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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.]

A native of Chennai, India, Sarah Karthigan was always fascinated by the role energy plays in improving lives across the world. 

“It touches nearly every aspect of modern life,” she said. “Since the industrial revolution, the oil and gas industry has played a pivotal role in the economic transformation of the world.” 

She added that she wanted to be part of a global business that could make a real-world impact. 

Karthigan moved to the U.S. for graduate school to pursue her goals. She has a master’s degree in electrical engineering from Tennessee Tech University. Her goals were further realized when she began studying data science at Harvard University. 

“I gained valuable hands-on knowledge of the artificial intelligence domain through this program,” she said. “Additionally, the Executive Leadership Program on Strategy & Innovation at Columbia Business School equipped me with the right leadership skills to lead change effectively in a global organization.” 

She gives thanks to Exxon Mobil for “investing in me to grow this unique blend of technical and leadership skills.” 


“Women bring different leadership skills and behaviors to the table that can be valuable to an industry focused on innovation and unlocking new ways of working. For any organization to compete, it needs top talent irrespective of gender. We know that diverse teams are more creative and more productive, but it’s not just diversity of gender. It’s diversity of thought that leads to balanced teams making better decisions. Staying true to myself and exhibiting courage of conviction to pursue business results has helped me overcome challenges throughout my career.” 

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Memorable moments 

“One of the biggest advantages of an Exxon Mobil career is the internal rotation program. They do a really good job at exposing you to different parts of the company and the underlying business environments we operate in. When I was in a strategic planning adviser role, I learned a lot about building a cohesive strategy and driving alignment across an organization of 7,000 plus IT employees. In my role as data science manager, I led a team of data scientists who worked on a diverse portfolio of use cases spanning the entire integrated oil and gas value chain.” 

Staying motivated 

“Oil and gas is an industry that is constantly innovating. Working with smart, talented people to solve the world’s toughest energy challenges keeps me motivated. I’m passionate about doing my part in preparing the world for a lower carbon energy future.” 

“Today the oil and gas industry has the opportunity to redefine its boundaries through digitalization. The industry has to continue to embrace digital technologies to drive energy innovation.” 

Best advice received 

“One of the best pieces of advice that I have received is about balancing results and relationships. Balanced leadership requires leaders to get to know their team members enough to understand what motivates each person. Those in the team motivated by results think, ‘If you do your job, I’ll believe in you’ while those motivated by relationships think, ‘If you believe in me, I’ll work hard for you.’ Understanding this balance is crucial to nurturing the best performance from each and every employee.” 

Tips for young professionals 

“Successful people are lifelong learners. Continuous learning is key to succeeding in the energy industry. You can learn from everybody, just need to keep your eyes open and stay humble. ‘Before honor is humility’ is one of my favorite quotes from the Bible. Stay humble, stay curious. You’ll be surprised at what you can learn from others.” 

Changing goals 

“My goals early in my career focused on innovating within the confines of the industry. My goals today have evolved into leveraging emerging technologies to transform the industry.”