The West Texas Energy Consortium (WTxEC) was created in 2013 in response to the region's need for a skilled workforce and community development. WTxEC is the first in Texas to develop a regional approach to solving a workforce problem in a major Texas enterprise area.
Katherine was honored with a GRIT Award at our ceremony back in March, and we love her advice to other women who may find themselves struggling in a male-dominated environment: “People will question your words, but they can’t doubt your actions. Don’t tell them you can do it; show them you can do it — and do it well.”
Read more from our interview with Katherine below.
PINK PETRO: What’s the biggest challenge you have faced and how did you overcome it?
KATHERINE: My professional challenges are that I am a petite, good-natured female in a male-dominated industry. A lot of times I’ve been underestimated. Folks would placate me with smiles, but not really believe I could do the task. In my early 20s, I resented it and would get so frustrated. I quickly learned that, due to my competitive nature and “I’ll show them” attitude, I would dig in, learn more and work harder than my counterparts in order to get the job done. After many years of success and failures, I use this “challenge” to my benefit. There will always be those who underestimate you. The key is to do the job anyway. Learn, ask questions, observe, and then knock it out of the ballpark.
PP: What’s one mistake you made, and what did you learn from it?
KS: Going off of an upper-level manager’s word rather than observing and following my gut feeling about an employee situation. My young, naïve brain thought, “This guy is older than I am and has been here much longer, so he must know what he is talking about, right?” Intuition and a brief observation said he was wrong, but I was afraid to speak up and someone lost their job because of it. I have never made that mistake again.
PP: What’s been the most rewarding part of your career?
KS: The opportunity to meet new people and work in a wide-range of industries. Plus, the diversity of what I do is absolutely rewarding. I can go home after working all day and feel absolutely exhausted. Yet, I get up the next morning and still love what I do. I may be tired, but I never get up hating my job or counting how many sick days I have available. The people and the passion for what we do in the energy industry are so exciting to be around.
PP: Who’s been a “gritty” role model for you and why?
KS: Hands down I would have to say my grandmother, as she was a woman of pluck, grit and pure determination. She was born in 1924 at the end of World War I. Her father died some years later after returning from WWI, which left her mother with eight kids to raise. My grandmother along with her siblings went to school, grew crops for trade, gardened and took care of the few farm animals they had for food. They also sewed all their own clothes, and she put herself through nursing school while helping at home.
She entered WWII right after nursing school, married after the war, raised five kids of her own, worked full-time, gardened, sewed, went to church and volunteered regularly. I asked her once how she could do all of this and not get tired or give up. She smiled and said, “Maybe the good Lord didn’t give me the smarts to know there was an option to fail.” Granddaddy looked at her and said, “No Edith, you are just too stubborn to ever let life beat you.”
My grandmother worked harder and gave more of herself than anyone I have ever met. She worked hard in a man’s world but never forgot her Southern grace and ladylike behavior. She was always quick with a story, could make you laugh, and you always left her side feeling much better. She saved lives but didn’t expect a ticker tape parade for her efforts. Her work ethic, smarts, sense of being and spirit made her unbreakable.