As one of the leading women in energy at Emerson Automation Solutions, a business of global technology and engineering company Emerson, Lorrie Alvarez Thompson undoubtedly has a lot on her plate.
In her role, she’s responsible for directing a global team in different world areas and managing everything from customer service to business development.
But, even with her full schedule, she finds a great amount of fulfillment in her career—and even more so in the fact that she gets to mentor and lead the next generation of female leaders in the industry.
I chatted with Thompson about her background, her future, and what she has learned along her career.
Growing a Career
Thompson started at Westinghouse, after graduating from Texas A& M University, and worked in various roles from sales, to controls specialist, to branch management for eight years in the Industrial Petrochemical and Chemical market segment. “Eaton Corporation was acquiring the Westinghouse Distribution and Control unit and with all the uncertainty that an acquisition brings it made me explore other opportunities outside of Westinghouse,” Thompson stated. At that point, Thompson made the move to Emerson—a company she’s been with for the past 24 years.
Thompson has worked in several areas of the business—from business unit field sales, to International Global Account Director for ExxonMobil, to various business unit and group management roles, and to her current position as Global Vice President of Sales for Emerson Flow - Daniel Measurement and Control.
She had her first taste of international work when she was the Global Account Director for ExxonMobil. “My job was to bring value to the customer leveraging all the business units in Emerson Automation Solutions—One Emerson,” she says, “One way to do this was to showcase Emerson’s global footprint.”
Thompson is a firm believer that the opportunity to work internationally brings an invaluable experience. “It enabled me to gain a perspective of conducting business in multi-cultural environments,” she adds. She has visited 34 countries and spent much time in the Middle East and Asia Pacific.
International travel aside, Thompson recalls that one of the pivotal turning points in her career happened when the former president of Emerson Flow, Gene Perkins, extended an invitation to an Emerson Flow Board meeting. “He saw skills in me that I hadn’t realized. Gene was my first mentor and sponsor within Emerson. A sponsor seeks you out and an individual must find a coach,” explains Thompson.
“I would attend quarterly board meetings and have a seat at the table – it gave me the opportunity to learn the business from a C-Suite perspective and contribute from the client’s perspective” she says. Fortunately, Perkins had the foresight to develop people and expose them to experiences to help them gain skills for future roles in Emerson.
“I realized what an invaluable experience that was,” says Thompson. “When he gave of his personal time to mentor me, that changed my career. I’ve learned a lot from those board meeting days! My goal now is to help others have an opportunity like the one that my sponsor gave me.”
Lessons learned as a woman in energy
Having a sponsorship/mentorship from executive management and her being open to trying new roles has helped Thompson reach her current role. She’s learned many lessons along the way that she believes other women can benefit from.
- Take Risks – look for opportunities that you can build upon your current skills and gain skills for your next role. You may not be ready for all the responsibilities of that particular role, but don’t wait for when you have achieved them or you might miss a great opportunity. She recalls that she took her first risk and never looked back when she moved from Westinghouse to Emerson.
- Work Internationally –it brings a different perspective when you have to learn to assimilate into a different culture. She has worked in China when using interpreters was the only way to communicate with the head of process control at a National Oil Company who by the way was a woman. Thompson continues highlighting experiences in Thailand, Oman, Qatar and Russia where it was a must to assimilate into the client’s environment to be successful.
- Sponsors vs. Coaches – A sponsor will find you and coaches are individuals you seek out. Thompson highlights when Perkins sponsored her in the early phase of her career, it was a critical pivot point. She continues with “you must earn the opportunity to be noticed by executive management by being a top contributor, excelling at your current role and most importantly bringing insight that others may not have.”
- Learn to be Agile – rotate to new roles every three to four years, some may be lateral moves and others will accelerate your career. Another valuable lesson that Thompson explains is to understand that you will have a career path that isn’t always straight to a senior executive role. There are pivot points in everyone’s career development – first job, next role specializing in a particular area of business, having a family, moving to a new geographic location, and taking on roles that will challenge you beyond belief. Each pivot point in your career should be looked at as an opportunity for your personal life and your business life!
- Build Effective Teams and Develop Others Along the Way - Thompson has enjoyed the opportunity to work with and lead global teams that are committed to getting it done. She stated that “if you are not investing in developing people on your team then you aren’t doing your job as a leader. You always want to be developing someone that can take your role so you can move to the next one. My leadership compass is that leaders inspire people to follow them and managers have people work for them.”
Supporting the next generation of women
Thompson is taking her lessons learned and her wisdom and hoping to instill it in future generations of the industry – both by growing and developing her Emerson team and by serving as part of Pink Petro’s Executive Advisory Board.
Thompson encourages Emerson colleagues to join Pink Petro, has attended Pink Petro’s HerWorld conference, serves as a leader for professional development committee for Emerson’s Houston Women in STEM chapter, is an active member with women networking groups and is part of the mentor program at Emerson. She believes that the Pink Petro provides a social community for connecting, mentoring opportunities and through the Pink Petro Live TV segments provide great learning content for professional development. Pink Petro TV showcases many successful women C-Suite leaders that have accomplished so much and learned valuable lessons along their career path.
With her impressive resume and breadth of experience, it’s impossible to deny that Thompson will make her mark on younger talent—which is just one of the many reasons we’re excited to have her on the Executive Advisory Board.
Katie Mehnert CEO of the startup Pink Petro, is particularly thrilled about the addition to the Executive Advisory Board—a diverse team of industry leaders from various backgrounds to help Mehnert steer the growth of a startup in a downturn.
“As a private for-profit social enterprise in a volatile and uncertain market cycle, I’m thrilled to have Lorrie’s sales and business insights,” says Mehnert, “She and my entire executive team are bought in on the vision and she will be integral in helping me think through the strategy and execution as we ramp our growth in the next 12-24 months.”