Mystie Barrett’s journey to a GRIT Award wasn’t easy.
Along the way, she overcame a debilitating illness that kept her out of Aera’s workplace for two years. She persevered through the difficulties of catching up when she finally returned to Aera. She faced the challenge of leading her team. But today, Barrett, a process specialist at Aera-Belridge, can put all that into perspective.
“Being sick made me realize life is too short to give up,” she said.
The GRIT Award certainly helps validate Barrett’s road to hard-won success.
The award recognizes women leaders in energy and the men who advocate for their progress. Barrett was one of 38 recent GRIT recipients selected from nearly 150 nominees from around the world. The winners were announced Oct. 3 by Experience Energy in Houston, Texas.
It also helps that someone at Aera thought highly enough of Barrett to nominate her, albeit anonymously, for the award. Two glowing letters of recommendation from co-workers Peter Ashton and Erin Larner accompanied Barrett’s nomination.
But Barrett has emerged from her dark days with more than a GRIT Award. Her 14-year career at Aera, one she calls a path of “stepping stones,” has led to a long-coveted position on the Belridge operational team. She is the first former administrative assistant at Aera to be named to a process specialist role.
“It’s what I’ve worked 14 years for,” Barrett said.
Barrett’s Aera career began in 2004 with an administrative assistant’s position at Midway Sunset. That was followed by a move to logistics associate 18 months later. In 2007, she moved to the Oaks in Bakersfield to serve on the Central Total Process Reliability team.
“That’s where you get familiar with all five Aera assets,” Barrett said.
In 2009, her career was interrupted by her first serious battle with pancreatic divisum, the illness that would dominate her life for the next eight years. She took sick leave for six months, and then returned to her former logistics technician position at Midway Sunset. By 2011, she was back at Central TPR. working as a logistics specialist. In 2013, Barrett was promoted to value-stream manager in development at Belridge.
But, by late 2014, her illness had resurfaced. This time, Barrett’s medical leave lasted two years. It was a period marked by recurrent cycles of severe pain, nausea-producing medication and numerous stays at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. She went weeks without seeing her two young daughters, Maycie and Ashlyn.
A major but successful surgery in November 2015 finally put an end to Barrett’s illness. “In one of the TPR terms we use at Aera, doctors ‘removed the defect,’” she explained.
She returned to Aera eight months later. “It took a long time,” said Barrett, “but I feel great now.”
Back at Aera, she stepped into a technical role as the subject matter expert (SME) for the company’s computer maintenance management system. But Barrett found that her two-year absence had left her anything but an SME.
“I was constantly being asked questions I couldn’t remember the answers to, and to troubleshoot issues that completely baffled me,” she remembered. “I felt like I had lost everything I had worked so many years for, like I was letting everyone down.”
Determined to succeed, Barrett forced herself to learn, practice and update her knowledge and skills. In June 2018, she moved to her current position of process specialist at Belridge. She’s part of the team responsible for safely recovering the Lost Hills light oil, heavy oil and Belridge light oil water flood production. She oversees Belridge’s CLAM team of 20 reliability specialists and serves as their liaison to their supervisor.
“Getting this position is one of the biggest rewards I’ve had,” said Barrett. “I didn’t give up along the way. I kept learning, and the right people recognized that I had earned an opportunity to prove myself in this role.”
Today, Barrett speaks of the “joy” her work brings her. She’s part of Aera’s Women’s Mentoring Program and is a steering team member of Bakersfield’s Women In Energy group.
She also says her two daughters “are my world” and devotes her off-work time to them. Barrett’s husband, Jeff, also is employed in the local oil industry. Both are heavily involved in youth softball in her hometown of Taft, where they live. She also coaches the local cheer squad of girls ages 7 to 14. That takes place at Taft’s Westside Recreation and Park District gym, which Aera sponsors.