The energy transition is an undeniable force shaping the future of the chemical industry. Discussing the need for transparency, engaging with diverse stakeholders, and embracing innovative technologies to pave the way for a sustainable energy future, Beth Gould Creller, Kara Byrne, and Maggie Teliska, of Women’s Energy Network (WEN) Podcast joins forces this week with Victoria Meyer on The Chemical Show.
Women’s Energy Network (WEN) is proving to be a game-changer for professional journeys across the industry – opening doors to a thriving network of executive members who share similar experiences and challenges. Finding support and building strong relationships within WEN, women from across the industry are enhancing their personal and professional growth.
Learn more about the following topics this week:
- Women’s Energy Network (WEN) Podcast Origin Story
- Creating a more coordinated and transparent effort in the energy industry
- Origins of The Chemical Show
- Balancing efforts in the energy industry through podcasting
- Leveraging the Women’s Energy Network (WEN) for Professional Growth
- Connecting the workforce through WEN
- Navigating the energy transition
- Importance of Creative Solutions and Optimism in the Energy Transition
Victoria, Beth, Kara, and Maggie discuss power networking, the importance of company culture, and navigating the energy transition. Sharing their personal experiences with WEN, Victoria, Beth, Kara, and Maggie highlight the supportive network and opportunities for career development. Gain valuable insights on recognizing untapped talent, fostering an inclusive environment, and engaging with stakeholders for a holistic approach to decarbonization in the energy industry.
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Listen to WEN Podcast x Chemical Show Episode Here:
Power Networking with Women’s Energy Network
Beth: Hello everyone, Beth Gould Creller here. Welcome to this episode of the WEN podcast and The Chemical Show. To switch it up a bit, we have a podcast swap for you as Kara Byrne, Maggie Teliska, and myself share the mic with Victoria Meyer, host of The Chemical Show podcast. Since we are introducing both podcasts to new audiences, we wanted to take a moment to share a bit about each of our podcasts. Kara, why don’t you start by telling us a bit about the WEN podcast?
Kara: Sure, thanks Beth. The WEN podcast is our virtual arm of programming for the Women’s Energy Network, aka WEN. Our purpose is to share industry information, knowledge, and leadership tips from women and men across the world who are working in and advocating for energy. This year, we are celebrating the energy industry by diving into powerful leadership journeys, emerging technologies, and energy, and providing an alternate resource for professional development.
I’m excited because this is our first collaboration with another podcast besides the WEN podcast. It’s with one of WEN Houston’s executive members, Victoria Meyer. Thank you for joining us today, Victoria. Why don’t you tell us a little bit about The Chemical Show before we get kicked off?
Victoria: Thanks for having me to be part of this. I think it’s great for us both to be swapping podcasts, as they say. So The Chemical Show launched in 2021 and it gives a voice to leaders across the chemical industry and serves as a space to showcase innovation, insight and great leadership. Each week, I interview executives from across the industry talking about some of the key trends that we’re all facing, supply chain, sustainability, digitization, and more. I have a chance to talk to different leaders in different companies about how they are tackling some of the same challenges we’re each facing. So far, we’ve published 120 episodes and we’ve got more to come.
Maggie: So as I understand, Kara and Victoria were fortunate to connect on LinkedIn, even though they probably could have done it easier if they’d both just attended a WEN Houston executive event at the same time. After some discussions, we thought there’d be a natural overlap in topics that we cover in our podcast. From that collaboration, we decided to do a joint podcast. So we could each get a different perspective on the conversations we’ve been having separately. I’m excited to learn more about the chemical show today, but also to reflect back on our journey through the WEN podcast season so far.
Victoria: I’m excited to be here as well. So, one of the places we’re going to start is with origin stories. I’ve been in the chemical industry in really downstream energy for my entire career, at companies including Shell, Clariant, and a predecessor to Lyondell Basell. I really got interested in the industry, fascinated by it. Then a few years ago, I launched my own business called Progressio Global, where I go back and I consult with executives in chemical companies to help them execute their strategies in a more customer centric and effective way.
Then two years ago, started The Chemical Show. Then finally this year we are launching a conference called The Chemical Summit. Somewhere in this whole journey of energy, chemicals has been part of my heritage and my career. As I said, I really like to start each episode with your origin story. So I’m going to start with Beth and just say, what’s your origin story? What got you interested in energy and what’s kept you here?
Beth: So I don’t have a very linear path into energy. I am a native of Houston, Texas. So I joked that I tripped into the energy industry by accident. Working in the energy sector was my second career. I enjoyed the corporate culture of my firm at the time and opportunities to collaborate with amazing minds on exploration and the development of projects. I never turned down a career challenge, especially when challenges took me completely out of my comfort zone. I’ve always wanted to travel the world, and I did in support of deep water drilling campaigns, I crawled across pipe and completion strings to tally up inventory onsite in Southeast Asia, North and West Africa, the Middle East.
I rotated through the firm’s internal audit organization, and I developed a supply chain test where we optimize vendor spin and contract management. I investigated fraud, sometimes resulting in heated situations. I dabbled in revenue accounting, supply chain management, and I ultimately moved into a corporate risk role that supported all of the offshore portfolio, enjoying the constant spirit of innovation, collaboration and working everywhere from Northwest Europe to South America.
I forged amazing relationships and continue to learn. My career journey continues in my current role where I enjoy convening and connecting industry leaders to enable best business practices and holistic risk management. Like many chances you take in life, the risk of failure in exploration drilling is pretty high. You need to learn to have a realistic risk tolerance, be willing to fail and learn from failure before you succeed, which is a common theme across energy.
Kara: You are correct when you say it’s not linear. I’m just letting you know that. I’m interested to hear what Maggie has to say, because I think it’s a little bit more linear maybe. I also know some of the stories, but I’d like to hear them.
Maggie: If you’re an avid listener of this podcast, Kara and I were on season one where Kara interviewed me on my career journey. Also my involvement with WEN and how it helped progress that. If you haven’t heard that here are the Cliff Notes, I have a couple of degrees in chemistry yet I do hate to cook, but I’ve worked in power and energy for over 20 years. I started in fuel cells and then transitioned into batteries, pivoted quite a few times in energy. It might be a little bit more linear than a roller coaster and I’m terrified of adrenaline.
I’ve been in various roles and experiences, including sales operations, product development, and now I have a great job in operations and maintenance for the big girl batteries or the battery energy storage systems that are currently operating in the ERCOT market, very successfully I might add.. What I’ve learned through all of this is learning never stops. Always have to be evolving, always growing. Soft skills are my thing and they’re just as vital as hard technical skills. I’ve migrated companies, functions, and roles mostly with ease, or at least I try to look like I have ease.
Being a jack of all trades made me one heck of a shape shifter, and life will throw you curve balls as it has in my case between family and health. I won’t say challenges, but things that just kind of get in the way and you have to deal with. I’ve been pretty well rounded too, to help give me what I think is an edge. So been there and done that, it’s been a wild, somewhat linear ride. Got my limbs attached, but scars to show for it.
Kara: Victoria, you’re getting better cliff notes than I got the first time around. I’m just letting you know. So, for my cliff notes, I did not know what I wanted to be when I grew up, except for I wanted to be an astronaut. The closest I’ve made it to is that I’ve gotten to Houston and that’s about it. I have friends that work at NASA and I watch their careers and envy them, but then realize I would not have been happy as an astronaut or working at NASA in general. My attention span is too short.
Anyways, I was sent to engineering camp way back in high school because my physics teacher thought I would be good at it. Then I went to the University of Wisconsin which was where the engineering camp was. I got exposed to all different types of engineering and I had so much fun that week that I decided that was going to be my major. I declared mechanical engineering within the first six months of being at the school. I got out in four years and I started to work on big rotating pieces of equipment. I went into a company where we built large diesel engines. The purpose of the diesel engines was to do marine propulsion, and when I say marine, I mean submarines. So that was kind of cool. The first assignment I ever got was shock testing and just analyzing shock testing. The second assignment was electromagnetic interference. So I’m just saying there was some really weird lab type things that I was doing in that engineering role. I did rotate into lean manufacturing.
Then immediately thereafter, I was in a rotational program and broke the program because I wanted to see what I was designing, and I wanted to understand how it was built. So I could explain what I was selling a little bit better from there. I went into GE and I’ve spent my entire career with GE which is now Baker Hughes. It’s always been in the energy sector of it. I worked on mega LNG projects, I worked on turbo expanders, always in a sales and commercial role. So an application engineer, always adding contract or commercial management on top of it. I would start learning the technical side, then expand out to the business side and be able to bridge the explanation or the negotiations of the contract for both sides. So I talked to the buyers and I talked to the engineers who are designing it still do that today, except now I lead a team.
I realized I was really good at making that bridge and I learned that paying it forward and making good business people out of engineers means that the engineers can eventually take over the world. That’s my whole theory in life. So we will be there. We will be taking over the world, but that’s just because there are engineers out there that can actually tell a story and be really good business people at the same time, because they can understand the technical risks that are involved along with the contractual risks of what we’re selling. Then that loops in also the environmental risks and everything else about the entire energy solution that we’re providing out there. While I may not have extreme lessons learned, I do learn. That being in this role teamwork makes the dream work and I will say that till I die. It is my hashtag and I’m a master of all trades and a jack of all trades. Depth as well as breadth is really important when you’re learning different roles.
What about you Victoria? I think that one of the things that I’m interested in is you are part of the WEN executive network in Houston, we are both part of it. I think we’ve met each other maybe once in person. Maybe we will meet each other this year. That is our goal in one of the upcoming events.
Victoria: I’m looking forward to it.
Kara: Exactly. All of us have had WEN impact us in some way, shape or form. I just want to know a little bit about how and why you got involved with WEN, and what made it stick? For me, WEN has really impacted my career because I was able to try some leadership stuff before I was a people leader. I’ve been volunteering for WEN for over 10 years, and I’ve gone from local to the chapter up to global. I’ve run a small business as president, so I got exposed to a lot of the stuff that maybe my company being part of a large corporation I wasn’t able to do. What does WEN bring to your life?
So my WEN journey is not seamless. I first got exposed to WEN probably 20 years ago and went to a luncheon or two with some colleagues, but it was weird cause I never actually felt invited to join and to be part of it. I think part of this is maybe the fact that I’ve always been a downstream chemicals person unabashedly. So I thought WEN was interesting, there was a lot of great people around, but it didn’t seem to fit into my world, my business, or what I was doing personally. 5 years ago though, I started my entrepreneurial journey with my own business and I was also just a lot more confident in terms of where I was. I decided to give WEN another try. I went to a luncheon or two in downtown Houston and the topics were interesting. I wanted to get to know the people, but the thing that really impacted me was meeting a person, which was Susie Knight. I happened to be there chatting. She’s like, “Hey, who are you?” We chat and she’s like, “You need to come join the executive group.” And I’m like, “What executive group would that be?” Then she actually encouraged me to apply for executive membership.
Once I got in, I knew these are my people. I found a really thriving network of executive members who look like me, talk like me, are facing some of the same things. We can encourage each other. We can laugh together and we’ve really built a great relationship. To me, it’s just one of these lessons learned that timing is everything and that you have to give things multiple tries because you show up at an even and the event may not stick, but then you show up at another one and it does. I really like the fact that one, we’ve got a great variety of strong women in the organization, both at the executive level and across all of WEN navigating some of the same challenges. Coming together to learn, to grow, to develop, and really to make a presence because I know many times I have been the only woman in the room. You guys have been the only women in the room, I’m sure. So it’s nice to know that you’re not the only one in a bigger construct.
Kara: We are the only women in this room today, but that’s okay. That’s the beauty of WEN too, we get to feel the flip side of it. I think it’s funny because in 2018, I was actually WEN Houston’s president and Susie was also the person who brought me into WEN way back in 2013. So just FYI, we have a lot more in common than we even knew about Victoria. One of the beautiful things I’ve also recognized about WEN is that WEN has 25 different chapters now and is ever growing. We have more on the horizon. I was able to meet Beth and Maggie, but Maggie first through many virtual events when we were in the midst of COVID. So Maggie, what about you? What has WEN brought to you besides a whole new career?
Maggie: If you go back again to that episode, you’ll hear how I used WEN to really get to know my new company. So I interviewed them as they interviewed me. When I came into WEN, talk about being the only woman in the room, I was at a battery and brews event, which should have been a battery and bros event. I was networking in the women’s bathroom with probably the only other woman there, and she was part of WEN Boston. So she talked about it and I joined that night. Fortunately, Alison from WEN Boston followed me around the first event and said, we need you to join the board. I had the communications part down. I’d been writing for AXIOS in their expert voice series. I used WEN, like Kara was saying, to try something new and I applied for the marketing and communications. I figured I got the comms down, why not try the marketing? It was a wonderful experience.
I feel like I learned how to be a marketing person, so much so that then Kara came to me and told me that I would be the marketing director for the conference and I think I did an okay job at that. So using WEN to hone new skills, to try new things, I’m always trying to hone my finance skills. The last year I was part of WEN Boston, I was their treasurer just to get more exposure to that in a non-work setting. But due to COVID, a lot of us had moved up north in Boston. If you’re not from Boston, even if you move five miles outside the city, it can take two hours to get to the city. So with that, we did found the 25th WEN chapter, which is WEN Northern New England, which includes Vermont, Maine, and New Hampshire with four incredible, wonderful women. So we’ve been working on that, but then I’ll say, I am moving to South Carolina in a couple of months. I did use WEN’s Carolinas chapter to get a wonderful real estate agent that I’m talking to next week. So I already have friends down there and I have connections and it’s great.
Kara: I mean, that’s the fun part about WEN is we are everywhere in North America. Hopefully eventually we’ll get overseas and we’ll see that. Beth, what about you?
Beth: I’m pretty similar to Victoria, my first WEN event was also probably 20 years ago. I went to a luncheon downtown because one of our few female senior leaders was being featured. So a bunch of us went to support her, but she did not need the support. It was a huge event. It was great. At the time I was traveling 9 months out of the year, and it wasn’t conducive to join. I was doing grad school at night and on the weekends when I wasn’t, there was just too much going on. So I never joined. I went to some events, but didn’t join.
When I moved from Houston to the New York City area in 2018, I thought, okay let’s see what this chapter is like locally. It’s so interesting to see the makeup of the chapters and how it differs. When I was in Houston I felt like the chapter had a lot of technical people, and a lot of engineers which was really cool. But here our chapter is more focused on finance and legal, for obvious reasons, and it was just interesting to see that dynamic. I went to one event and then and I signed up to be a mentor at that event. I thought so much is going on, surely, you’re not going to have mentor programs. We did and it was amazing. I think that’s what pulled me in. It was nice to have these colleagues that were a little bit more than a colleague, because you can be honest about sharing your experiences in the workplace or just in general. The way the mentor program is set up, it circles. I enjoyed that format. So I had a peer, we were the mentors and we had mentees, but everyone learned from one another. It was just a really unique experience.
As soon as we were allowed to have events again, it was like gangbusters, but it’s funny. I’ve joked with Maggie and Kara before, I spent 10 months knowing these people and then you meet them and you see how tall they are and you think, oh, I should hug them. Oh wait, we’ve never met in person, but we already had these connections, which was amazing. I met Kara only last year, it seems longer than that, but I met Kara at the transition meeting. So I was the outgoing president. I brought the incoming president with me. It was in Houston and I wasn’t even sure that I could make it. I was in and out in like 30 hours or something, but it was such an amazing event to be able to just meet all of the other chapter leads and share stories. My table was from all over and we shared all kinds of interesting learnings.
New York City is not one of the biggest chapters, but it’s growing and we’re kind of like Maggie indicated, we’re spread out. People are in New Jersey. They’re in Connecticut. They’re in New York. So they’re not necessarily close together, and I think it can be challenging to organize events. We really learned from a lot of the other chapters and just came back with a lot of learnings. When Kara talked about the podcast, I was like, oh, that sounds interesting. Now, lo and behold, I’m helping out with the conference. I cannot wait for the conference next year in April, so I’m already plugging it. It’s not even out there yet, but it’s just really rewarding to see how all of these local chapters continue to grow and you can see people’s careers evolve and grow as well.
Kara: So, apparently, I’ve also learned recruitment through the organization, because I’m a volunteering or recruiting people. I planned that meeting to reconnect all of the different leaders of the chapters that Beth was talking about. So, I think that everyone brings everything together.
Victoria: I think so. What I think is interesting from everybody’s story about WEN is just the diversity that exists inside of WEN in terms of the types of work that people do. Again, 20 years ago when I first got introduced, it was all about oil and traditional energy. Obviously today with the energy transition and just the different interests that parties have, it’s about more than petrochemicals and petroleum, it’s batteries and solar and wind and other things. That will just continue to help WEN and it’s members.
I know that the WEN podcast started in 2020 with the Denver chapter, and it’s really grown and expanded from there. Can you guys share how it’s developed and how you actually came to be the hosts? I know that’s also a recent thing for you.
Kara: I can take a jab at the origins of it. Beth and Maggie have already alluded to how they became the hosts, because of my spectacular recruitment skills, apparently through the one organization podcast host back in the day, Sally Hallingstad. She was the WEN Colorado president, and she was rolling onto the board of directors at WEN global. I was programs director, and going in to be the president elect of WEN Global. We started chatting and we said, we think that the podcast shouldn’t just sit at the Colorado or the Denver area. It really should be much more about the energy market as a whole. They did their thing locally. Still a lot more to untap there, as you guys will see in upcoming episodes of the WEN podcast, but we wanted to get voices from other chapters involved as well.
We brought it up to WEN Global when Sally was still the host. Eventually, she realized that she wanted to have more voices come in. So it started out where other people were hosting podcasts, and she was there more as a facilitator. But what we started to realize when we had multiple guest hosts throughout the year, is we lost the connection with the people that were hosting it. So we decided then that Sally would be the host and she’d bring in two co hosts. So the three of them Sally, Sarah, and Sarah started talking about not just the people in energy, which is really the focus to begin with on the podcast, but also the technologies, what’s coming next, focus on the leadership trends that were happening out there. So we had three different genres, the journeys, the leadership trends, and the technologies that were evolving. Last year they did all of their hosting Sally, Sarah, and Sarah, and they were super excited. But almost all three of them got new jobs in the last year. So they said, you know what, it’s time for us to step back, we’re a little burned out.
I was going into president, and I said, you know what, I love talking to people. I want to stay connected with WEN, but I don’t necessarily want to run the organization anymore. I also don’t want to do the recordings and do the editing and all of that. So I knew, I need people on the journey with me if I want to continue this podcast. I think it’s something that we’ve all fallen in love with at WEN. I asked Maggie, because we were already remotely connected like I said, at the leadership transition meeting last year, where each year, WEN has a brand new set of leaders come in. So the leaders of today will not be the leaders of 2024. Some of them will stay, but most of them will rotate off. About half of the leaders rotate off every single year for every single board that we have. We’re here to give a little bit of consistency and bring together the stories of all the different chapters that we have out there. Beth was able to raise her hand to bring a different perspective. We wanted three totally different people who got along and we started doing that. Beth, Maggie, do you guys have anything to add? I think that was pretty much the whole journey besides maybe why you guys decided to do it.
Maggie: Well, I can’t say no to you. So I don’t even remember when you asked me, you’re said hey, you should do this. I’m like, sure. But it’s been a blast and I’m doing all the editing for it, which I didn’t know how to do before, but now it’s another new skill set. It’s been fun. I got to know Beth, I didn’t know Beth prior to this. Then she was up in Boston for a meetings we went out for palomas and purse cheese and just had a blast. WEN is just about meeting new people and doing things with them. I think we’ve done a great job. It’s been really fun.
Beth: One thing that has drawn me to this after meeting with Maggie and Kara, understanding our different points of view and our different experiences. It’s great working with and learning from Maggie and Kara, but also all of our guests. I have this selfish intrinsic need to ask a lot of questions, I really want to connect the dots. We keep talking about how vast the energy industry is. Petrochemicals are part of that for sure, and I think that we really need to have a more coordinated effort. We need to have more transparency. Understand the roles we play, and I really think this podcast gives us the opportunity to do that. So that’s why I stick around.
Victoria: Were you guys podcast listeners before you jumped onto the WEN podcast train?
Kara: Yes, but the podcasts that I listened to were guilty pleasures and apparently were only teaching me how to take over the world because they had to do with like dictators and history and stuff, so.
Victoria: People that are very good at volun-told and volun-telling.
Beth: Oh, my gosh. I do listen to other podcasts. but as soon as Kara talked about the podcast, I started listening to it before I even knew there was opportunities to join in. I got to say it’s probably not too many, but I really liked the format too. That there was all these different perspectives.
Kara: What about you, Victoria? What made you start The Chemical Show? It’s a lot of work for one person. We’re a lot of work with three people. How is it?
Victoria: I actually have a team that helps me, so that’s the good news. I started listening to podcasts like five years ago. I remember the first time somebody told me that they listened to a podcast. It was my brother-in-law and he talked about how he listened to this sports podcast every day on the train ride home. I’m like, what are you talking about? Like who does that stuff? All of a sudden I became one of those people that does that stuff. Not the daily podcast, but I started listening to podcasts when I was driving to clients and stuff and really fell in love with the medium. Podcasting is so personal. It’s the opportunity to really connect and do a lot of storytelling. I saw where its potential was.
I wanted to get started and I wasn’t really sure what I was going to do, but then I had a moment of clarity. I was literally on a walk listening to a podcast in November of 2020, I was on a goal setting retreat with my husband and it really came to me. I’m like, let’s just keep it simple. The Chemical Show. I got back to our hotel room. I bought the website immediately. 3 days later, I had a conversation with one of my business mentors who got me introduced to a production company and away we go.
We’re at the front end of a new media, a very personal media. With podcasting, we have the power of storytelling. For me personally, when I think about the voices in the industry, and I think this is true for the WEN podcast as well, we’re able to bring voices into podcasting that aren’t getting playtime on regular media or industry media. So it’s this opportunity to tell different stories, share different insights. There’s thousands of companies in energy and chemicals, many of whom people don’t actually know about. It’s an opportunity to tell those stories.
Kara: The opportunity to put a face to the industry, or at least a voice to the industry. Maybe we’ll leave it at that with the podcast, but also like you said, the storytelling, it humanizes the energy industry. As we transition to the future of energy, whatever it is, wherever it goes, there’s going to be controversy. There’s going to be conflict. There’s going to be growing pains. There’s going to be solutions that are provided that everybody needs in their everyday life. What this does is it shows that there are real people behind these decisions that are trying to do good in the world and trying to balance all these risks, different requirements and needs of everyone in the world.
Victoria: I’m going to turn this, what’s been something interesting or insightful, Maggie, that you learned from the podcast?
Maggie: Episode 52, we had Julie Brown on for mastering your network and, we always end it with, what do you want the listeners to know? She comes out with, “You know what? I’m not an avocado and neither are you.” What she was talking about, is that we don’t in our careers ripen for a set amount of time and then just wither away and brown. She had pivoted her career later on in life and has a great new career as a keynote speaker. We all can have that. I’ve been through changes, and I’ve been able to pivot being a jack of all trades, be able to get into a different industry, a different company into a different role and be successful despite those changes. So I’m not an avocado and neither are any of you.
Victoria: That’s awesome.
Kara: That’s our new mantra. I am not an avocado.
Maggie: Beth, I’m curious what you’ve learned.
Beth: Okay, you stole my favorite. So that’s fine, I’ll get a little bit worse one. I feel like a recurring theme we address across several episodes, as we think about the energy transition, that Kara brought up is that we need to use creative solutions and seize opportunities. When we think about the energy transition, there’s a lot of fear. There’s a lot of risk, people think it automatically means increased costs and they don’t understand what the regulatory landscape might look like. If we think about opportunities, that’s this common theme that we’ve heard throughout several of our episodes. Case in point, there’s clearly a desire to move toward electrification. We hear about that constantly. In 2030, you can’t buy an ice vehicle in the UK. It’s moving forward regardless of what you think. But we need cleaner energy sources to electrify. We need to boost up our infrastructure to have any success moving forward in that direction.
During our batteries make good neighbors episode, Emma talked about the current state of battery tech and how they’re getting creative with the signing solutions for batteries. When they’re implementing these projects, how are they going to provide services to the grid, to a customer, and to the market in general? When you think about it from that angle, it makes the economics a lot more appealing from an investment standpoint. The technology is improving, but when you think about just at a very high level, it’s getting creative with just some simple solutions. It’s not big changes that need to be made. We talked about this in our real decarbonization episode as well with Katie Bayes. So I know there’s some skepticism around it. We don’t fully understand it. It’s still early days after the IRA here in the United States, so we’re not really sure how we will truly realize some of those incentives, how that might play out in the market. We do feel like investors are still having cold feet with some of these newer technologies. I guess I shouldn’t just say getting creative, but it’s also being optimistic.
No matter how we talk about some of these really hard issues to discuss or understand, I truly feel like each of our episodes come away feeling optimistic about the future, which is nice. We keep talking about having the right people at the table, the right people as part of the conversation, highlighting different views. That’s another thing Tisha Schuller reiterated in our real decarbonization episode. That it’s having the right people at the table and having their voice heard so that we can have a collaborative effort to have these discussions. How do we think about this differently? So moving forward, we know how to do it. We just need to think about it differently, more creatively. There’s some unrealized opportunity there.
Victoria: I think there’s two pieces to this for me. Tying in with what Beth is talking about with ESG and energy transition and just sustainability in general. One of the things that’s come through is that the industry, energy, chemicals and downstream needs to own the narrative. We are far more efficient, effective, and carbon-reduced than we were 20 years ago. We just haven’t told people very effectively about that. So I think we’re caught in a bind of our own creation.
The 2nd piece is people that are listening to the podcast are really, truly, genuinely interested in how other leaders got where they’re going. They’re curious and they’re interested in the stories behind that. There’s this example of private equity owned company leader that I talked to, who actually shared how he got to the business that he was in that the PE company had bought. He had interviewed 30 different private equity firms to find one that was a good match for what his vision and objectives were. A colleague of mine from Shell had reached out and said, oh my gosh, that was great. I did not know that that was how people did this. Or at least it was just the power of the personal example. So I think that comes through loud and clear.
Interesting piece is that individual who had reached out to me and said, hey, I didn’t know that you could do this. He is now leading a privately held company inside a major corporation, he used some of those lessons to get where he wanted to go. That opportunity wouldn’t have been there had we not had the podcast and had the opportunity to ask this leader to tell a story. So it’s just kind of cool.
Kara: That is cool. One of the things that I’ve really liked plays off of what you just said, and it is learning from the podcast and taking it. For me I really wish people understood that there’s a huge pool of untapped talent out there that people may overlook because on a piece of paper they haven’t been actively working in the last two or three years They took a career pause because of family, because of moving, because of whatever it was. Maybe they just had a challenging time after reductions in force, everything like that. Anna McKay and what she’s doing at Parents Pivot is amazing work. She actually coaches and helps people get prepared to come back from career pauses. Funny story is after we held that episode, I was actually in the interview process. I was trying to hire people and I had three people that probably would not have made the slate before. But we were making sure to be very proactive on who we were allowing through for first interviews.
Most of the people made it to the second or third interview when we got around to it. These are people who are talented, that had not worked for a few years. A couple of them I even connected over to Anna afterwards because I only had one position, but these people are talented and you can tell that they use either their engineering skills, their business skills or their multitasking skills every single day. It was funny because I remember my boss asking me, why do we have so many people that have been out of work? Glad he read the resumes ahead of time, cause a lot of people walk into interviews not necessarily as prepared as they could be. And I say, you know what, I’m trying something new and I’m just trying to keep a very open mind in interviews because these people have different sets of skills that we are trying to do and they want to work.
So it is refreshing, the talent that’s out there, I was surprised. Like I said, I immediately went in to try it. My talent recruitment team was on board with it. Being able to connect the people to a tool after the fact, to an organization like Parents Pivot was fun too, because at least then it could see that I was successful. I was genuinely interested in what they did and their success, even though I can only hire so many people, but at the same point if I could have hired them all, why not?
Victoria: I think it’s interesting, my assistant when I hired her, she had been a stay-at-home mom for more than a decade. Great skill set and background before she said, hey, I need to take a pause. So I was able to bring her in and that was good. I think the other piece is that it’s really easy for us to forget the effects of COVID. I think we’ve already forgotten how people had to stop working because their kids were home. Depending on what part of the world you live in, your kids weren’t going to school. Somebody needed to be managing the household.
Maybe your job required you to be in person or maybe it required you to be home. Jobs were lost. Lives were changed. We went through this turmoil two and three years ago and now today it’s kind of blue skies and it’s easy to forget. Yet, I think there’s probably a lot of people in the job market who have COVID related gap, not just all the other gaps that have happened.
Kara: Exactly, there are impacts. I 100% think we’re forgetting, remember I’ve been to the airport in different sections over the last year. It’s funny, I think the last time I saw one person in a face mask, whereas like six months ago, I still would have seen about 30 percent of people in a face mask. So little things are changing daily on that, that may or may not be visible to you. Also I think how our company is operator changing and this goes to the risks that our companies are seeing and dealing with every single day. Yes. We’ve got the supply chain fiasco of 2022. We’ve got inflation. We’ve got logistics all over the place. Those were identified as the top five priorities in what we did with productivity, they surveyed a bunch of energy and non energy leaders in industry as a general. Those were two of the risks, but the other three risks were all associated around culture. So I think that’s something that’s really interesting because we see it.
I think everybody is talking about culture positively, negatively, on social media, not social media, news, politics. It doesn’t matter, everybody is trying to normalize culture. The normalization isn’t necessarily happening in the same direction for every single person. What’s normal to me is not normal to you. There’s nothing to say what’s right or wrong or anything like that. But I do believe that companies with strong cultures, strong missions and visions are the companies that are starting to thrive because they’re getting employees that are in line with their mission, with their vision. They can live the same cultural values as what their company is. That’s really important and it will remain being important moving forward. That’s something that we all need to be aware of, and I’m glad we talked about it.
One of the things I wanted to talk about and pivot the conversation to is, what topics. do you guys want to raise awareness on? For me, risk is not just about profit anymore. It is also about how we set up our companies and what is the culture that we’re portraying out there. What about you, Beth? What topics are you seeing that you want to raise awareness on that are kind of the trends out there right now?
Beth: I’m a risk nerd, but beyond that, we keep bringing up this idea that industry wide decarbonization is only going to be possible through collaboration. I think that we need to have really good engagement with all of our stakeholders. There’s one thing to say that oil and gas should decarbonize, but when we talked with Tisha and Katie on our decarbonization episode, we talked about all the different sectors, and getting them involved. We’ve heard of co-sectoring in Europe where they think about how they decarbonize and energy is co-sectoring with transportation to think about a holistic strategy to move forward. It’s having those right players in the conversation. It’s understanding the communities in which you operate. It’s not just oil and gas. It’s power, it’s petrochemicals, it’s transportation. It’s all of those tangential service companies that support these sectors as well.
I think really understanding the role that industry plays, what energy does, what it can do, and then providing that transparency is going to be the only way to move forward any kind of energy transition in a meaningful way. It’s akin to the industrial revolution. When’s the last time we did something that was this macro level, this coordinated. I’m not saying the industrial revolution was coordinated, but just think about the long term implications. We’ve never tackled a problem like this before. The only way to move forward, it’s not just oil and gas, it’s not just traditional energy however you define traditional energy. It’s understanding all the different market players and changing behavior at a very strategic level, and then involving everyone in the conversation. So it’s not going to be done through one unilateral change in one sector. It’s very collaborative and that’s one thing that I really want people to understand. I think it’s not just picking on the “big bad companies”, I’m an advocate for the good that they do and the opportunities that they seek as well.
Victoria: I have a bit of a contrarian view to you, Beth. I think the hidden risk is the law of unintended consequences, my biggest concern is that we as an industry, as a country, as a Western world are chasing answers without understanding the negative effects of those solutions that come with it. So case in point, if you think about airplanes and airplane travel 20 years ago when all of the airlines switched to plastic liquor bottles. On the plane there used to be those little airline bottles of gin or whiskey, or whatever it is that people would get, were served in glass and they switched it to plastic and saw a huge reduction in emissions and in fuel. Tremendous fuel savings because it went much lighter.
We now have this push towards, well, let’s get rid of plastic on the plane and go towards metal and glass because of the negative perceptions of plastic. Then all of a sudden what happens? We start consuming more fuel again. So, I think understanding not just the point, but the life cycle effects and the hidden risks is really critical because I feel like, in some ways, we’re jumping to solutions without understanding what the real problem is. So that’s one piece, that’s my contrarian duty.
Beth: No, I don’t think that’s contrarian. I think that’s important to highlight because we don’t want to rob Peter to pay Paul. We don’t want to push the problem down the road. We have talked about this before, a circular solution where you understand the full life cycle. Electrification, I don’t think it’s the answer necessarily but that’s the market we’re in right now.
Victoria: Like where’s the electricity coming from?
Beth: I agree with you.
Victoria: I think the other trend that’s emerging and I think people are becoming aware of it is the effects of the aging Chinese demographic on demand and market assumptions. In my adulthood and most of my career, China has been the growth market and it’s fueled growth from petrochemicals for energy, for fuels, for consumables. However, China’s population is aging dramatically. Their demands are decreasing and it is not the growth engine that it once was. John Richardson from episode 102 is a great one where we talk about the effect of this aging Chinese population and what it’s going to do to markets. I don’t think we’ve come to grips with that. What it really tells us is, we don’t need as much stuff as we used to. We’re in a world that’s geared up for a lot of production and not less production, so it’s going to be interesting to see where this goes.
Maggie: I go back to the risk is a dirty word podcast we had with Ashley and Leslie. What was interesting there for me is that there was three words they used in one conversation that I’ve never heard before. One was agile, one was innovation, and one was risk. I’ve never heard those three together, usually ones against the other ones against the other. When you’re talking about life cycle of products, life cycle of the customer segments and the aging populations and things, when you think about innovation sometimes you don’t get to do that. Ashley had defined innovation as doing something different. Then she talked about using agile, to be able to implement change quickly. So we know we need to do something different. We need to be able to implement it quickly and that then reduces the risk in certain situations. So it’s interesting.
There’s common threads in different things that we’ve brought up, but it’s all about considering that whole picture and being able to implement change quickly amongst any of those spokes in those wheels that might change or might cause a difference. One of our pillars for this podcast is leadership skills and trying to bring in some things that our listeners can do in, in terms of leadership and being better people ourselves. I was thrilled we were able to get Terry Traspisio on for one of our episodes. Terry was my writing instructor for a long time, and one of the things that she taught me, is to not disclaim. You can’t disclaim your work before you read it because there’s a feedback process.
Victoria: When you say you can’t disclaim. What does that mean?
Maggie: If I’m writing an email, it’s that initial disclaiming or you get up, Oh, I don’t think this presentation’s really good. She said, you don’t realize how much power you have in a room. If you just say what you want to say without qualifying it, it’s not fair to you. It’s not fair to your listeners to say, I really suck at this, but I’m going to make you listen anyway. One of the things that we really learned from her is don’t disclaim, whether you’re writing, whether you’re speaking, disclaimers should only go in legal work and that’s it. So we all need to stop disclaiming. Without disclaiming Victoria, anything in your podcast that you’ve learned from a leadership skill that you can share with our listeners?
Victoria: Yeah, it’s really the power of clarity and vision both inside your organization and with your partners. So tying into what you talked about earlier, when you talk about agility and innovation inside of a company, it’s challenging. What’s become really clear to me is that the way that we’re getting to green technologies and low carbon technologies is actually through partnership. Through bringing in small, agile companies and partnering. The only way a partnership really works is if you’re very clear and transparent and aligned. So it’s really that power of what your objectives are, what what you’re bringing to the table, and what you need your partners to bring to the table.
Kara: Maggie, you were talking about not disclaiming, for me what that says is we need to foster an inclusive environment where failing is acceptable. By failing, what I mean is we need to be able to see failures as learning opportunities. Not necessarily celebrate them, but to look at them, see how we can be better or be able to do that. The way that we need to do that is through having safe leadership environments and we’ve been talking a lot about this at my company. I haven’t brought it into the podcast yet, but I’m going to do it right now. It’s that psychological safety of being able to allow your team to see failure in a different light and to be able to pivot and to iterate on everything that they do and learn as they go. That’s one of the most powerful things, that safety net. You can talk about not only your failures, but the failures of the team and how you guys can avoid them and get better and improve over time.
What it does is it speeds up that turn and that agility and everything that happens, your innovation becomes more and more an intrinsic part of your team when you start to do that. It all comes back to, do you allow space for failure and do you allow space for talking about it on your team? It’s a leadership trait that I think everybody needs to invest more time in learning about, but also that we’ve talked about without actually putting a term to it in probably both of our podcasts. Making space for innovation and for failure and for everything that comes along with innovation as it goes through.
Victoria: I really like that. The thing that comes into my mind when you say this, it’s risk management. So we’ve already talked about risk management in a different context. But part of risk management is identifying the potential risks, what the consequences could be, and how you mitigate that. It’s not just our business, but it’s also our people. My parents were really good at whenever I faced something and had my own career challenges and life challenges, saying well, what’s the worst thing that’s going to happen? I was young and I was taking some risk. Okay. Well, the worst thing that’s going to happen is you have to sell your car. You move in with your brother and you go back to school. Like, that’s maybe the worst thing that’s going to happen at different points in my career. It’s been different things. So I live with that to a certain degree. I am definitely a risk taker. My motto would be when opportunity knocks, open the door. Part of that is to recognize, well, what’s the worst thing that’s going to happen?
Kara: A very interesting trick that I heard about is don’t ask the question once, don’t ask the question twice, go to the rock bottom sometimes. This is especially when developing, the group that taught me, and I don’t remember the name of the group, but their concept was an elevator. You’re going up and down. It’s an emotional rollercoaster and everything like that. But until you get to the ground floor of what is that base issue that’s driving that risk, whether it’s a personal behavior or a need or a value. You won’t be able to clearly understand why it’s holding you personally back if it is around people development. It’s just something to think about when you do those risk assessments. Don’t just stop at what you think is the worst. Try and go one step further because that could be the worst. Then it helps you to identify the fears that you have with that.
Beth: Well it’s your tolerance, right? What we’re talking about is risk tolerance. That’s one thing it’s difficult for me to understand, because our business is inherent with a whole lot of risk and a whole lot of failure. We’re comfortable with that, and we mitigate it to the point that we’re comfortable with it. Going back to the productivity conversation we had a few episodes ago. Cyber risk is not high on people’s radars. Why? They feel like it’s happening all the time and they’ve done everything they can do to mitigate it. They just have to tolerate that. It’s going to happen and they have to have a remediation and containment plan available for when it happens.
I think we just have to think about our tolerance for some of these issues. It’s not just the, like you said, what could go wrong? How far down does the elevator have to fall before we are just not tolerant of it falling anymore, and think of it that way. So what is the worst case scenario that we can accept and how are we going to mitigate that? Then that can reestablish our threshold for the tolerance. It’s just a conversation about understanding what risk we’re willing to take, because you have to make, in some cases, a very risky decision in order to reach some great rewards.
Maggie: I have to tell you some of the best advice I ever got from a leader, one of my mentors. It was when I was in sales, and sales is the hardest job ever because you are in front of the customer all the time while that customer is open. I was really stressed out one day and he says to me, Maggie, what’s the worst that can happen? They could kill you, and you know what, Maggie, they can’t kill you. Murder is illegal, they will go to prison. So like, if that’s the worst that can happen, it’s not that bad. And I was like, Ray, I see what you’re saying, but they’re calling me again and it’s 10 o’clock on a Friday night.
Kara: Usually the worst thing that I tell my team can happen is they say no. So your sales leadership was a little bit different training methods than what I bring to my team.
Maggie: They’ll go to prison. It’s illegal, Maggie. It’s like, okay, okay, I gotcha.
Kara: Like I said, sometimes you have to take it to the extreme to make it a little bit easier to understand that it’s not really that bad. So, Victoria, what you may or may not know is that we like to end on a fun note every single time. We like to make sure that we let our listeners get to know us a little bit more. So we usually end with a few fun questions. The whole idea behind this is to be short, quick, and responsive. We’re going to go around the room and all four of us will respond to all of these questions. So each one of us ask one question and answer. Let’s do it in under 30 seconds, ladies, each if not all together. Okay, so I’m going to start it off. If you could share a meal with anyone living or dead, who would that be? So I’ll start with Victoria.
Victoria: My dad, he died almost eight years ago and I would love to have another meal with him.
Kara: That’s a good choice, Maggie.
Maggie: Doug Flutie. No hands down Doug Flutie and Kennedy from MTV and Kennedy Saves the World podcast. Cause she’s smart.
Kara: I was going to ask if it was all at the same table, but you just answered that.
Victoria: Is this a Flutie hotness from his college days or is it something else?
Maggie: He just can do everything that he puts his mind to, except Dancing With the Stars. He was awful. I still watch, but awful.
Kara: Beth, what about you?
Beth: I am the same as Victoria, my dad.
Kara: Well, I would like to have a meal with a few different people all at the same table, cause I’d like to hear them all talk together. So I think that Oppenheimer, Jim Lovell, and I would like to also have one of the many different political leaders out there, just all at the same table, just to listen. I like hearing different points of view. I don’t know which political leader. I’ll throw Kennedy out there just because that’s what came to mind. Anyways, Maggie, what’s your question?
Maggie: What song do you sing at karaoke?
Beth: Surf. Wax. America.
Maggie: Nice. Victoria?
Victoria: I don’t have a karaoke song. Tell me your song. I might jump in and sing it with you.
Maggie: My song is Safety Dance, all day long.
Kara: Mine’s easy because I love it. It’s the Copacabana. I know it’s a very long song and everybody likes dancing to it. I just feel like I’m singing it right now in my head.
Beth: Have you heard Dave Grohl’s recent rendition? It’s awesome.
Kara: No, I haven’t. I literally have the baseline running through my head right now because we did it in show choir. I’ll have to do that.
Maggie: Beth, what do you got?
Beth: Oh, if you could have a warning label, what would yours be?
Victoria: Warning contents under pressure.
Beth: Oh, that’s a good one, Victoria. Maggie, what’s your warning label?
Maggie: Stay away. Unraveling chaos.
Beth: Kara, what’s your warning label?
Kara: Be prepared for sudden turns, because I do not think linearly, nor do I speak linearly. What about you?
Victoria: Where’s your next vacation?
Kara: I’m going to take a nice fun one. I’m going to Cape Canaveral, it’s just to get away from the hot of Houston. To go to a different beach and be hot there.
Maggie: I am going to Charleston to look for a house.
Kara: Is that vacation though? I’m just saying,
Maggie: I don’t know. I’m going to probably partake in food and drink down there. Look for my golf cart with many drink holders.
Kara: What about you, Victoria?
Victoria: I am going to London and Paris with my daughter.
Kara: Okay. You win. You win.
Victoria: Well, it was a trip that we were supposed to take in 2020, but we all know what happened in 2020, so we’re finally getting to it. Yay.
Beth: I’m going down to Texas. See some girlfriends, just get hotter.
Kara: It’s fine. It’s all right. Just tank tops and shorts and dresses. Sun dresses.
Victoria: Well, this has been a fun long conversation, but I think we got to know each other and I think the guests or the listeners of the Chemical Show and the listeners of the WEN podcast are both gonna learn a lot about each of us and our businesses and our industry and what we do. So, it’s been great getting to share the microphone with each of you. Thanks for doing this.
Kara: It is Victoria. Thank you.
Victoria: And thanks to everyone for reading. Keep reading, keep following, keep sharing, and we’ll talk to you again soon.
Beth Gould Creller: