Amanda Baldwin figured her education would help her land a job after she graduated from the University of Oklahoma in December 2009 with degrees in physics and math.
But future employer Chesapeake Energy Corp. seemed just as interested in her military experience. The Indiana native spent seven years in the U.S. Air Force before going back to school full-time.
“I wasn't aware that the company was hiring veterans when I dropped my resume off, but during my interviews my military experience was discussed,” she said. “I was asked about my military background and how it could be applied at Chesapeake.”
Baldwin said her job as a reservoir engineering technician mixes the technical skills she honed in the Air Force with her scientific knowledge she gained in college.
“It was a good fit for me because of that,” she said.
Chesapeake has hired more than 600 veterans this year as the company formalized its commitment to adding more people with military experience to its work force. The company has more than 1,200 veterans and active-duty military personnel on its payroll.
“Chesapeake is an American company that is a top producer of American oil and natural gas. Creating American jobs and hiring veterans to work in our oil and gas fields and in our offices has become central to our recruiting strategy,” said Martha Burger, Chesapeake's senior vice president of human and corporate resources. “Veterans perform well in our industry and share our company's commitment to energy independence.
“We hope to honor their talent, experience and military service with rewarding careers, while easing their transition to civilian life.”
Chesapeake has a team of recruiters for its military hiring initiative. They travel the country to connect with veterans at military bases, job fairs and state employment agencies.
Aegeda Riggins, Chesapeake's recruiting supervisor, said veterans can apply for any of the open jobs at the company, which typically is looking to fill positions from rig workers to engineers and geologists.
Riggins said many of the veterans who are drawn to the oil and gas industry are interested in helping the United States achieve energy independence, based on their experiences overseas.
“I think that's why this initiative has grown tremendously,” she said.
Riggins said each of the Oklahoma City-based oil and natural gas company's affiliate has a distinct personality, so Chesapeake recruiters strive to match each prospective employee with the one that suits them best.
“I need to understand what your goals are and what your personality is ... so I can place you in the role where you can be most successful,” she said. “It's challenging, but it's fun.
“It's really fun and rewarding.”
Veterans Jim Bowlby and Maverick Burroughs offered similar assessments of their new jobs at Chesapeake after leaving the military.
Bowlby, who spent five years in the Army, has been with Chesapeake affiliate Great Plains Oilfield Rental for almost two years. He is assistant business manager for operations.
The Oklahoma native said he appreciates latitude afforded to him by supervisor Trey Landry, another Army vet, to do what he can to improve the company's operations.
“I'm never micromanaged,” Bowlby said.
Burroughs, an equipment operator at Performance Technologies LLC, said he likes the team-oriented approach at the pressure pumping company.
He joined the Chesapeake affiliate in February after a 30-year career in the Marine Corps.
The Alabama native took his time looking for the right job after he retired in 2009.
He signed on with PTL a few months after his brother, Gerald, was hired. Now they work on the same 15-man crew that provides fracture stimulation treatment for oil and natural gas wells.
Burroughs said he has learned a lot on the job, which requires physical and mental discipline as the crew works at well sites throughout the region.
“I don't know where we'll go from here, but wherever it is it'll be interesting,” he said.
Primed to succeed
Landry, who is being promoted to business manager at Great Plains, said the company has hired a lot of veterans for its supply management, supply and other segments.
“For the most part, those are the guys who are shining in their roles,” he said.
Landry said the discipline and attention to detail instilled in them by the military can make up for a lack of oil and gas industry experience. Many have spent time in war zones, so they are used to working in less-than-ideal conditions like those in the oil field.
Baldwin, who first was exposed to the industry while stationed in Alaska, said the transition was easy for her. The military and the industry are both reliant on jargon, with similar organizational structures.
“In the military, you call it chain of command. Here you just call it organizational structure,” she said. “This isn't very different to me.”
Burroughs said veterans can thrive in almost any job, regardless of the industry.
“All you've got to do is tell them what to get done and it gets done,” he said.