True GRIT: Four women and one team recognized for leadership

ABOVE: Steering committee members, from left: Lee McAuliffe, senior geologist, Viscous Development; Andre Brown, staff project lead, GKA Projects; Xindi Benavente, staff process engineer, Capital Support Engineering; Marina Ramirez, senior geophysicists, Coiled Tubing Development; Cameron Reitmeier, staff project lead, GKA Projects: Elizabeth Lopez, senior admin assistant, AK Capital Projects and DNA founder; and David Wulf, HSE Manager – Alaska and one of the group’s executive sponsors. Not pictured: Jerome De La Cruz, supt., AK Asset Integrity; Becky Cook, Kuparuk) Dianne Kiana (Alpine) and Anelis Comeau (Aviation)
by Jan Hester

On Oct. 10, when Experience Energy announced its 2019 GRIT Award recipients, four ConocoPhillips women and one team were recognized, chosen by a panel of industry judges from more than 300 global nominations.

The individual GRIT Awards were created to recognize women leaders in energy and the men who advocate for their progress. To qualify for a team GRIT Award, groups must demonstrate support and embrace collaboration, diversity and inclusion.

ConocoPhillips 2019 GRIT Award recipients share their thoughts on leadership

According to recent research, humble leaders listen more effectively, inspire great teamwork and focus everyone — including themselves — on organizational goals better than leaders who don’t score high on humility.

Humility is a common thread that runs through these women’s experiences and part of what makes them great leaders who are humble in their acceptance of such recognition.

Mel Bechberger
Mel Bechberger

Mel Bechberger, staff geologist on the Alaska Kuparuk Coiled Tubing Development team, said being nominated for the award filled her with a sense of pride. “I have always been passionate about diversifying the STEM pipeline, and I was going to put forth this extra effort regardless of recognition, because that’s what a GRITTY leader does. Having friends and coworkers all over the world congratulate me feels extra special.”

Mel believes the best leaders are trustworthy and continuously learning.

“It takes a lot of hard work to get good at leading others. As soon as you think you have a handle on it, your boss (or life) will throw you a curveball. Good leaders constantly grow and adapt.”

Mel acknowledges that across many industries women are underrepresented in leadership. “There are everyday things we can do to change this, but there also needs to be institutional change. And you don’t have to be in leadership to lead. Pave your own path. Find where you can make a difference and go for it! You might even get nominated by a coworker for an award.”

Karen Blackburn, now in her 18th year with ConocoPhillips, is supervisor of the Gulf Coast Asset Integrity, Project Quality & Technical Safety group.

Karen Blackburn
Karen Blackburn

“I was honored and surprised to be nominated and winning has been an invigorating experience. Hard work and perseverance do pay off.”

Karen inspires others by treating them with the same care she would expect, equally and transparently. She sets the same expectations across the board.

“My primary role is to work with my team as a group and as individuals to help them develop through challenging experiences while we deliver on our goals — and hopefully have some fun along the way.”

During a keynote address at the 2017 Women’s Global Leadership Conference in Houston, Karen heard an unsettling statistic: by the age of 40, more than 50% of women in STEM careers leave their jobs.

“Knowing that the number of women in STEM careers is low in the first place, this was disheartening. We need women and men to succeed in leadership roles to inspire and motivate people in the oil and gas industry — to help them want to come to work every day to be the best versions of themselves.”

Amy Rhodes joined ConocoPhillips as a geophysicist in 2006 and currently supervises a team that develops oil and gas on Alaska’s North Slope.

Amy Rhodes

“I get to work with really brilliant and kind people on challenging technical problems. I definitely feel fortunate.”

Her favorite thing about this award was being nominated by her peers. “Also, to win with women I admire so much. I am grateful.”

How does Amy inspire others through leadership? “There is no secret, just a lot of hard work and practice — and not taking yourself too seriously.” Her mantras are “knowledge is power” and “something needs to change here, and it’s probably me.”

Amy believes self-awareness is critical in a leader. “Second is courage. Being a GRITTY leader means not shying away from hard topics.”

She believes effective leadership is critical to the planet’s future, “where global issues demand effective energy solutions. We all need role models to look up to, see ourselves clearly and feel empowered to use our gifts to improve the world around us.”

Georgina Scorer assumed her current role as director of Unconventional Reservoir Excellence in 2018. She is also part of the Global Geoscience Talent Management team.

Georgina Scorer
Georgina Scorer

Being nominated by peers and colleagues means a lot to Georgina. “It shows that they value the efforts and initiatives I lead and support. Being selected as a winner motivates me to continue striving to drive cultural change and support others through mentoring, career development and technical training.”

Georgina’s secret to inspiring others is being open, transparent, honest and approachable. “It’s walking the talk when it comes to working hard but demonstrating good work-life balance and understanding that family comes first. It’s being enthusiastic and open to new ideas, embracing new ways to work and motivating people.”

Georgina believes leaders should be genuine and understand their strengths and weaknesses. “After that it’s about being present, willing to give your team what they need to excel, supporting them and lifting them up when needed.”

She also thinks having women in leadership roles will inspire the next generation to get into STEM fields and will “bring the right mix of talent into the energy industry of the future.” 

Founded in 2012, the Diversity Network of Alaska (DNA) highlights Alaska’s cultural diversity through programs that celebrate people’s differences, values and experiences.

“Our membership numbers have grown over the past year, due in part to ConocoPhillips’ companywide focus on diversity and inclusion,” said Elizabeth Lopez, senior administrative assistant, Alaska Capital Projects and DNA founder. “We now have 117 members and we’ve worked to bring in voices from outside the company as well, including speakers from the Anchorage police department, the city’s mayor, United Way and Native corporations. This is very important here in Alaska because we are so culturally diverse.”

The network highlights diversity in leadership as well as the workplace. DNA — one of twelve global networks across the company — organized chat-style talks with Alaska leadership and went outside the organization to invite the first female to command nearby Elmendorf Air Force Base to address the group. “Her message resonated because she spoke about the importance of being proactive, proper mentorship, understanding differences and having an open mind,” said Marina Ramirez Medina, senior geophysicist, Coiled Tubing Development and DNA steering committee member.

The network also formed an alliance with Alaska Resource Education, a nonprofit whose mission is to “ignite and inspire” young minds about Alaska’s natural resources.