Name: David Heisler
Occupation/Business: Engineering technology manager at Aera Energy
Hometown: I was born and raised in Bakersfield.
If you aren’t from here, why did you move to Bakersfield? After attending UCLA, I came back to Bakersfield for the opportunity to work at Aera and to live near family.
Tell us how you got into your field: As a kid, I loved playing with Tinker Toys, K’nex and my Erector Set. That grew into a passion for using science to solve real-world problems. My dad’s experiences as an engineer inspired me to study chemical engineering in college. After graduating, I was offered the opportunity to work at Aera Energy to help solve complex problems and deliver energy in a safe and environmentally responsible way.
What is your "why?" (Why do you get out of bed every morning and do what you do?) The first and most important reason I do what I do is to support my family. My husband and I are raising our two amazing children and I want to provide them with a great foundation and empower them to pursue their dreams. But there are lots of other things that motivate me. I know that what I do matters: Californians rely on many energy sources, including oil and gas. I help produce it in the safest and most responsible way. Additionally, I am excited by the growth opportunities that come with increasing responsibilities and new experiences at work.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received? While pursuing my master's degree, a professor said, “What was good enough to get you here, is not good enough to take you further." This advice helps me to view life as a journey and reminds me of the importance to reflect and grow after successes and failures. There is always opportunity to learn new things and gain new experiences.
What is the biggest challenge in the marketplace/business that you’ve overcome? When I started working, I didn’t share any details about my personal life with my coworkers — I was afraid of facing negative consequences if people found out I am gay. This prevented me from really connecting with others and networking in a meaningful way. I felt inauthentic. Eventually, I realized that if I wanted to reach my full potential, I’d have to bring my whole self to work. I came out to my team and decided not to hide or apologize for who I am. I found a lot of support with the LGBT+ Allies Employee Resource Group and went on to take several leadership roles in the group. Now, as a manager, I do my best to empower others to celebrate their identities and find strength in what makes them different.
What is your proudest achievement of your career thus far? I’m really proud of keeping my team safe and engaged as we continued to work in the oil fields throughout the pandemic. Many of our normal processes had to change as we implemented social distancing measures throughout the oil field. I helped my team adapt by spending a lot of extra time in the field talking to teammates about physical safety, mental health, and learning more about their lives outside of work. Then the oil price crashed and we had to collaborate to identify and implement cost-saving opportunities. We kept an eye on our team results and adapted when results started to slip. We grew as a team to become more resilient and ready for the next challenge.
What’s next for you in your career? I’m excited to work to reduce the carbon footprint of oil production by integrating renewable resources and implementing new technologies.
What advice would you give to other young professionals and entrepreneurs in Bakersfield? Be true to yourself and be proud of what makes you different, and then go the extra mile to make others feel included.
How do you hope to help improve Bakersfield, or bring to the community overall? The LGBT+ Community and the oil industry face a similar problem: Many people form negative opinions of both communities without getting to know them first. My goal is to help people find common ground and celebrate each other despite coming from different backgrounds or holding different values. As a gay man, I know how hard it is to be authentic when you aren’t confident that people will accept you; however, in my experience, most people are willing to listen and treat me with respect. I advocate for the LGBT+ community and teach a class through the LGBT+ Allies Employee Resource Group to dispel rumors and practice speaking out against discriminatory statements in an authentic way.
Similarly, I advocate for the local oil industry through educational outreach because I know that we provide a valuable and necessary resource, yet many people vilify the industry based on false information. Sometimes negative public opinion translates to policy that will ultimately make California more reliant on oil imported from countries that don’t adhere to the same high safety and environmental standards we have in California.
What is one thing you wish you would have known before starting your career?
In the beginning of my career, I thought that networking was all about small talk and meeting as many people as possible. The prospect of building a network was overwhelming and made me anxious, so I passed up many opportunities to meet new people. I wish I knew then what I know now: A strong network is vital to your success — and you can build a network naturally by getting to know stakeholders and demonstrating genuine care for them.