Lauren Benson, HR Business Partner & Manager, Gardner Denver, joined the oil and gas industry at a high point in the business cycle. Since then, she’s helped her company manage profound shifts in the market and drive the changes needed to position the oilfield sector for the next major evolution.
“I started in the industry in 2011 when things were booming,” Benson said. “Oil was at $100-plus a barrel and that was a great time! When the cycle turned, our industry got savvier. We learned to control costs better, we’re leaner staffed, the competition gets tougher, our equipment lasts longer. But I think our ability to snap from surviving to thriving is getting faster and faster. The ability to snap forward is what’s evolving strongest in the industry.”
Born and raised in Houston, Benson was familiar with the oil and gas industry growing up. While going to graduate school in San Antonio, she accepted a human resources internship with Tesoro Petroleum (now Marathon) and has been part of the industry ever since.
“I was lucky to have great mentors and family to help set expectations of the industry,” Benson said. “My first mentor right out of graduate school was Frank Wheeler, Senior Vice President of Refining at Tesoro. He was the first person to say, ‘I’m here to support you and give you guidance if you need or want it.’ I reached out to him countless times in the beginning of my career. He encouraged me to stand up and be confident in a male-dominated industry.”
Another key mentor was an executive coach Benson worked with in 2019.
“She was instrumental in helping me navigate through complicated scenarios in my new role,” Benson said. “She was a former Chief Human Resources Officer, and her time and mentorship gave me confidence in the decisions I was making.”
Even as someone growing up around the oil and gas industry, Benson said she was surprised at the industry’s grit and resilience, which she saw firsthand when the industry had a downturn in 2015 and 2016. She encourages young people to consider a career in oil and gas, even with the ups and downs.
“The rollercoaster of this industry can be hard, but it’s easy to forget about the bad times when things are good. 2020 has been hard on our industry with the furloughs, RIFs and pay cuts, but there’s high talent in this industry with some of the most innovative, resilient and adaptable people. We’re not going anywhere!”Lauren Benson, Gardner Denver
She said she wishes more people understood the scope of the oil and gas industry.
“Our industry is linked to more than oil and gas consumable products,” Bens said. “We support travel, construction, and manufacturing goods and services. I think people would be surprised by how oil and gas supports everyday products.”
Benson played a key role in promoting gender inclusion and diversity at Denver Gardner. She founded the Women in Petroleum Pumps chapter at Gardner Denver as a grassroots program with 20 members. Its membership has doubled and recently expanded to include female leaders across parent company Ingersoll Rand.
She said her involvement in PESA has helped her achieve career goals by providing so much industry information and insight.
“What I really like about PESA is the multiple realms they reflect in our industry,” Benson said. “There are groups surrounding diversity, government policy, executive training and human resources, to name only a few. I enjoy the trainings, and the networking is great.”
For more information about the High-Performer Spotlight series, contact Director Membership Services Carolynn Henriquez.