Fearlessness, Curiosity, and Staying Uncomfortable

Written by:

Josh Levs

Wisdom at HERWorld from leading women in energy tech

The HERWorld Energy Forum serves double duty in a big way. It’s a chance for energy leaders -- who just happen to be women -- to have their voices heard on the profound shifts in the energy sector. It’s also a chance for these women to share their stories of succeeding in one of the most male-dominated industries.

In my last post, I drilled down on the first part of this, citing one of our fantastic panels. Now, let’s take a look at the second half -- including a moment that, to me, is unforgettable.

Don’t let modesty hide your successes

Rebecca Hofmann had no background in blockchain. And she’s not an engineer. But when she randomly got the chance to attend an event all about blockchain, her eyes were opened. She saw possibilities, and decided to propose a big project at her company, Equinor.

The company had an internal Shark Tank-like competition, in which employees could compete for $1 million prizes. There were 60 entrants, and there could only be six winners. Hofmann built a team of diverse talent from across the company to design the project. Her team won!

But you might not have known that from how she told the story, which involved just a quick mention, “we were given the funds,” amid talk of the importance of building a team and listening to ideas.

“You’re not giving yourself that much credit,” I told her. “You won this thing!” Once that was clear, the audience and fellow panelists erupted in applause.

“It wasn’t just me -- I had a team!”

I pointed out that I don’t think most men, including me, would have breezed by the fact that we led a team to that kind of victory. “Own it!” I said. (Research has noted that self-promotion is often tougher for women.)

Be ‘fearless’

When I asked this panel about lessons women can learn from their experiences, Zhanna Golodryga, senior vice president and chief digital and administrative officer at Phillips 66, said she had one word: fearless.

“You’ve got to have this confidence level.”

Golodryga described coming to America with her husband and young child decades ago, and having nothing -- but feeling empowered by the First Amendment, and the chance to speak up.

There were very few women, and the journey included times that were “very, very hard,” she said. “But I’ve learned that it’s important to have confidence; to believe in who you are,” and not to change who you are depending on whom you’re interacting with. “Be yourself,” she said.

Pursue your curiosity

Hofmann, now overseeing US Blockchain Strategy & Innovation at Equinor, explained that she has always been curious about how all parts of an organization work. So she took lots of opportunities to learn -- including when, randomly, that chance popped up to attend an event at Rice University about blockchain.

“Sometimes you should say yes even if it makes absolutely no sense.”

Rebecca Hofmann, Equinor

Since she had gotten to know the full value chain, she was able to see almost immediately how this new technology could make a difference. She thought, ”Oh my gosh, this can absolutely help our industry -- if it does what it says it can do.”

Stay uncomfortable

Being open is important, said Laurie Markoe, vice president, energy and additive manufacturing at Arconic. But she said she has also learned that “if I’m comfortable, I’m not learning."

"I really seek out venues where I’m uncomfortable.”

Sometimes that means walking into a technical session or asking her boss to go see a facility and see how things work there, she said. “The closer I am to what happens in the field that creates revenue and value for our company and for our customers, the more I’m learning.”

Seek opportunities to learn, even in “unconventional ways,” Markoe said.

Take risks

Mary Lyke, senior vice president of America Sales at P2 Energy Solutions, has worked in numerous male-dominated industries. Going into energy, “yes, it’s a risk,” she said.

"It’s important to overcome the fear of failure.”

Being challenged is part of what helps you grow in your career, Lyke added, telling the sold out crowd in Houston to “challenge yourself each and every day and find areas and industries that do that for you… You’ll have that passion and that drive to get up every day and make a difference.”

The intersection of energy and tech is “the most exciting space I’ve been in,” she said.

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