I’d like to continue ‘Voices of Energy’ series of posts started by shelley.nadel and tell you about Joan Wales, who I first met at the Tallow Chandlers Awards (she was on the judges panel), I was amazed by Joan’s career story and her passion about diversity. On the day of PinkPetro launch I asked Joan if she would answer few questions which I can then share on PinkPetro; Joan agreed and even found a space in her calendar for the following day despite her busy schedule!
First, some facts:
Joan Wales has been Head of S&OR OB&C (BP) since 2011. Her challenge was to bring alive BP’s new deployed safety and operational risk concept for a group of individually distinctive operating businesses. OB&C covers the operating businesses of BP Shipping, Alternative Energy, Integrated Supply and Trading and Remediation Management.
Before moving into this role, Joan spent eight years within Remediation Management, becoming Head of Function in 2007. Remediation Management assesses and remediates BP’s global environmental liability issues.
Prior to RM, Joan worked in pipeline operations within BP Pipelines in the US, having moved there immediately after the BP:Amoco merger. Joan joined BP on 1984, working within BP Research before moving to roles in the corporate centre and oil trading. She spent some nine years within the trading organisations working on the North Sea Team, as an Executive Assistant to the Head of Global Trading and latterly as Head of Futures and Derivatives.
Working in these very different environments has resulted in her keen interest in the management of diverse teams. Particularly in how to build inclusive environments in which diverse talent can flourish.
She was a founding member of the BP Women’s International Network (BPWIN) and is currently a member of Catalyst’s European Advisory Board. Catalyst is a leading non-profit organisation with a mission to expand opportunities for women in business, and recently recognized Pink Petro as an initiative #DisruptingTheDefault
And here are Joan’s answers to a few questions I was extremely curious about:
What helped you to get where you are?
"They always say you should choose your partner carefully. Having an incredibly supportive partner has helped me the most. My husband is totally gender blind. We always shared all responsibilities at home. For about 6 years we ran two careers with two kids and it only worked because we had a real partnership. When I got an offer to work in the United States he was very positive and supportive. By that time he was a writer which meant that he could work from home, which inevitably involves doing a bigger share of home chores.
Before that, when my husband was the Executive Assistant to Mervyn King (Bank of England Chief Economist at that time) and I worked in oil trading, our son was in day care in the City close to both offices. One day I was busy with meetings all afternoon, and my husband was at work preparing materials for a presentation to an evening function. The only option was for my husband to pick up our son and take him back into work. I rushed to the Bank of England right after my meetings were finished to find my son asleep in his car seat in my husband’s office in Parlor’s at the Bank of England. Two careers requires flexibility!"
What was the most difficult thing during your career?
"Coming to work! (laughs). My first degree is in Chemistry and after graduation I went immediately into doing PhD in physical chemistry so I was quite used to a setting with a lot of freedom. I made a conscious choice to work in industry but when I first joined BP it seemed to me like a tunnel where I would be for the next 30 years! It took me over a year to get used to being at work and to start building a career. I found the transition from university to workplace very difficult."
What is your biggest achievement so far?
"Having worked in so many areas of BP I have been lucky to have had many great experiences, but some of my most professionally rewarding experiences have been Remediation Management. There you could help to remediate not only the site, but also the communities impacted by the closure of a significant facility. For example a site in New Jersey, where a former terminal was cleaned up, redeveloped and the new businesses created brought about 2000 jobs to the community. One of the most rewarding aspects of remediation is where you are able to bring economic vitality back to a community."
What is your career goal?
"I am 56 years old and I’ve been in the industry for 31 years. At this point I want to keep doing work which is interesting and brings value - so that is my goal. That will involve work both inside the company and outside: I am interested in both broadening my own horizons through finding a Non-Executive Director position, but also broadening the horizons of others through advocating the benefits of STEM careers to school children and students.
I can’t imagine myself not working! I returned to work after each of my two children because work was a large part of who I am. I was never disciplined enough to make part-time working work for me, and so working outside the home has always been a part of my life."
Any advice for young women who are still at the early stages of their career?
"Be very careful that you do things that you enjoy and are committed to. I did not always make the correct choice, but once I realised my mistake I moved on quickly. My advice is - don’t be afraid to try things that you think will be really interesting or rewarding, but be honest with yourself, and if you you’ve made a bad choice - move on!"