Meet Motiva’s Tara Harvey: Maintenance Supervisor at the Largest Refinery in the U.S.

In this thriving industry, hard hats don’t just come in men’s sizes. A perpetual need for skilled workers in the fuels and petrochemical industries long ago nixed the notion that these jobs are traditionally for men. But even today, as men and women work side by side to produce the energy and products that power our world, our nation’s “better half” might not fully realize these high-paying careers are awaiting them.

One way to spread the word? Share their stories. As part of an ongoing series, join us for a look at some of the women working in today’s fuels and petrochemical plants.

Tara Harvey is the Maintenance Supervisor at the Motiva refinery in Port Arthur, Texas.  That’s a big job because, as folks who work there will tell you, it’s the largest refinery in the entire country.

The key to refinery maintenance? Prevention.  Because when your workplace has thousands of miles of pipes, tens of thousands of instruments and dozens of tanks — making gasoline for cars, diesel for trucks and jet fuel for planes — the last thing you want to hear is “Clean-up on aisle 4.”  So maintenance — is working to catch problems before they are problems.

Tara didn’t start out running the show though.  In fact, when she started at Motiva, 17 years ago, she didn’t know anything about pumps or pressure gauges or any of the other equipment her team is now responsible for.  So there was a lot for her to learn, fast.  Which she did, and eventually became the first person to move from process operator, to maintenance supervisor.

Not knowing was scary, but being a woman in a field many people think of as a man’s world?  That wasn’t a problem.  The industry offered her equal treatment, equal opportunity and a chance to go as her ambitions and abilities would take her.  (Though she did walk in the door with a little preparation for handling tough situations.  Her job before Motiva, was being a member of the riot squad at a Texas men’s prison.)

Want to be like Tara? Her advice to young women thinking about a career in the fuels and petrochemicals industries is — come on in.  There are plenty of opportunities for good jobs at good pay (average salaries twice the U.S. average) with good benefits (health care and retirement) doing good work (helping Americans get wherever they need to go).

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