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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.]

Mari Salazar isn’t sure if her entrance into the oil and gas industry was pure luck or divine intervention. After starting as an analyst at Comerica bank in both the energy and energy loan workout group, she’s risen to become a senior vice president with BOK Financial’s Energy Financial Service group.

“A friend was taking a promotion and her energy analyst position at Comerica bank became available,” she recalled. “I didn’t have a clue what they did, but the work sounded interesting.”

She said her goals when starting out remained simple. “My goal after my very first day in energy was to figure out what all the acronyms meant. It was as if people were speaking another language,” she continued. “Today I hope to pass on the same passion and love I have for the industry to the next generation. My greatest joy comes from working with analysts and mentoring college students.”

“What I love about the energy industry is that it is continually adapting and self-correcting. It is, in many ways, pure Econ101. The big focus today is ‘going green.’ However, going green and oil and gas are not diametrically opposed.” 

Major milestone 

“I was a portfolio manager for many years and happy in the role. About 15 years ago, my boss approached me and asked if I would ever consider moving into a relationship manager role. I responded with hesitation at my ability to be able to transition. His response was priceless. ‘Well, you may not realize it, but you’re already doing the role. You just aren’t getting paid.’ His confidence in me, along with a nudge, placed me on the path to where I am today.”

Overcoming challenges 

“At its core, oil and gas is an optimistic, always changing and adapting industry. After 20-plus years in energy, I’m still learning, and that makes it fun,” she said.

Salazar said she handles challenges in her profession “sometimes with humor but always with steadfast perseverance,” and she has been “fortunate to be part of an industry that, more often than not, was focused on my abilities to execute over anything else.”

Memorable moments 

“The projects I have most enjoyed during my career involve teaching and helping others succeed. 

I have enjoyed working, training, mentoring and helping analysts develop. I have worked with many young people, and while many have moved on, I still keep up with a lot of them. Watching them succeed now has been my greatest accomplishment.” 

Father’s encouragement 

“I have had the opportunity to work with some amazing people. Many have served as mentors at different points of my career. Perhaps my best mentor was my father. Like so many of the people I sought advice from in my career, my father kept it simple. His advice was always about doing the right thing, treating people with respect, taking responsibility and consistently putting forth your best.” 

Professor’s advice 

“The best advice I received was from my economics professor. He looked at my schedule and asked, ‘What do you want to do when you graduate?’ When I answered, ‘banker,’ he crossed out the extra business classes and substituted golf and acting 101. He said, ‘If you’re going to be a banker, you need to be able to communicate...on a golf course.’” 

Formative experiences 

“I credit my education at the University of St. Thomas (Houston), a liberal arts education that focuses on developing the entire person. Many of my required courses included ethics, philosophy, logic, golf, theology, science, etc. In many ways, they pull you out of your textbooks and make you think.” 

Industry transformation 

“Energy companies are always looking to become more efficient, mitigate risks and drive down costs while building a lasting infrastructure. Like many things before, ‘green’ will be incorporated into the energy business model.” 

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