When Heather Powell began her career at Chesapeake Energy Corp. in 2004, her plan was to work temporarily, save money and apply to law schools. But soon after she began working, her passion for learning and professional growth sparked her interest toward the scope and opportunity in the oil and gas industry.
“I set a goal to meet someone in each department within the company and began inviting them to lunch. They loved free food and were excited to share knowledge from their discipline. Before long, not only had I formed a network of intelligent and wonderful people, but I was also continuously learning and expanding my knowledge of the industry,” she says. Powell recalls that her then boss and long-term mentor Larry Coshow recognized her passion and suggested she pursue energy management at The University of Oklahoma. Ever since, there’s been no looking back for Powell.
She believes one of her greatest career milestones is building Ventana E&P LLC from scratch. “Having a group of investors and board members that believe in me and our team enough to back us not once but twice is extremely humbling. The company’s growth would not be possible without such an incredible team of people who I not only consider teammates, but also family,” she says.
Under her leadership, Ventana launched its organic acquisition strategy in late 2016, building a portfolio of about 7,000 net acres and over 2,000 wells. In February 2019, the company closed a new round of equity capital and has raised over $150 million to date. “I thrive in an entrepreneurial culture where I know each day I need to bring something to the table that adds value,” she says.
Prior to working at Ventana, Heather performed different roles across land, business development and regulatory functions for RKI E&P LLC, which later merged with WPX Energy Inc. Powell says that her mentors in the industry have played an instrumental role in shaping her career. “I have always felt I have been given opportunities based on merit, grit and being the best person for the job,” she says.
However, Powell recalls that when she decided to start a family after marriage, the company’s management was concerned whether or not she could maintain professional standards as a working mother. She had to remind the male officials how they had “done just fine while being fathers.” With determination and diligence, the mother of four proved their doubts wrong and made her way up in the energy industry. “Due to the gender gap, it just wasn’t as common for women to work outside the home but if they did it would be in an administrative, part time or teaching role. However, there has been some progress over the years on that front,” she says.
Outside the office, Powell supports several oil and gas organizations that are actively engaged in bringing awareness to the energy industry and providing continuing education and networking, such as the Petroleum Alliance of Oklahoma, Oklahoma City Association of Professional Landmen, Energy Explorers and ADAM-OKC Energy Network. Powell and her husband are also avid supporters of the YMCA and its efforts in strengthening the community.
Powell understands the benefits of America’s energy independence, and she is committed to being a part of the industry, finding ways of producing energy in a cleaner, efficient and economic manner. “Those who don’t keep up with technology, innovation and environmental concerns are likely to fail. So continuously studying these impacts and changes to the industry is vitally important to me,” she says.
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