Carol J. Akers

Marine Geophysicist
Consultant
What is your current job and what does it entail? 

I am a geophysical consultant in Houston, Texas. I retired from ExxonMobil Exploration Company in 2007, where I did special data processing, modeling and interpretation to support the near field oil exploration effort offshore in the Gulf of Mexico, Angola, North Sea, Malaysia, and onshore in Wyoming. Now I work for smaller companies doing similar work. However, I have the security and flexibility to accept or reject projects and to work as many hours as I want.

What was the key factor in your career decision? 

As an undergraduate, I studied a good, basic science -- physics. I enjoyed learning the fundamental principles that make our world tick. Later, I decided to apply those principles to the ocean environment. I became interested in exploring for mineral deposits under the sea, then a largely unexploited resource. From there, I made the natural transition to oil and gas exploration and exploitation.

What do like most about your career? 

I enjoy the excitement when I have played a key role in drilling a successful well. I also enjoy attending professional society meetings and keeping up with new technology in my field. It has been fun to transfer my skills to different companies within the corporation. I started my career with the research center, developing new tools to use for exploration. Next, I was able to transfer to the exploration company to apply those tools. Now that I am working in geophysical contracting, I am able to see the fruits from fields that I played a role in discovering while I was working for the exploration company. It is gratifying to be able to follow through like that. It also has been very enjoyable to meet people from other cultures.

What do you like least about your career? 

Sometimes I am not able to do the job as well as I would like before the deadline hits. There can be a lot of stress because of changing priorities. On the other hand, it can be exciting not knowing what your day will be like.

What do you do to relax? 

I am a certified yoga teacher. Keeping fit helps me stay sharp mentally and also alleviates the stress of my career. I also attend local plays and the touring Broadway musicals. I belong to a Harley Chapter, and we "weekend warriors" do a lot of fun activities. We always take the back roads that are scenic and fun, and make many small discoveries along the way, especially down home eating places that are off the beaten track.

Who are your heroes/heroines? 

Oil and gas exploration is a risky business. I meet people every day who could be heroes/heroines. These are people who are not afraid to take calculated risks.

What advice would you give a student who expressed an interest in pursuing a career in your field? 

You will need at least a master's degree in geology or geophysics. Learn all you can and stay focused on your goals. Don't give up. Persistence often wins out over innate talent. It also helps to learn to work as part of a team and to solve problems constructively without making excuses or assigning blame.

Are career opportunities in your field increasing or decreasing and why? 

Increasing, definitely. There is a serious shortage of trained people in the field. The oil and gas business has its cycles of ups and downs, however, but right now it is booming.

What will you be doing 10 years from today? 

I hope to be semi-retired and still healthy enough to enjoy life, and travel with my husband. I cannot picture myself as totally retired, but I have a friend who was my first supervisor at Exxon Production Research. He and his wife are in their early 90s and still going strong. They are living such a fulfilling retirement because they have had fulfilling careers, learned a lot, met a lot of people, and enjoyed themselves while they were working.

I became interested in exploring for mineral deposits under the sea, then a largely unexploited resource. From there, I made the natural transition to oil and gas exploration and exploitation.

Education

B.S., Physics, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
M.S., Oceanography and Limnology, University of Wisconsin, Madison
Ph.D., Oceanography and Limnology, University of Wisconsin, Madison

Salary

$125,000+