Changing Course: How I went from HR Generalist to the President of Well Testing

Growing up, my dad would tell me, “you’re not working fast enough, and you work from sun up until sun down.” I watched both of my parents do just that. It’s where my work ethic came from. My teachers used to call my parents saying, “Steve doesn’t always have to be the first one to turn in his papers.” I would become stressed about being the first and the best at what I did. Complacency isn’t in me. And this business isn’t about complacency, it’s about being agile. You can’t let complacency set in, because that’s what I believe becomes the ultimate death of other companies.

A Pivot in My Life

I attended community college locally, in Gainesville, TX. It took me about four years to get through a two-year school. All of my friends were dropping out and I found myself going down the same path. At that time, I knew that if I was going to finish school, I needed to leave town. So, I moved just far enough to where I couldn’t come home each night.

While in college, I spent my weekends and summers flowing wells for Select Energy Services, which was then called Impact Energy Services. My plan was to get my degree in human resources and apply for law school. However, once I graduated my ambitions shifted. I ended up starting a small welding business that I wanted to grow. But the market was down, and it didn’t take off as fast as I needed it to.

My mother’s friend ended up contacting her about a job opening for Select Energy Services in their HR department. I applied and on my second interview, I was hired as an HR generalist. There was a huge culture shock, to say the least. I went from burning rods and sitting on wells to an office environment. It was a tough change for me.

At the time Select was acquiring numerous companies. I saw the need for additional support in the department, so I began pulling more weight. I would put in long hours and worked through lunch, eating at my desk. People punchout out at 5pm and I stayed as late as 8pm. I worked weekends. At one point, I was also doing about 60% of the payroll. When the time came during the expansion, and they needed a regional HR manager in North Texas, they promoted me.

At the age of 26, I was attending legal and regional business meetings for human resources. I had made a comment to our Regional Vice President that I wanted to be in operations, some little joke. He asked if that’s what I really wanted to do, and I said, “I never meant to get into HR, to be honest with you.” We each have an internal drive, and mine was to be in operations.

Seize the Opportunity

In 2012, the opportunity presented itself and I became the North Texas Operations Manager for Well Testing. I quickly noticed the need for process and visibility in the business. I knew that in order for us to be successful, we had to have that visibility. This is where the idea for Select’s Business Tracker, a software application that gives you a comprehensive overview of the company’s assets, came from.

Select was the largest well testing company in the Barnett Shale during those years. When the market took a turn, we had to downsize our team. I was young, without a family of my own. So, I decided to leave and give the position to an equally strong leader, who had a family that depended on him.

Not long after making that decision, Select offered me a regional business manager position. Then in 2014, I became a service line lead for well testing, spending the next couple of years learning every element of the business. Shortly thereafter, I was named Vice President of Well Testing.

My goal was to develop a strategy to standardize the way that we do business and processes company-wide. We were very successful with this and were able to survive—as a team—one of the worst downturns in the oil and gas industry’s history.

As soon as I felt like we had the business unit well structured and our processes in a good place—we merged with Rockwater Energy Solutions in 2017.

Together we became the largest water management company in the industry. Then in September of 2018, I became the President of Well Testing. It was critical to get everyone on the same page and keep our culture intact. You’re not only merging companies, you’re merging people—and companies are much easier to merge than people. In the end, we were able to create a better team.

A Perspective on Leadership

As my responsibilities increased with each role at Select, I made it a point to learn from every department. I would often ask why we did certain things, the reasons for it, and its importance. Doing this gave me insight into what makes a company actually tick. If something could be done better, I worked to make it happen.

My team was key in the success I achieved in my time with Select. Staying on the same page means constant communication, but I’m not big on mass emails. I prefer to call and speak to people on a one-on-one basis. If you can get on a more personal level and get to know the people you work with, you are building trust. That trust is critical to achieving success in any business.

You’re not only a manager, you’re a friend, and a counselor—all-in-one. That’s a part of being a good leader. You need to find enough hours in the day to make sure that everyone is on the same page and effectively communicating where we’re going.

At times this can be a volatile market, and you need to be able to adjust on a daily basis. Not monthly, not quarterly, but on a daily basis.

Run Your Department Like You Own It

Select’s a company built with and entrepreneurial spirit, and each of our leaders have an entrepreneur mentality. I’m very open and honest with my team. That means giving them full visibility of what we do and why we do it.

It’s important that my team has the right tools to be successful and knowing that they are not just a manager but a business manager in order to make smarter business decisions. We went from just working in well testing to knowing what it takes to run a successful well testing company. By taking ownership of their business, they see that every decision they make is going to have an effect at some point.

The culture of this company is to grow, to be the best—the leader. We never take a day off from becoming the best that we can be. You’re never done at Select. There’s always something to do.