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Oil and Gas Investor

[Editor's note: Influential Women In Energy 2023 is a supplement to the February 2023 issue of Oil and Gas Investor magazine. Subscribe here.]

As someone whose passion is to serve others, Heetal Patel lives by the motto “if you’ve been fortunate to get a ride on the elevator, don’t forget to send it back down.” Her mission is to make a difference in the communities she’s lived in, build motivated high-performing teams, and drive positive change for women in the energy industry.  

Patel joined Exxon Mobil in 2009 after graduating from the University of Michigan with a degree in industrial and operations engineering. Over her 13-year career at Exxon Mobil, she has held various international and domestic roles in the upstream sector, including positions in project management, production operations and strategy and planning. Today, as senior project manager of a diverse and global team, she is responsible for the development and execution of a $1 billion project portfolio for Exxon Mobil’s downstream and chemical manufacturing sites in Baton Rouge, La.

Patel devotes much of her personal time supporting nonprofit organizations and serves on the Emerging Leaders Steering Committee of Spindletop Community Impact Partners—a nonprofit whose purpose is to enhance the lives of at-risk youth through funding and volunteering from the energy industry. 

Facing industry challenges

“I’ve worked in many different locations around the world—Qatar, Australia, Papua New Guinea, East Texas, West Texas/New Mexico, Houston and Baton Rouge. Being a woman, particularly a woman of color, in the engineering and construction management sectors of our industry has been challenging at times. The sum of my experiences has taught me that change comes when you act, and that action can come in many forms. It can mean speaking up for yourself and for others or being intentional in your decision-making processes. Regardless of how I choose to show up, I remind myself that inclusion and creativity is what will unlock solutions that will ultimately change the world—and that is a powerful motivator. I am also fortunate to work for a company that values diversity and inclusion and is vested in my success as much as I am.”

"The sum of my experiences has taught me that change comes when you act, and that action can come in many forms." —Heetal Patel

Setting career goals

“Early on in my career, I focused on being a sponge and worked hard to build a diverse network of mentors—people from all walks of life, different points in their careers and internal and external to the energy industry. Today, my goals are centered around creating a more inclusive culture, connecting people and advocating for others. I ask myself these two questions: What am I doing to create an environment for diverse thinking, and how am I developing the next generation of diverse leaders? These two things will be crucial to solving the challenges ahead.”

Impactful projects

“One of my most memorable and impressionable work experiences was my first major capital project with Exxon Mobil. At $19 billion, this project had a transformative impact on the country of Papua New Guinea. It brought long-term economic growth, educational and skill development programs and strategic community investments that aimed to create a better life for the people of Papua New Guinea. Being a part of this project showed me how important the work we do really is—not only providing energy to the world, but also helping communities make lasting change that benefit generations to come.”

Transforming energy

“Today, energy from fossil fuels is the engine that drives global growth, and it has lifted billions of people out of poverty. That is something to be proud of.  However, as energy professionals, we are now faced with the trilemma of providing affordable, reliable AND sustainable energy. I believe that we have the talent and capability to solve this challenge. Innovation and technology, along with regulatory and policy support, will play a significant role in the coming years. To thrive, our industry must develop low carbon value chains through testing and scaling and explore new business models. Curiosity, willingness to fail fast and learn, and collaborative partnerships will be key enablers. I am excited to participate in the technology breakthroughs and new business models that will shape our future.”

Three more things

1. Growing up working in my parents’ small manufacturing facility, I learned early on that there is no substitute for hard work and grit. 
2. I’ve learned to appreciate and celebrate the failures just as much as the wins.
3. I’ve been told my superpower is leading with empathy. 

25 Influential Women in Energy

View the full list of this year’s honorees at Hart Energy LIVE.