Choosing the Challenge

Petroleum engineering was the challenge Faith Carter was looking for

Faith Carter isn’t a petroleum engineer because it’s easy. Quite the opposite, in fact.

“Petroleum engineering is based on geology the way that chemical engineering is based on chemistry, or mechanical engineering on physics,” she explains. While her education at DeBakey High School in Houston included AP Chemistry and Physics, geology wasn’t part of the curriculum. She wondered if she’d be prepared to apply to the Cockrell School of Engineering’s top-ranked petroleum engineering major.

“I thought ‘If I can do this, I can prove to myself that I can do whatever I want.’”

Four years later, Carter has proven that again and again — to herself, her family, her employers, and even international leaders in higher education and engineering.

Through hard work, the advice of a mentor — another Black woman in petroleum engineering — and the support of UT Austin’s chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), Carter made a successful transition into the Cockrell School and quickly became a student leader in engineering both on and off the Forty Acres.

She began her internships and field work the summer after her freshman year, working as a field drilling intern for Occidental Petroleum outside of Midland, Texas. “It was a great learning experience,” she says. “I can go on anybody’s rig, name each machine and help you troubleshoot anything going wrong.” The following summer, she landed a job as a drilling and completion intern on a Chevron oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico.

Offshore, Carter worked on a project to improve the reliability of a tool used in drilling, saving time and hundreds of thousands of dollars. Carter’s other two internships, in reservoir engineering at LINN Energy and operations engineering for XTO Energy, gave her additional opportunities to build professional experience and put her degree to work.

Back in Austin, Carter rose through the ranks of NSBE, from chair of the freshman board to chapter president and then member of the regional board. Her work to advance LGBTQ inclusion in the organization netted her an invitation to speak at a 2016 White House summit on university diversity and inclusion, and her business leadership led her to present at the International Seminar for Engineering Leaders in Santiago, Chile. 

Carter is finishing her senior year studying abroad in Mexico, interning part-time and looking ahead to her post-graduation job as a petroleum engineer for Newfield Exploration. “I never would have thought this was possible for me,” she says. “But it’s not impossible.”