Women in top energy jobs cite technical, personal skills

Opportunities abound for women seeking fulfilling career paths in energy, but the trick is to acquire the needed personal and technical skills to make the next big step.

That was the message from women who’ve made that step into energy industry executive positions, and who spoke Tuesday at the 2012 Women’s Global Leadership Conference in Energy and Technology.

More than 400 people attended the conference at the Hyatt Regency Houston downtown.

Several shared their formulas for moving ahead in what historically has been a male-dominated profession.

Robbie Gries, founder and CEO of Colorado-based Priority Oil & Gas, a private exploration company, said that the success of her own company resulted from her recognition of her individual motivations and limitations.

“I learned early on that I had little tolerance for managers I didn’t respect,” Gries said. That desire for autonomy and to assume a leadership role helped inspire her to start her own company.

Sara Ortwein, president of ExxonMobil Upstream Research, emphasized the importance of continuing to develop a high level of technical skill.

“Be a master of your trade and understand what you do and how it fits into the business,” Ortwein said. “Learn from others how to improve on your weaknesses. There is no substitute for hard work and attention to detail — take a proprietary interest in your work and be accountable.”\

Randi Martinsen, a lecturer at the University of Wyoming and veteran energy consultant, said that she began studying geology out of love for the science at a time when she and others assumed that she would become a housewife.

Classmates criticized her later decision to leave academia for industry, saying that she would never be a real scientist, but she found that her passion for geology was fueled by the innovative work she got to do .

“It was so exciting,” Martinsen said. “You do the equivalent of a master’s thesis every six months in industry.”