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Hart Energy OGI

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

Growing up in Pasadena, Texas, with a daily view of oil refineries, Stephanie Hertzog knew that the good jobs were in the oil and gas industry. Her father was a mechanical engineer at one of those local refineries, and her uncle was a chemical engineer and consultant in the energy industry.

Seeing their success, Hertzog knew she wanted to study engineering at an early age. She graduated from Texas A&M University with a chemical engineering degree in 1996 and began her career in the industry, where she rose through the ranks from being a process engineer to the executive office of Sodexo.

Hertzog stresses that young energy professionals should look for ways to build authentic relationships in their company, the broader industry and community, as well as personal life.

“These will become interchangeable later in your career,” she says.

Building a sense of community

“In the younger stages of my career, I pretended there was no difference being a woman in industry. In college, in an attempt to blend in and be treated the same as the men, I eschewed the Society of Women Engineers. However, when I had my first child in my early 30s, I finally realized I could benefit greatly from the collective-knowledge of the community of women that had blazed the trails before me.

“At the current stage of my career, it is all about embracing what makes our experience different and giving it a voice in hopes of building a sense of community for the young women coming up through the ranks today.”

Rough start, professional development

“I previously worked for a company that had been through two bankruptcies. I came in as head of strategy and was tasked with turning the company around. When the leader of one of the business lines unexpectedly quit, I was asked to ‘babysit’ this business because we weren’t sure whether we were going to keep or sell it. This ‘babysitting’ job turned into arguably the year of my career that contributed the most to my professional development.

“I was the only woman within a mile of this business and was significantly younger than the rest of the team. I had two fatalities on my first day; my first call with my team included introducing myself and telling them about the fatalities. I had employees expensing all kinds of inappropriate expenses. I had to direct the sites to take down the pin-up calendars in the break rooms.

“With time, I gained the respect of the team and we dug into the business. For the first time, we compared the operations and performance across all the branches and identified best practices. We worked on pricing and operational efficiency and ended up growing the bottom line by 25% that year.”

Grab a chair at the table

“My first job out of college was at Celanese. We had Monday morning meetings where everyone met in a conference room. I was new and didn’t think I had much value to add to these meetings, so I took a chair against the wall and spent the meeting observing the conversation.

“At the current stage of my career, it is all about embracing what makes our experience different and giving it a voice in hopes of building a sense of community for the young women coming up through the ranks today.” – Stephanie Hertzog

“My boss, Chip Wood, grabbed me after the meeting and said, ‘If there is a chair at the table, take it.’ He also said, ‘If you don’t say anything at the meeting, you didn’t need to be there. If you don’t have anything to contribute, ask a question.’ Tough love on the first week on the job but advice I’ve carried with me my entire career. Always take a seat at the table, and always ask a question.”

Moving forward

“We are at such an interesting time in our industry when we are still very much reliant on fossil fuels for affordable and accessible energy, and yet there is this strong push toward renewable sources and carbon responsibility.

“Now more than ever, we need to recruit the best and brightest to forge our path through the transition. We must become a more inclusive industry. We need a diverse set of ideas in the room to come up with the creative solutions that are necessary to tackle the issues at hand. We need to work on the inclusive nature of our company cultures to not only attract but also retain this talent.”

Three more things

1. My husband literally saved my life.

2. I’ve traveled to 60 countries and counting.

3. I was the captain of my high school drill team.

Women in Energy Hart Live

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