Whether she’s landing a fluke shot on a Topgolf course or helping launch a company, Bernadette Johnson has sometimes been aided by a little luck in her successes. But for her, more powerful forces are also at work: determination, outspokenness, a razor-sharp analytical mind—and courage.
“Being courageous is important so you can actually accept an opportunity or challenge when it comes up,” she says. “My biggest career moves required a certain leap of faith, and it has worked out amazingly well.”
Johnson entered the workforce in 2008 after graduating from the Colorado School of Mines with a master’s degree in the international political economy of resources. (She earlier received a bachelor’s degree in economics from the same engineering and applied sciences school.)
Degrees in hand, Johnson began her professional journey as a senior energy analyst at Bentek Energy LLC and later held the same title at Sasco Energy Partners LLC.
Risky—and tricky—business: In 2012, just four years into her career, Johnson was given the opportunity to co-found Ponderosa Advisors LLC as a minority owner. She helped build the company into a successful energy analytics business that was sold in 2016 to Drillinginfo Inc., now known as Enverus.
“I always say it was luck as much as anything else, but when given the chance, I had the courage to jump in with both feet despite the risk and not knowing how it would play out,” Johnson recalls. “I am most proud of the success of the business both before and after acquisition.”
Launching the boutique advisory firm has been Johnson’s most difficult role to date.
“Starting a company—and everything that entails—is hard, even as a minority owner,” she says.
“The challenges are significant, but the satisfaction you get from helping to build something is also significant.”
Today, Johnson is vice president of Enverus’ strategic analytics department. She leads a group of 42 geoscientists, reservoir engineers, quantitative analysts, economists and market experts. Her team’s forward-looking mandate includes supply and demand forecasts, price forecasts, infrastructure tracking and regional price analysis.
“I always say it was luck as much as anything else, but when given the chance, I had the courage to jump in with both feet despite the risk and not knowing how it would play out.”
Following the leader: Before she became an executive, Johnson was exposed to the highly-capable and influential leadership styles of former bosses Porter Bennett and Jim Simpson. Bennett founded Bentek and was Johnson’s partner at Ponderosa Advisors. Simpson was Bennett’s partner at Bentek and led the team that Johnson worked on at the beginning of her career. Both men left an indelible mark on Johnson’s management style.
“Both are incredibly knowledgeable and taught me much of what I know about leading a team today,” she says. “When I think about exercising leadership, I do my best to emulate some of their best qualities.”
A key lesson: Early in Johnson’s career, she was given her first advisory project and was tasked with offering strategic advice about a pipeline asset and its future. The ambitious young analyst worked day and night to prepare a presentation for her client. She knew the information inside-and-out.
On presentation day, the room was filled with C-level midstream executives, who were taken aback by her thoroughness. Johnson was planning to inundate the group with more than 150 PowerPoint slides, each filled with information.
“My boss did not intervene ahead of time but definitely knew the content I had was far more than any reasonable person could present in the meeting,” Johnson recalls. “The first thing the client said was: ‘Is that number correct? Do you really have 150 slides? Never show up to a client with 150 slides.’
“It only took that one moment for me too see how outrageous that much information truly was. The meeting went well despite the early hiccup, and I learned a key lesson in brevity.”
And although working in the industry can be a challenge, Johnson says there’s no space she’d rather work in.
“I love the people, the tech, the pace of innovation, and the fact that energy is the world’s largest industry and the one upon which everything else is based.”