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[Editor's note: Influential Women In Energy 2023 is a supplement to the February 2023 issue of Oil and Gas Investor magazine. Subscribe here.]
A veteran leader in the oil and gas sector, Barbara Baumann took the reins as the independent chair of Devon Energy Corp. in January—a feather in the cap of a distinguished career.
She did not follow the traditional route to the top of the shale industry, however.
Baumann graduated from Mount Holyoke College and then the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, looking to jumpstart a successful finance career.
And she did just that, but she found her way to the oil patch rather than Wall Street.
Baumann built her career at Amoco Corp. (now BP). Now, she is president of the energy advisory firm Cross Creek Energy Corp., a director of National Fuel Gas Co. and an independent trustee of the Putnam Mutual Funds. She first joined the Devon board in 2014.
“Interviewing for my first post-business school job in the early 1980s in a shaky economy, I was focused on finding a well-capitalized giant corporation with a treasurer’s finance department that did sophisticated international project financings. I was naively indifferent to what the corporation ‘did,’ so my interviewing net caught a panoply of multinational energy, computer and car-manufacturing companies. I chose a role as a treasury department analyst in the Chicago headquarters of Amoco Corp. (now BP).
"Amoco was doing some really innovative things in its treasury department, and the company had a very large presence in my hometown, Denver, so a potential future transfer there seemed like icing on the decision cake. Less than two years later, I eagerly moved into the heart of Amoco’s E&P operations. Incidentally, during the economic swoon of the mid-1980s, most of the huge car and computer companies whose job offers I considered went bankrupt or were sold.”
"In becoming a potentially attractive candidate for a board role and an effective director, I learned from every supervisor, decision-maker and/or colleague during my career who used thoughtful, open-ended questions with me to get to the heart of what really mattered in a decision."—Barbara Baumann
Dealing with a male-dominated industry
“I’ve approached it with even doses of tolerance and humor, along with an occasional call-out, when appropriate. Also, I've been propelled by a deeply felt determination to prove naysayers wrong.”
“Leading one of Amoco’s six North American E&P business units—not just as the first woman, but as the first E&P operations business unit leader who was not a geoscientist or engineer—was a career milestone. I also took on the role of CFO of Ecova, Amoco’s environmental remediation and hazardous waste disposition company, way back in the early infancy of those businesses, more than 30 years ago.
“Another career milestone, looking back, was joining my first public company board in 2002. In becoming a potentially attractive candidate for a board role and an effective director, I learned from every supervisor, decision-maker and/or colleague during my career who used thoughtful, open-ended questions with me to get to the heart of what really mattered in a decision. That single skill, acquired by osmosis, has proven invaluable to me in board work.”
“Our business is such a remarkable combination of facts and unknowns. Plus, it’s ever-changing, given the volatility of the price of our products and the rapidly changing technology of our business. I can’t name another business that is so dependent on developing the right concoction of science, risk-taking, engineering and creativity. But the real secret sauce? Effective personal relationships.”
Advice for young professionals
“First, seek out detours. Find a way to get off the traditional career ladder in your company. In taking one or more of those leaps, you’ll turbo-charge your learning curve, you’ll expand your sphere of influence and influencers, and your fresh eyes will add a lot to what your organization is trying to accomplish. Second, try to offer a solution whenever you raise a problem or impediment, but then authentically ask for and be open to better options. Perhaps most importantly, if the culture doesn’t feel right, find another workplace altogether.”
Three more things
1. I have an insatiable appetite for reading fiction. I seek out well-written novels, sure, but I’m also completely content with a formulaic mystery in my hands.
2. I served as a White House intern during President Gerald Ford’s administration.
3. I’m an eager skier, hiker and golfer.
View the full list of this year’s honorees at Hart Energy LIVE.
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