Ask the Expert

Melissa D. Law, Vice President, Chemicals, Baker Hughes Incorporated

Melissa D. Law is Vice President, Chemicals at Baker Hughes Incorporated. Prior to her current position, she was Managing Director for the Gulf of Mexico, and previously for Australasia. Law started her career in 1997 with Baker Hughes at Baker Petrolite. Since 2009, she has been in management roles of increasing responsibility within Operations and Global Supply Chain. Melissa graduated with a Master of Science Degree in Environmental Chemistry from the University of Houston.

Q&A

How or why did you become involved in the specialty chemical industry and how long have you been a part of the industry? I have been in the oil and gas industry for nearly 20 years, spending approximately half of that time in the specialty chemical sector. I’ve always had a special interest in chemicals, so joining Baker Hughes after University was a natural move since I’d earned my Bachelor of Science in Biology. I also knew I wanted a career that would allow me to travel and experience different cultures around the world.

What do you think are the most pressing challenges facing the specialty chemical industry and what solutions do you recommend for addressing them? Developing business models and solutions that are aligned with social responsibility and sustainability while meeting the needs of our clients are increasingly top of mind. There are many pathways to improve sustainability, but it must start with enhanced engagement between industry suppliers, government and policy makers, advocacy groups, consumers and the communities in which we work.

How would you define and measure innovation in chemistry? Innovation in chemistry comes in many forms – from digital innovation that improves data management and problem solving to automation that improves health, safety and environment processes and manufacturing efficiencies. It also is the development of new molecules and materials, as well as enhancements to formulations and applications using existing molecules. Innovation in chemistry extends well beyond the chemical or material itself.

Please share a couple of personal or professional strategies you intend to pursue in 2017. For some time now, my personal strategy for my career has been consistent – to embrace change, challenge the status quo, continually improve and ensure that I achieve balance between work and my family over the long run.

What are some of the major changes you have seen in the industry since you became a part of it? We’ve seen an increase in social responsibility, sustainability and a complete transformation of our Health, Safety and Environmental (HSE) culture. We are working to eradicate HSE incidents from our operations all together, and though we are not there yet, we’ve made significant progress to reach the goal of an incident-free workplace. We’ve also made great strides to improve sustainability, but to be successful we must continue the dialogue with key external stakeholders as I mentioned above. These changes have paved the way for new thinking and ultimately a more responsible industry.

What advice would you give a young person thinking about going into the specialty chemical industry? There are many different opportunities for a career in the specialty chemicals industry – positions ranging from research and development and manufacturing to sales and service –with opportunities to work across a multitude of industries globally. It is an industry that extends into both private and public sectors, and works with governments and communities alike. Bottom line, it is an exciting industry that allows ample growth for those looking to enter and make a difference, and for me personally, it has been an incredibly rewarding journey.

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