Resilience – little appreciated, but vitally important to a successful career

I was recently invited to speak at a Women in Oil and Gas event in Perth on the topic of ‘A Resilient Oil and Gas industry is built on Diversity and Inclusion’.  

The definition of resilience is the ability to return to the original state after being bent or stretched, or the ability to recover quickly from adversity.

If there is one industry where resilience is vital, it’s the oil and gas industry. It is characterised by dramatic oil price swings, unexpected changes and extreme volatility.

As a woman who has worked in the oil and gas industry for over 25 years, I was able to offer some perspectives to the audience based on my own personal experience and my quest to remain resilient despite the commodity cycles, through the ups and downs, across several career changes and while raising three children along the way.

Growth mindset – a key to resilience

Melbourne Business School’s Professor of Marketing Jill Klein has published research on resilience, finding it is a trait common in people who possess a growth mindset – a belief your abilities are not fixed, and that they can grow.

A growth mindset has been key to my ability to persevere and to be resilient despite the ups and downs. Furthermore, resilient leadership helps make others more resilient. It is vital that a leader possess a growth mindset to positively influence the team’s outcomes.

Developing different perspectives

My career journey can be characterised into three distinct phases:  working “in”, “on” and “with” the industry:

I started my journey by working “in” the industry:
I initially focused on learning the industry details and fundamentals as an engineer, and by going on to obtain graduate degrees in engineering and an MBA. I developed a strong work ethic. I learned early that working harder and being high performing enables a person to leap over any disadvantage.

Working in the industry helped me develop a deep understanding of how it actually operated. I said “yes” and took a series of assignments in actual operations in the field and in headquarters roles in the United States and internationally. When my first child was eight months old, I moved to Singapore to work in a world-scale refinery where I was an operations supervisor of a team of 25 men. Most of the team had worked in that refinery their entire career and knew every pipe, valve and control system intimately. I learned so much about safety and reliability of operations from that team. The experience of making quick operational decisions was simultaneously daunting and empowering. I often say I got another degree while working in that role.

I moved on to working “on” the industry:
I then made a change from working for an oil and gas operator to a consulting career. This change enabled me to develop a wider perspective. I continued to develop my passion for the industry by working on it from the outside-in.

Through this period I had the privilege of working with close to 80 companies globally, and I developed a wide network of peers, allies and friends. These relationships were based on a keen desire to learn from and collaborate with each other and the development of mutual respect. As a result of this experience, I now have what I call my “Board of Directors” based in several countries, including here in Australia, who advise me on my key life and career decisions.

I am now at a stage where I am working “with” the industry:
The next step in developing resilience was driven by a desire to impact the industry on a macroscopic level. I am now looking beyond the operator and producer perspective to a broader set of stakeholders including regulators, government, academics, NGOs and oil and gas industry customers.

I am focused on macro-level collaboration, developing industry research, and am engaging in a wide range of conversations, speaking at conferences and helping to create a platform for the Australian oil and gas industry to advance.

Resilience, growth mindset and diversity and inclusion are all connected

My career has been based on an ability to be resilient, to have a growth mindset, and to surround myself with and be connected to people who are also willing to grow. Over time, I developed an extensive network of relationships and a deep mutual respect for many people in the industry which has further catalysed my growth.

There is a famous quote about diversity and inclusion which I love and try to live by:

“Diversity is sometimes about counting people. Inclusion is always about making people count.” – Steve L. Robbins

By valuing others, and by making everyone count, we create the framework for mutual respect and mutual success. This, coupled with a growth mindset, are keys to a resilient career and a resilient oil and gas industry.

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