Shortly after Andrejka Bernatova joined her first portfolio company, the CEO asked her what she wanted to be in life. She responded, “I want to be where you are.” To seek a lesser role would be uninspiring. “Who wants to be No. 2? I want to drive the bus one day.”
Bernatova’s achievements and prominence in the U.S. energy sphere are both unlikely and a testament to her persistence. Last year Bernatova, as CFO, led the recapitalization of Goodnight Midstream LLC, a blue chip water infrastructure company. Before that, in 2015, she was instrumental in the $225 million IPO of PennTex Midstream Partners LP and its eventual sale to Energy Transfer Partners LP and EagleClaw Midstream LLC for more than $1 billion combined.
Her drive is perhaps best illustrated in her childhood. While growing up in a small village in Czechia, then known as Czechoslovakia, Bernatova, at 14, rode her bicycle from business to business to raise $6,000 in sponsorships to study abroad for a year in the U.S., an opportunity that became available to eastern Europeans only after the fall of communism.
Following her experience in the U.S., she was later denied a scholarship to a prominent boarding school in Switzerland, but Bernatova was not deterred. For 10 months she sent weekly, handwritten letters to the headmaster who ultimately acquiesced and awarded her a full scholarship.
She studied government at Harvard University on full scholarship, and while there she led a global information technology-focused project at the World Bank in Washington, D.C. But she didn’t feel she could make a daily impact at such organizations. “It’s nice to philosophize about how the world should look, but I wanted a tangible job with a real skillset and an actual task,” she says.
Upon graduation she joined the financial industry as an M&A investment banker with Credit Suisse before becoming an investor at The Blackstone Group in New York and later at Mubadala/Masdar, a sovereign wealth fund based in Abu Dhabi. Ultimately, she decided to fully focus on energy and moved to Houston in 2011 to work as an energy investment banker for Morgan Stanley.
With a skillset of strategic and financial solutions for the energy industry, Bernatova wanted to have an even more meaningful impact in the industry. “I’m not naturally wired to be an advisor,” she says. “I’m very direct; I like to drive real efforts toward real results.” That motivation led her to PennTex, where she joined a management team as vice president of finance and investor relations and could develop operating and business-building experience.
When she first arrived in Houston, she didn’t know anyone in the energy space, and they didn’t know her. Nine years later, that has changed, she says. “This is a welcoming sector. It’s a community that welcomes people who work hard. If you want to see results, make sure you put in the effort.”
Bernatova is married with two sons. She left Goodnight last summer and is currently advising and investing in the energy technology and infrastructure space as well as developing a platform involving a confluence of technology, power, renewables, and oil and gas. The energy sector “is going through a significant transformation,” she says, “and I want to play a role in driving that.”
Bernatova compares her life today to a 180- mile, five-day ultramarathon she once ran through the Saharan Desert. “I didn’t really appreciate the consequences of my decision at that point,” she confesses. “It pushed my limits beyond my imagination.” Packing all of her gear and food, she ran hours each day through 120-degree heat. “You truly wanted to quit every step of the way.”
That experience defines her, she says. “It’s just taking it step by step. It’s hard work; you’ve got to put in the effort. Set your sights on a goal and don’t quit until you achieve it, no matter how hard or painful it may be.
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