Rachel Collins

CEO, W Energy Software
Influential Women in Energy

In late 2022, W Energy Software was struggling. The company was overwhelmed by change that included new private equity owners and an acquisition—Seven Lakes Technologies—that the staff was working to integrate into operations. Employee attrition was high, morale and profitability were low.

Into this phase of adversity stepped the new CEO, Rachel Collins.

“I have a history of taking on challenging situations,” Collins said. “It makes you inherently more positive and unafraid to face the hard tasks head-on.”

Over the next year, she would lead a comprehensive turnaround. The customer net promoter score increased by 20 points, employee attrition fell from 24% to 2%, and both free cash flow and profitability returned to health.

The company’s culture also began to transform, based on principles in Kyle McDowell’s book, “Begin With WE: 10 Principles for Building and Sustaining a Culture of Excellence.” Principle No. 1: WE do the right thing. Always. In McDowell’s words, “The right thing is not always easy to determine and usually not the easiest path, but it’s the only path to get people to rally behind you consistently and authentically.”

Collins has pursued numerous goals in her career, but finding the easiest path does not appear to be one of them. In her mid-20s, she founded Aspire Technology, which eventually grew to a multimillion-dollar enterprise. The company developed large energy trading applications for Dynegy and Reliant Energy, as well as a case management system for Christus Health and an accounts payable workflow solution for Encana.

“It was a remarkable experience because I learned every aspect of running a company—sales, payroll, international taxes, marketing, etc.,” she said.

Collins wound down the company after seven years when she gave birth to two daughters, 18 months apart. She ventured into a behind-the-scenes role in private equity where she learned to successfully integrate acquisitions. She also learned that careers and life may not work out as planned, but still work out.

Early in her career, she asked her mentor, a “superhero” woman named Dana Longmire, for advice. Longmire, technology director at Pacific Gas & Electric, had three children. Collins wanted to start a family but not negatively impact her career.

Longmire’s advice on how to do it all was simple and unapologetic: “You don’t. You give yourself a break. You must become OK with some things falling through the cracks—the house may be messy, you may eat out a lot, your kids may go to school with mismatched shoes every now and then. But know that the times that your kids remember the most are when you are present—and they aren’t the times that you orchestrated.”

Collins, now with three kids, took the lesson to heart.

“I try to never apologize for having a life,” she said. “Things happen, plans change, meetings sometimes need to be rescheduled. It’s OK. That doesn’t make you unprofessional; it makes you human.”

That approach is what she carries as she navigates what is still a male-dominated oil and gas industry.

“One of the challenges of being an executive in oil and gas is that society typically has a mental image of executives being male—and even more so in oil and gas, which is often portrayed as a tight network of primarily men,” Collins said. “I have tried to respond to this challenge by demonstrating that the qualities of a good leader have nothing to do with gender.

“I hope to be an example for young women and men who aspire to have leadership roles within technology and the energy industry—and to be a positive and inspiring role model for my own three children, two of whom will enter the workforce in just a few years. I want them to truly know and believe that they can do anything if they put their mind, energy and will into it.”

Check out the rest of Hart Energy's 2024 Women in Energy here
Three More Things

1. I regularly walk around my house with a small laser level and straighten all the pictures on our walls. Yes, I am “that” person—very detail oriented, very much a perfectionist.

2. I am a die-hard SEC football fan and, most importantly, an LSU fan who bleeds purple and gold. During football season, I can be found on my back patio screaming at the television on most Saturdays.

3. I was the Homecoming Queen at LSU (all the way back in 1995).