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[Editor's note: Influential Women In Energy 2021 is a supplement to the May 2021 issue of Oil and Gas Investor magazine. Subscribe to the magazine here.]

When Beth Hickey graduated from McMaster University with a degree in chemical engineering, she was starting at a time of economic recession in her native Canada. Manufacturing job prospects were limited at best. Union Gas, the local natural gas distribution company, was one of the few companies recruiting new graduates at the time. 

“My college roommate and I dared each other to apply, and we were both hired,” Hickey said. 

While at Union, she spent a few years within the facility planning team, then moved to the gas control group. Finally, she ended up on the business side of the company working with the gas supply and pipeline transportation team. 

“This progression gave me great insights about how complicated and critical natural gas and its infrastructure are to the economy,” she said. “I was hooked.” 

“As women in the workplace, regardless of the industry in which we work, it is imperative that we foster an environment that allows our fellow female professionals to excel.” 

Supportive leadership 

Now a U.S. citizen, becoming naturalized in 2018, Hickey’s current role is executive vice president of U.S. Gas Pipelines with Energy Transfer, one of the most notable pipeline companies in the world. She is responsible for the commercial initiatives for the Energy Transfer U.S. gas pipeline fleet. 

“I have worked on this team in some capacity at various levels for almost 14 years. During this time, the leadership at Energy Transfer has continually supported my professional development by involving me in every commercial aspect of the gas pipeline business and encouraging further personal development by supporting me in obtaining my MBA,” she said. “They have also trusted and empowered me to build an incredibly talented and dedicated commercial team. It is this same trust and faith placed in my abilities that I strive to provide to my team to help them develop, advance and achieve their goals.” 

Facing challenges 

“Women all wear many different hats of responsibility in our personal and professional lives. At home we are moms, daughters, spouses and friends. At work our responsibilities are defined by our role or assignment. For years I tried to keep these worlds separate, not allowing my personal hat to be seen in my professional work environment and vice versa. It was exhausting. At work I was always feeling guilty that I was not at home caring for my family, and at home with my family I felt distracted by work issues. 

“When I moved to Texas to continue my career in energy that all changed. The professional environment in Texas accepted and encouraged the blending of the two worlds and ultimately fostered a caring and extremely dedicated workforce. For an organization, like Energy Transfer, this is an incredibly powerful advantage in an extremely competitive industry. As a leader, it is now one of my top priorities to cultivate this atmosphere and know and care for my team and their families.” 

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Memorable project 

Hickey said working on the Rover Gas Pipeline, which connects the Marcellus and Utica basins to the Midwest, Canada and the Gulf is a highlight of her career. At the time of development, Rover was the largest infrastructure project in the country. 

“I was involved from inception to in-service and continue to oversee the management of Rover today,” she said. “This was my first in-depth exposure to infrastructure project development of this magnitude. This experience instilled in me a huge sense of pride in our team and industry. I was able to see firsthand the employment opportunities created in the communities where the pipeline was constructed.” 

Mentors at home 

“My parents always taught me to work hard. I grew up in a traditional home where my dad worked and my mom was the main caregiver for the family. My dad was a college teacher and he did what he loved to do, teach. As our family grew and required less attention, my mother became requalified as a registered nurse and went back to work doing what she loved, caring for people. Watching both my parents provide for their family in careers they loved, having fun and always making time for our family has inspired me to be passionate about my work, my family, my friends and to enjoy the ride.” 

Formative experience 

“I once worked at a company where no one knew their coworkers, no one said good morning or hello, and no one knew each other. I spent a number of years at this company, and when we ultimately parted ways, I promised myself that I would never work in an environment like that again. I am that person who makes eye contact and small chat in the elevator, the parking garage and the coffee room. I make it a point to walk around our workplace smiling and saying hi to my coworkers. We work far too hard for far too many hours a week to not enjoy ourselves and build personal relationships with the people at work. Building relationships and trust is a key ingredient to successful leadership of any team at any level of an organization.” 

Career goals 

“My goals have transformed over time. At the beginning of my career, it was really about survival. This shifted into a quest for knowledge and understanding. At some point I developed more specific goals like managing and growing a natural gas storage and transportation asset. This goal then grew into managing a bigger book of assets. While I never set a personal goal of increasing my leadership role, this happened organically over time from being given opportunities to manage larger parts of the business. Realizing that there are many people impacted by your decisions and demeanor in an executive leadership position is a big responsibility that I take very seriously. Now my task goals of managing assets profitably are intertwined with personal goals of being an accessible leader who inspires creativity and problem solving, teaches industry acumen and has a lot of fun along the way.”