready to change her focus. “I found it difficult to stay motivated by individual project successes. That, coupled with the personal setback – I realized I was stuck in my professional growth. I had to look deep within myself to understand what my passion was and was shocked when it wasn’t the winning of highly visible projects, nor the individual recognition,” she said.

Instead, she realized that she wanted to cultivate more human connections. “My passion is truly helping and motivating others to live up to their full potential,” she said. Kara found a way to translate that insight into action through her involvement in WEN, especially after she became the president of the organization’s Houston chapter in 2018.

“The 2018 board was very new, so [we] had an uphill challenge of learning our brand, our vision, our mission, and our sponsors’ needs. However, in the first half of 2018, I was able to bring the board quickly together as a team, and we were able to sell out of all the first five months of WEN Houston events, engage three times as many partners, and re-invigorate the executive events to have all time attendance records,” she said. “Seeing the growth of each individual on the WEN Houston board brought me immense pride in their achievements and provided each board member with such confidence that I knew I had to continue to help others to achieve similar success.”

Kara starts a new chapter

These achievements helped Kara start a new chapter in her career at BHGE. “After three years of knowing I had to make a change and give up some of the prestige and high visibility of my current role, I was able not only to identify my passion but also push through a very difficult personal setback with being displaced from our house while rebuilding from Harvey,” she stated.

“I am now in the process of transitioning from an individual contributor to a people leader role within BHGE and will put my tenacity into helping others achieve the level of personal and career success [that] others have helped me to realize.”

That’s a true display of GRIT that Kara Byrne will no doubt carry into every chapter of her energy story.  

Kara Byrne GRIT Award winner on Experience Energy

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