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Oil and Gas Investor

[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.]

Jennifer McCarthy, the daughter of two math teachers, recalls her mother encouraging her to enroll in a curriculum heavy in math and science. The Lafayette, La., native admits that even though she grew up surrounded by the oil and gas industry, she really didn’t have a deep understanding of it.

Today she’s president and COO of Alta Resources, so it’s safe to say she learned the nuances of the industry in short order.

“After applying to several colleges of engineering, I chose to attend Texas A&M and major in mechanical engineering,” she said. “About a month before heading off for my first semester, ‘we’ received a call from the Petroleum Engineering department with an offer of a small scholarship that set me on the path to where I am today. The pitch was simple, they wanted to target women to encourage a more diverse class. In truth, I never actually heard the school’s pitch because my mom answered the phone and unilaterally agreed to change my major.”

“Energy education is being done, but with a big bias. We need to speak out and play a role in this.”

Challenging experiences

McCarthy said she suspects most women in oil and gas have experienced similar challenges.

“I interned offshore when I was 19 so I experienced my share of challenging times; however, I enjoy being underestimated and have been known to use it to my benefit,” she said. “On a business flight many years ago, I randomly sat next to a recruiter. We made small talk and by the end of the flight I knew he had been retained to replace a C-suite position for a well-known public oil company. He never asked what I did until we were walking off the plane; he then got really quiet and quickly begged that I keep the details of his assignment confidential. Being underestimated usually means the other side relaxes and lets their guard down...that’s not always a bad thing.”

A big deal

In 2017 Alta purchased Anadarko’s Appalachian assets. It was a more than $1 billion acquisition with a large number of producing wells, employees and a substantial field office.

“Many don’t realize Alta placed that offer with only eight full-time employees,” she said. “Lots of hard work, sweat and tears went into that transition.”

Career milestone

McCarthy cites presenting to George Mitchell at an investor meeting as a memorable milestone in her career.

“I was well prepared for the investor meeting, having been given input ranging from which side to sit on to keeping the topics quick and reading the room. It was amazing to see this incredible leader in our industry, the person responsible for revolutionizing the world of shale exploration, focusing on cost control and safety,” she said.

“He started and ended the meeting making sure I understood his main concerns and his plan to address them. He was right on every challenge he anticipated we would face.”

Industry perspective

“Our industry’s ability to solve problems that impact every individual on our planet is pretty important stuff. Access to energy lifts the world from poverty, and we should want other developing countries to have the same access to energy as we do here in the United States. The oil and gas industry provides affordable, abundant and reliable energy, and I am proud to play a role in that.

“Now, we would be blind not to see the energy transition happening around us, but North America remains the best place for the production of fossil fuels. The regulations around our industry here provide for the safest, most transparent and environmentally friendly development of resources.

“Developing countries will desire energy, and they will continue to look to fossil fuels. Our industry must be here to provide that fuel in the most environmentally friendly way while continuing to focus on important stats on methane and CO₂ emissions.”

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