The Faces and Voices of Energy

Krista Caldwell: Empathy and the Expat Life

Krista Caldwell headshot

If you’ve ever dreamed of being able to travel while making a living, you can probably see the upside to working in the oil and gas sector. The industry spans the globe, and if you get a job with a company that operates outside your home country, you may find yourself traveling to all sorts of interesting places.

The upsides of foreign postings are obvious. As Sally Vardy, the former senior vice president of human resources for North America at Aker Solutions, told the Houston Chronicle in 2013: “It’s an opportunity to transfer knowledge to and learn from the host country, such as technology and culture, and to develop leadership skills that broaden international exposure. Expat assignments are a development opportunity and a global experience, and they build self-esteem.”

But it’s not all excitement and glamor and professional growth. Traveling and the expatriate life have their downsides – jet lag, culture shock, time away from home and family, and more.

If you’re lucky, you’ll have someone like Krista Caldwell working to smooth your landing.

Krista Knows the Challenges of Expat Life Firsthand

Krista, an expert in global mobility who is now working as the Regional Global Mobility Director in the Americas for Worley, has firsthand knowledge of the challenges of expat life. She’s spent part of her career in the Middle East, and she’s helped many oil and gas professionals establish their footing in foreign lands.

“In 2006-2007, I was asked to join the team on our Parsons Iraq Joint Venture Project in Basra, Iraq,” she recalls. “I was 25 at the time, and the only international experience I had at that point was a study abroad program in Spain.”

Krista describes her time in Iraq as a high-stakes, high-pressure assignment. “Working and living on a British air base in Basra was a challenging and eye-opening experience. The work was fast paced, and everyone was accepting a high level of risk by working in that location,” she says.

The Risks She Took Influenced the Course of Her Career

On the one hand, she learned how to make the right calls quickly. “As part of the HR team, I was responsible for ensuring that employees’ movements into and out of Iraq were well managed and as safe as possible,” she says. “We were often faced with immigration, government, and safety challenges that had to be managed on the spot.”

On the other hand, she gained skills, confidence, and an understanding of her own professional goals. “That experience provided me with opportunities to grow as a person and professional,” she reports. “It pushed me to become more decisive and confident in my decision-making ability, as I could not waste time doubting myself or my decisions. The experience formed the foundation of my career in global mobility.”

Her Empathetic Attitude Helps Others Transition

Krista also developed a strong sense of empathy for the expat workers she was serving, and her fellow feeling has fueled her passion for handling the challenges that employees of international oil and gas operators face.

“Relocating from one country to another is one of the biggest events that can occur in someone’s life. It’s an incredibly stressful experience,” she says.

Understanding firsthand just how stressful such a change can be drives her to do her best. “I find it very rewarding to work with an individual and their family throughout a relocation to ensure a smooth transition,” she says. “When I know an employee has been through the move and is settled and happy in the new location, I know I have done my job well.”

We are proud to know Krista Caldwell and honored to distinguish her as a GRIT Award winner. Know somebody else who’s got GRIT? Head over to the GRIT Awards page for the most current information or check out Faces of Energy to meet more inspiring people.