By: Shelley Nadel
There are some women who invite the question, “How does she do it all?” Sheri Roberts is one of those women. Engaging and intellectual, Sheri has had a career that started off as a simple job in chemical sales and has ended up as one of the leaders in her industry. Recently nominated for the Women’s Energy Network Spirit of WEN award, Sheri has made it her mission to engage and mentor young women trying to succeed in a male-dominated industry. Her awards include qualifying as a member of the Greater Houston Partnership’s Executive Women Partnership and of the Young President’s Organization (YPO), an invitation-only organization that connects successful CEOs to build better leaders through education and networking. She also was the first female to serve on the Board of the Valve Manufacturer’s Association and was the 2012 Rotarian of the Year for her efforts in fundraising and supporting a program to match families with potential adopted children.
The first person in her family to graduate from college (Purdue University), Sheri began her career with Shell Chemical Company in Houston and Chicago. Quickly recognized for her ability to learn quickly and deliver results, she was selected to move to the Netherlands to join a team of high potential leaders tasked with improving business and leadership performance around the world. During this assignment she co-developed a Coaching for Performance program that she taught around the world and began to develop her love of coaching and mentoring women.
Why mentoring and coaching?
“Seeing people develop and seeing how successful they become . . . I learn as much as they do in the process.”
At the young age of 35, Sheri was selected to be the first female CEO of Shell Mauritius Limited in Africa and thus became the first female CEO in the country. I asked Sheri how she dealt with this perceived obstacle in her career, and she humbly replied, “[I] learned to manage my way through it probably like most women do. We do the best we can and prove our worth through our accomplishments.”
During her time in Mauritius, Sheri was recognized by the Prime Minister for her efforts in solving a national fuel shortage, recognized by the Petroleum Industry Association for her work in changing government regulations with regard to fuel margins, and recognized by shareholders for doubling the stock price. And she did all this while giving birth to two sons and adopting a daughter!
After returning to the U.S., Sheri ran a $1.5 billion division of Shell Chemical while studying in Harvard’s Executive Education program and starting the first global chapter of the YPO, thus continuing her love of learning. In 2010, Sheri left Shell to join Tyco International as President of their global oil and gas business. Within two years, she had doubled revenues, an accomplishment which she considers one of the biggest of her career. Sheri currently serves on the Board for Genesis Water.
It’s obvious that Sheri is achievement driven. What are Sheri’s secrets of success? First is what she calls her “learning mindset” where she is always open to learning from others. Second is her drive for achievement and her good fortune to have worked with great people and great teams. The third secret, and by far the biggest, is her passion, loving what she does for a living and in her personal life through volunteering with many different nonprofit organizations.
At the still young age of 48, Sheri finds herself in the position of advising the next generation of women leaders. When I asked her what strategies she would offer a young woman just starting out in her career, Sheri recommended “the 3 Ps – passion, persistence and perseverance."
First, she advised them to do what they love.
Second, “if you aren’t following your passion, persist to make that happen. You are going to have to be your own cheerleader.”
Finally, persevere and do not give up just because you make a mistake; “there are always nuggets of gold in learning and persevering through a situation.”
And just in case you were wondering, Sheri’s messages to her kids are simpler but just as profound: “try as hard as you can” and “practice, practice, practice.” Those are great words of advice for women (and men) of any age – No doubt about it.