Josh Byerly ‘99: An Aggie With A Story To Tell
Josh Byerly ‘99 was awed — and maybe slightly overwhelmed — when he stepped into his first biology class at Texas A&M University. That classroom held more people than his entire high school class back in Tyler, Texas. Now, because of his time in Aggieland, Byerly has filled positions within organizations such as NASA and currently works at SLB, the world’s largest oil and gas services company.
Though Byerly graduated with a bachelor’s degree in journalism, he was actually planning on going to law school. Being a book and story fanatic throughout his childhood, Byerly began researching the journalism program and knew what he wanted to do.
“I’ve always been a writer and storyteller, so I looked at the journalism program with an eye on law school,” Byerly explained. “Randomly during my junior year, I ended up getting an internship at KBTX. I didn’t realize it at the time, but that one decision and opportunity took me down a completely different road in my life and my career, and it’s one I’ve never forgotten.”
Growing up with a mom who was an elementary teacher, and later having a high school teacher with a passion for English, Byerly learned just how much he cared about telling a good story.
“When I was a freshman in high school, my English teacher taught me language arts and writing fundamentals on a level I’ve never seen,” Byerly said. “He taught us how to appreciate the written word, and the mechanics behind what makes good writing. I realize now that’s when I started to become who I am now. Journalism was a natural fit for me.”
After his time at Texas A&M, Byerly got the opportunity to work for many important organizations. One of his most notable jobs, though, was as the public affairs officer and spokesman for NASA (2007-2014), where he was the “voice of NASA” for a number of Space Shuttle and International Space Station missions, including the final launch of Space Shuttle Discovery in 2011. You can hear this former “voice of NASA” in the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum as part of the Space Shuttle Discovery exhibit.
“My time at NASA is something that I will always hold close to my heart,” Byerly shared. “To this day, I still can’t believe the kid from East Texas ended up in that job. I will be forever grateful for all of those days and nights, working in Mission Control with the smartest people on the planet, being able to go inside the Space Shuttles, to be the voice of Mission Control for Space Shuttle Discovery’s last flight and getting to know dozens of astronauts, including Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and John Young. NASA truly represents the best of who we are as humans, and it has an incredible story. I’m just lucky to have been a small part of that story through the years, and it’s something I miss every single day.”
Currently, Byerly is vice president and chief communications officer for Schlumberger, which just underwent a major rebranding effort, including changing its name to SLB. Byerly leads a global team of communicators for the technology company, which is focused on driving energy innovation. In his role, just as he has done his whole life, Byerly and his team of communicators are working on telling a story. This time, he’s traded space exploration for something a little more Earth-bound: the ongoing energy transition.
“When I was at NASA, I was fortunate to be part of the story of humanity’s greatest adventure,” Byerly said. “This is similar in some ways, because we’re telling the story of humanity’s greatest balancing act: how do we provide affordable, secure and sustainable energy for our generation and the ones that will come after us? It’s an enormous challenge that the company is working on, and it’s an honor to be part of the team and lead a world-class staff that is helping tell the story of our journey.”
As Byerly continues on his professional journey, he attributes much of his success as a communicator to the Department of Communications and Journalism as well as his overall experience within journalism while in Aggieland.
“Being in Aggieland was one of the best parts of my life,” Byerly added. “You get to really learn who you are and what you want to become. Aggieland is one of the few places that feels like home to me when I go back, so it’s something I deeply appreciate. On a practical level, journalism taught me an appreciation for deadlines and working at a fast pace. But on a higher level, journalism taught me to appreciate being curious and being able to use words to take the audience on a journey. I always remind people that we’ve been telling stories since the beginning of time, so go find a cool story to tell.”