June 13, 2023

6: Yogashri Pradhan – O&G YouTube and Crucial (Self) Conversations

In this podcast episode, Yogashri Pradhan, Reservoir Engineer at Coterra Energy, discusses the importance of role models, being T-shaped (in terms of growth), and taking care of oneself. She also talks about starting a YouTube channel and a podcast to help people understand technical papers and deal with non-technical topics like stress and job searching — building resources she wished she had when she was younger. Pradhan emphasizes the need for more crucial conversations, transparency, and emotional intelligence in the oil and gas industry.

In this episode

[00:00:00] Podcast teaser

[00:00:11] Podcast Intro

[00:00:53] Yogashri’s origin story

[00:05:24] Is oil and gas the happiest industry?

[00:06:51] Asking for advice > asking for work

[00:10:39] University Lands 

[00:13:06] Setting boundaries (even if it’s a little late)

[00:19:48] Priorities vs values

[00:23:06] Starting an oil and gas YouTube channel

[00:29:00] PetroPapers

[00:33:12] Give employees what they want: EQ training

[00:39:03] O&G needs more crucial conversations

[00:44:55] Advice for achieving both success and happiness

[00:48:01] Yogashri’s social channels

Links & Resources

PetroPapers on Apple Podcasts: https://shorturl.at/mpW17

Yogashri Pradhan’s YouTube Channel: https://shorturl.at/lstuB 

Yogashri Pradhan’s LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/yogashripradhan/ 

Matt’s Twitter: ⁠https://twitter.com/MattMHarriman⁠ 

Matt’s LinkedIn: ⁠https://www.linkedin.com/in/mattharriman/⁠ 

Matt’s book, Integrated Upstream Planning: ⁠https://amzn.to/3n9Obvl⁠ 

Episode Transcript: ⁠https://pod2.co/podcast/⁠

Pod2 website: ⁠https://pod2.co/⁠ Pod2 YouTube: ⁠https://www.youtube.com/@pod_2⁠


Matt Harriman: My name's Matt Harriman and this is the Achieve and Enjoy podcast, where we explore the relationship between work and happiness, achievement and joy, and success and contentment. We do that by sharing our own stories and interviewing some really interesting people — who you've never heard of, but have something interesting to teach us about how to achieve our definition of success and enjoy the path we take to get there. Today I'm with Yogashri Pradhan and we are gonna talk about all kinds of stuff. She's got a really awesome YouTube channel, where she dives into all kinds of things oil and gas.

Yogashri Pradhan: Thanks for having me. 

Matt Harriman: Let's start by having you tell your story. How did you get to where you are now? Where did you come from? You can go as far back as you want, even to birth, but let's focus on your professional life and college experience.

Yogashri Pradhan: It all started when I was born. Just kidding. When you asked that question, I thought about how I got into STEM. My parents knew I was inclined towards math and science, so they encouraged me by getting me more toys related to those subjects. This led to competing in math and science competitions and attending a STEM camp that focused on increasing awareness of engineering as a career. The camp was through the University of Houston's grade camp — I'm a product of women in STEM initiatives. I'm very proud to say that.

Matt Harriman: Did your mother or father work in a technical field? Was there any influence there?

Yogashri Pradhan: My father worked in a technical field, but I'm the first in my family to work in oil and gas. I knew since I was a junior in high school that I wanted to pursue petroleum engineering. Being in Houston had some influence, but the STEM camp I attended had a session with engineers in the oil and gas industry who interacted with high schoolers like myself. They made an impression on me that I carried into college.

I maintained my involvement through the Society of Petroleum Engineers, volunteering, and joining initiatives that challenged me. I even competed in a student paper contest that SPE holds. 

I entered the industry in 2011 when oil was high, and left in 2015 when it was taking a nose dive. My first job was working for Devon as a production engineer, but I was laid off within my first year due to the commodity environment. Then I became a rotational engineer. I knew the power of networking and being involved in SPE, so when I saw the writing on the wall, I reached out to about 150 people for advice. I even reached out to my university and got a business card from the SPE President of 2014, who was starting an initiative in University Lands called Texas Oil and Gas Institute. I walked into the interview thinking it was an internship opportunity, but it turned out to be a full-time position. I landed it a week after being laid off — nearly unheard of. I was very fortunate. Coming from a government and consulting perspective, working for University Lands gave me an opportunity to look at different operators and how they were able to produce their wells within the assets of University Lands — it's about 2.1 million acres leased out to about 280 operators. We can talk more about that if needed.

Matt Harriman: If it's okay, I have a couple of questions about what you talked about that I don't want to lose. You mentioned that when you were in high school, you were introduced to some engineers in the oil and gas industry and found them interesting. Was it their outgoing personalities that drew you to them, or was there something else about the industry?

Yogashri Pradhan: It was two things. First, the people themselves were outgoing and seemed happy. I know this podcast is about achievement and joy, and I saw that joy in them. I knew that I wanted to be happy too. Second, I knew that oil and gas is a dynamic industry, and the majority of our energy consumption comes from it. Our dependency on it cannot be easily replaced. I really appreciate the fact that I can work in an industry where I can improve the quality of people's lives. I didn't know that at the time, but I knew it was a dynamic industry with many problems to solve. Being bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, that was something that interested me.

Matt Harriman: For me, the opposite of happiness is boredom. I think this is an industry where you'll never get bored. There's good and bad stuff for sure, but you won't be bored very often. One more question I have: You mentioned that you emailed over 150 people, but you asked for advice instead of work. Can you talk about that?

Yogashri Pradhan: I learned to couch any opportunities I was looking for as asking for advice from a professor I had at the University of Texas, Deborah Hempel-Medina. Networking is a two-way street at the end of the day. Being at the receiving end of someone asking something out of me seems very impersonal and transactional — reduces the probability of me wanting to help. But if someone approaches me asking how they can help me, that's going to make me stop and think about what exactly I have that this person can contribute or offer. Asking for advice puts a person in a position where they can provide their story. People like talking about themselves. It's pretty advantageous. I think the fact that I was early in my career and was reaching out to more experienced people made them want to help me and be in a mentorship position.

Matt Harriman: I had a mentor, John Howell, who founded Portfolio Decisions. He was a strategy wizard who taught entrepreneurship after he left the company. I was talking to him when I started my business and asked him for advice. He suggested finding 10 people whose opinions matter and calling them to ask for advice. If they’re potential clients, that's great. If not, that's okay. You can tell them about the problem you see needing to be solved, the solution you have for it, and why you think you're the person to solve it. See what they say. Getting that feedback was really valuable. When someone asks me for advice, that feels good — it means they respect my opinion, and I might get to talk about myself (strokes the ego). But cold DMs on LinkedIn asking if I need website work don't resonate with me. However, people who ask how they can grow their business because they see that I'm doing well, are also the people I'll spend hours with.

Yogashri Pradhan: Right?! Again and again, I've been on the receiving end of people messaging me on LinkedIn, “Here's my resume. Find a job for me, please.” 

Matt Harriman: I interrupted you when you were at talking about your time at University Lands. Do you want to pick back up there?

Yogashri Pradhan: Two years later working for University Lands (UL), I was in a position where I arranged a whole mentorship program for graduate students at UT and A&M.

Part of the University Lands program involves getting interns to perform technical analysis while we provide advice and guidance. I'm proud to have created the mentorship program, but I also learned that I couldn't over-volunteer or overextend myself at the time because I was early in my career. I needed to learn technical skills, establish boundaries, and learn to say no. That was an inflection point for me, and I decided to pursue a Master's in Petroleum Engineering in 2017 while working full-time.

In 2018, I wanted to work for an operator as oil prices were rising. However, I was laid off due to a reduction in funding for the Texas Oil and Gas Institute, a startup organization within a government entity. Fortunately, I was picked up by Endeavor and worked as a reservoir engineer, gaining valuable experience in the Midland Basin. After seven years of experience in the Midland Basin with different companies, I decided to make a change and began working for Coterra. This week marks my one-year anniversary at the company!

Matt Harriman: Anniversaries should be celebrated, especially in this industry. You mentioned, setting boundaries and not overextending yourself. For me, it wasn't until I had kids that I realized, “Hey, I should probably set a boundary or two.” I was always good at prioritizing and stuff, but I pushed pretty hard for a really long time. It sounds like you were a little bit more aware of the risk of overextending yourself. Did you have a bad burnout or anything that taught you that the hard way or were you smart about it?

Yogashri Pradhan: Setting boundaries and not overextending myself was a hard lesson to learn. I experienced burnout and a lack of fulfillment from doing too many administrative tasks. I had the desire to perform, give back, and pay it forward, but workaholism is socially condoned. I realized that pushing myself really hard wasn't the best approach. I'm a person of many interests. I'm currently reading a book called Great At Work by Morton Hansen. Morton emphasizes that high performers do less and obsess over what they do. Saying no was a lesson I had to learn early on in my career, and I was constantly reminded to do so because opportunities can sneak up on you, and the fear of missing out is real.

Matt Harriman: It definitely is. And I think a lot of people feel busy because it helps them feel important. It's like, "I'm in demand, I'm busy." It's a badge of honor for many folks. Saying no can be difficult. When I got my first manager job, I had to set a goal of saying no to at least five things every day. Most of those requests came from my bosses asking for things from my team. I usually hit that goal, but it still wasn't enough. The number of demands on your time, especially in an organization, can be pretty wild. How do you set healthy boundaries now, given everything you're doing? You have a lot going on. You have a YouTube channel, you do the Petro Papers podcast, you're in school, and you're working full-time.

Yogashri Pradhan:  Those are great questions. The YouTube channel and podcast were things I wanted to do for fun. I had to take a hard look at how much I was doing. It took a burnout for me to realize that. I want to focus on doing certain things well. I started a new job, so I want to do well at that. I still want to focus on school. I value fitness, so I want to make time for that. I created a pie chart of how much time I want to allocate to each activity. There are times when it's okay to take a break.

Matt Harriman: Prioritization is key to being effective. How do you approach prioritization?

Yogashri Pradhan: Priorities can change, but values stay the same. You have to go back to your values and make sure that what you're doing aligns with them. It's also important to have role models. Prioritize what you're good at and passionate about, and take care of yourself. Role models can change over time. I've learned from Jeff Spatz that you can have T-shaped growth, where you specialize in certain things, but you can also be a generalist in other things. Good role models also take vacations and disconnect from work.

Matt Harriman: I like that you mentioned how people tend to be told to pick a single niche, especially on the internet and Twitter. While there is a time and place for this, such as when you are VC-backed, I think it's important to have a couple of things that you really care about and do them well. This way, you remain balanced and don't get tunnel vision. Additionally, there are many principles that apply to different areas that you can apply to your own work.

Yogashri Pradhan: Absolutely, you're right, there is a time to pick a niche on something. There was also a study that was done that was expressed in the book, The Myth of Multitasking, that shows those who do the tasks in sequential order end up getting their tasks done faster than those who multitask.

Matt Harriman: There’s a lot about multitasking that is not awesome because it involves task switching too fast. I wanna talk about your YouTube channel now. Why did you start it? What was that like? I know, especially oil and gas, some companies get pretty unsupportive of their individuals even posting stuff on LinkedIn.

Yogashri Pradhan:  I didn't think about how my company would react to my YouTube channel —  I'm always careful not to bash any company. I just love to understand people's thoughts about the industry, and I'm generally a curious person. I've had the idea of starting a YouTube channel for a while now, and I know I'm good on camera — having done a lot of public speaking. The tipping point for me was a mixture of burnout and some feedback I received after applying for a volunteering position at SPE. While some feedback was understandable, the comment that I was the "queen of self-promotion" had a huge impact on me.

Matt Harriman: That would piss me off. 

Pradha: It really affected me.

Matt Harriman: How did you take that? What did you do?

Yogashri Pradhan:  Instead of scaling back, I ramped it up and started my YouTube channel. I posted things I was passionate about and walked a fine line to make sure my employer didn't react negatively. I was aware of the risks, but I felt like I was doing everything right because my intentions were benign.

Matt Harriman: Fueled by a little bit of spite — always a good thing. The stuff that you post is very clearly well-intentioned to help and educate, especially early-stage career folks and people trying to get into the industry or get jobs and deal with some of those problems. Has that become the purpose of the channel, to help people?

Yogashri Pradhan: Yes. I wish when I was a student in undergrad, instead of having those specific networking moments where it's kind of a rat race to even get to talk to a company representative, I could have had access to someone/something like what I’m creating. It might be a way to be accessible to those who may not have had the chance to talk to a lot of company reps. I've had an international audience (from YouTube) that doesn't get that kind of exposure.

Matt Harriman: I think that's a deeper problem in the industry. The industry has all kinds of perception problems, but I think we don't do a great job of sharing our stories and sharing information with each other. There's a lot of just competitive secrecy. Some of it's warranted. Most of it is not and it bleeds over into the service side of the business and software. There's just an idea that "I know how to do things better. I'm protecting my wonderful, beautiful ideas that nobody else could ever have," but actually, everybody in the industry has been doing that for 50 years. In reality, it's not actually special. What are your plans for the channel? Is it more of a hobby or do you have a real strategy that you're trying to execute with it?

Yogashri Pradhan: I would be lying to say that I'm treating it like a small business. At the same time, there's going to be a moment where, because I'm focusing on other things because there are things that I would rather invest my time in the most, it's going to be a hobby for right now. Whenever I do have free time, then I will invest my energy into obsessing over the YouTube channel. Now and then, I post a video whenever I have an idea that I think is worth sharing.

Matt Harriman: Cool. I think you were introduced to me as a YouTuber, which is awesome — you just don't hear that in our industry. I love seeing people that are open and sharing more information. How about Petro Papers? Do you want to talk about it? What is it and why do you do it?

Yogashri Pradhan: I'm someone that loves reading technical papers, but I know that the barrier to reading technical papers is having access to it or the fact that some of these papers are so dense and have no context. How can I make that digestible? I started listing all these questions and I realized, kind of similar to a book club, where you interview the author, why don't you interview the author of these papers and ask straight from the source what their intentions are or what clarifications you have of the paper? It's not meant to tear the paper apart, but rather to get clarity on how the paper came to be or what the paper was meant to convey. It serves a niche audience, but I like having a repository of questions that I've asked in the past those papers.

Matt Harriman: I think that's another piece of evidence for the need to make things more accessible too. With those papers, they’re tough to read, and I'd much rather hear the person that wrote it or somebody that has the willpower and brainpower to actually read it, explain it. What have you learned from doing that? I'm sure you've met some interesting people.

Yogashri Pradhan: What I've gathered so far is that when I read a paper, it can be quite complex and not always clear. However, some of the best papers I've read are the ones that are easiest to understand and follow, without making things unnecessarily complicated. Sometimes, when authors put their ideas on paper, it can get pretty convoluted.

Matt Harriman: Yeah, especially with technical papers. I feel like there's a brain mode that gets switched on where you think, "Okay, I need 10 references and I need to show the formula for everything," and you forget to explain the point.

Yogashri Pradhan:  Exactly. I've learned a lot about people and how they want to share information. They get excited to hear that there's somebody who reads the paper first and is willing to answer their detailed questions.

Matt Harriman: That's really cool. In addition to all the technical content you've created to help people, you bring up non-technical topics that are harder to talk about, like stress, time management, and job searching. Why do those things matter to you?

Yogashri Pradhan: To be honest, I noticed that those videos got the most views. But I also asked myself if I was a student again and wanted to reach out to somebody in the industry who only talked about technical topics, I would want to add a human element to my channel. The human elements I've noticed working in the industry are things like stress and job searching. I know I'm not the only one who thinks about these things. I know that there are people out there who deal with them, and I thought, "Well, this is still informational. This is still instructive. I can create content to help other people in those areas that can resonate with them a little bit more." I noticed that career development is what a lot of people like to hear.

Matt Harriman: Yeah, those sorts of topics, especially in technical industries, are just not talked about. I don't feel like anything in college prepares you for the difficulties, stress, and interpersonal stuff that'll come up. When you get into working for companies, nobody talks about that stuff. You and your peers might complain about it to each other in the break room, but it's not an open topic. I've seen some people in the industry coming around and managers and leaders being a little bit more emotionally intelligent and thinking about the stress load on their team and how much change they're going through. Have you seen that shift over the course of your career?

Yogashri Pradhan: I have. Quite a bit. I've seen a lot more people wanting to help, and I think a lot of it has to do with the downturn of low commodity prices. Those topics surface, and you always hear about work-life balance, which I call work-life integration. But there are always those questions. I hear people wanting to increase productivity, and one of the ways to do that is to address those human elements.

Matt Harriman: I'm writing an article right now for JPT about how a healthy work environment drives a healthy P&L. I think that so many people see them as in conflict with each other. They hear about caring about your worker's stress or all of this stuff, and they're like, "Oh, that's soft woo-woo stuff that doesn't impact the business." But if you think about how your day goes and how you approach your work, if you don't care about it versus if you do, that's what employee engagement is, right? And it's become a buzzword, and people just gloss over it. Employee engagement is how much your employees care about their work and the company. Especially right now, when companies are afraid to hire because they're afraid of a recession and don't want to set themselves up for layoffs, the way to get more out of your people is to take care of them as human beings. Have you seen any good examples of companies prioritizing and leaders prioritizing that?

Yogashri Pradhan: I have managers who are emotionally intelligent and check in on you. They do welfare checks to make sure that you're fine and have all the resources you need to do your job. I'm fortunate to be surrounded by those managers, and my direct manager has a pretty good EQ in my opinion. He checks up on you and gives feedback, not just related to specific things about the job, but also on how to approach the job based on your personal well-being. There's definitely an art to feedback, and that's an example I want to mention. There are welfare checks, feedback, and an awareness that there's a difference between doing something because you have to versus doing something because you want to. There's a tie to productivity there.

Matt Harriman: I remember I had a boss who would stop by every two weeks to check in, but it was obvious he was doing it just to check a box. I remember one time he looked at a Red Bull I had on my desk, said something about the ingredients and then walked out. It was weird. The boss I had immediately after that would come in and sit down — you could tell he cared. He would ask, "How are you?" and if I gave a one-word answer, he wouldn't accept it. He would say, "No, what's up?" You can tell who the managers are who care. That's another version of employee engagement, right? How much do they care about what they're doing? There's a perception that it's either business or people. But I think it's an "and" for sure. The most impressive, effective leaders I've ever been around are very practical on the business side. They're focused — they know what has to happen. They're pragmatic. But they also care about the people because they know they have to go together.

Yogashri Pradhan: I agree. This is a relationship business.

Matt Harriman: I hate the term "reduction in force." No. You're firing people, and the dehumanization of layoffs and lost time incidents is another example of dehumanizing things to make it not feel as bad or scary.

Yogashri Pradhan: That's really interesting to think about.

Matt Harriman: What do you want to see change in the industry? You've been in it for a while, you care about it, and you're thoughtful about the industry's perception, what needs to happen internally to it? What do you want to see change in oil and gas in the next 10 years?

Yogashri Pradhan: That's a very good question. I would actually like to see more crucial conversations between people. I understand the purpose of an SPE conference — they are knowledge-sharing sessions — but I would like to see more open crucial conversations in terms of EQ. I understand that skill set is extremely important and competencies are extremely important, but I think we need to have a conversation about how to work with people. I treat everyone like an engineering problem. I've had to improve my emotions. A lot of it was learned — I wasn't naturally born with EQ. I was told by a current CEO that I had no EQ five years ago. More crucial conversations and more transparency.

Matt Harriman: I love that. There's such a protective kind of coding around so many people and so many meetings, and you're not really saying what's on your mind. It's all kind of watered down —  especially true with bigger companies. I love that saying, "We need more crucial conversations." In one of the other episodes we did with Jim Dubois, he talked about having a very conflict-avoidant personality, but what he learned over the years was that he needs to run toward conflict faster because if you don't, then the eventual conflict is bigger. The more waiting you do, the more anxiety you have, and then the end result is actually a bigger conflict than if you just go at it. A cool lesson that everybody probably knows but you don't really know it.

Yogashri Pradhan: It's funny because I was never confronted by it until I was confronted by it. Before I changed jobs, I was asked pretty bluntly about the purpose of my channel, what if it grows really big — questioning my focus on what I really wanted and how much I was going to invest the time to generate output. I had to say that this was a small business and a hobby(true). I wasn't making videos during the workplace. I was (and still am) doing outside of my time at work.

Matt Harriman: It is totally fair to be cautious about perception because even within the company if other people see that and they think that you're spending your whole workday making YouTube videos and you've got the same title and all that stuff, I get that fear. But I think other industries have come a long way in understanding that people can do things outside of work, and that's okay. When you hire somebody, you don't own them. Embracing other hobbies and even supporting people in entrepreneurial stuff — some companies will pay for a sabbatical and encourage you to start something up if you want — is something I want to see more of.

We mentioned what success means, and you mentioned role models. Early on, you were saying the CEOs of these operators were the role models. Maybe that's changed. But in that, I hear there's a definition of success that you've got for yourself, and how it changes. What advice would you give to people about defining their version of whatever it means to be successful, who also want to enjoy themselves along the way?

Yogashri Pradhan: That was a post I put on my LinkedIn a few days ago. It was a question that I asked leaders and people: How can you maintain growth while also being happy? So, how can you be successful and achieve joy? I would tell that person, and this is what I would tell myself, "Does it align with your values? Does it align with what you really care about? What are your non-negotiables?"

And then the second one is, “Do those values that you have, make you happy?” Because if you're happy, you're a lot more productive — you'd actually want to do the things that you want to do. I had this realization moment where I was asking myself about what the trade-offs are as you move higher on the corporate ladder. You spend less time with your family. You spend less time doing other things that you used to do. Is it worth it? No one's really answered that question, but I think it's because a lot of people may ask that question themselves.

I also had a crucial conversation with someone yesterday in terms of what the trade-offs are and how it is a constant questioning or an iteration of, does it make you happy? Is this somewhere that you want to go? I would tell that person that if it aligns with their values and doesn't make them happy — happiness is often downplayed or a lot of people like to focus on external things to make them happy — then why are you doing it?

And it sounds cheesy and philosophical, but happiness actually does come from within. If you're content, if you feel fulfilled right now, then you're not transferring power or letting other people control how you go about your day.

Matt Harriman: You're not giving up control of your own happiness. You're taking ownership of it. And I think what you said about, "Does this make me happy? Does it align with my values?" Well, for one, you have to know what your values are and have thought about that.

That's a skill of having a crucial conversation with yourself and saying, "What do I actually care about? What do I actually want out of my work, out of my life, out of all this stuff?" And I think that introspection played a huge part in my life. I can tell it has in yours too.

Yogashri Pradhan: It really has. And as I mentioned to you, as you progress in your career, you start asking those questions, you start having those interactions. Basically, you run into a lot of BS and you ask, "Do you want to take it?"

Matt Harriman: Yep, for sure. The other one for me was having role models and then working with them for longer, getting to know them more, and being like, "Oh, I don't actually want all of what they have. Maybe there are parts of it that are good, but there are some other parts that are not." Experiences like that make you question what you want or what you thought you wanted. Well, this has been awesome. I had fun, I hope you did too. What are the best ways for people to learn more? How can they reach out to you? 

Yogashri Pradhan: Everyone can reach out to me on my LinkedIn. I have my email address on there. That's preferred as far as contact information goes. You can also check out my YouTube channel and PetroPapers Apple Podcast.

Matt Harriman: Awesome. We'll grab all the links and put them in the YouTube video description and show notes on pod2.co/podcast, which is where we put all the show notes, transcription, and everything else. Again, thank you. This was fun. I appreciate you coming on! This has been another episode of Achieve and Enjoy. Subscribe to us on YouTube. Follow us on LinkedIn, Twitter, pod2.co, and everywhere podcasts are podcasted. Hope you enjoy your work this week.

Terms of Service Privacy Policy Copyright © 2024 Pod2 LP