University of Texas in Austin, Petroleum Engineering
MBA from Texas Tech University, In Progress
When Jeannie Powers started college, engineering was a natural choice for her; she’s analytical, good at math and enjoys solving problems. Petroleum engineering seemed both technologically adventurous and challenging.
After graduating from the University of Texas, Jeannie spent the first eight years of her career at Chevron across six cities and in several different positions. Then she began an MBA program at Texas Tech University, which opened her eyes to things like portfolio structures, financial leverage decisions, asset management and much more. “It was exciting to be learning a whole new world again,” she says.
In 2014 Jeannie moved to Houston, to take her current job as vice president, petroleum engineering, acquisitions and divestitures with Wells Fargo. The role allows her to mix her love for engineering and strategizing with her more recent interest in the business world. It’s an intense combination — the “good old boy” mentality of the oil and gas industry and the aggressiveness of investment banking — that requires resiliency and long hours. But for someone like Jeannie, who is able to move from boardroom presentations and client dinners to technical subjects with ease, it’s a rewarding and thrilling environment that pushes her to take on the next challenge.
You’re capable of more than you think.
What responsibilities do you have in your role? What is a typical day like for you?
A typical day for me begins around 7:30 a.m. I step into the office and finish some last-minute client presentations. Mid-morning I’ll get on a call with a client and work through the latest economic database issue. It’s usually a database I created that details the market valuation of a company’s assets. For lunch, I might go out to eat with some clients and help advise them on the best methods for positioning their company during the ongoing downturn in oil prices. If there are not any datarooms going on (in which I’d present a company’s assets to a potential buyer), then I’ll spend the afternoon working on production forecasting, economics, or presentation material for a prospective client. We’re always trying to win a mandate. I try my best to always wait and have dinner with my husband – even if that means eating at 9 or 10 p.m. After that, I’ll make time for any MBA work I have to complete. On a good day, I’ll have time for a walk, TV show, or a glass of wine before bed.
Being a VP, we know you’ve had the opportunity to present in front of high-level boardrooms (and it sounds like mainly boardrooms full of men!). What are the keys to a successful and impactful presentation?
Confidence and personality.
My presentations always start with firm handshakes and a confident introduction of who I am. This hopefully grabs the audience’s attention. We all strive to be flawless in our presentations, but it shouldn’t be memorized or sound rehearsed. Instead, have one or two key messages that are critical to get across for each slide. If you aren’t using slides, then be able to articulate those same key messages and practice each transition from one to the next, as transitions can be just as important as the message you are trying to get across. And always assume you will get at least one or two questions that you aren’t prepared to answer.
How do you balance getting your MBA and a demanding full-time job? What led you to going back to school to get your MBA?
It’s difficult, but managing my time effectively is critical. I never wait until the night a paper is due to start working on it, and the same goes for exams. I try to manage what I can control (such as school and known deadlines) and then “be available” for the things that I can't control (like work and family).
Going back for my MBA was a long time goal. What's perhaps most exciting is that the skill set I’m learning at school is completely different than engineering. For instance, finance completely changed me for the better – it put business decisions, vitality and ethics into an entire new light for me. And more importantly, it is rounding me out as a person at work. I can “hang” with the financial guys in conversation and usually ask intelligent questions.
What advice do you have for our readers for turning an internship into a full-time position?
Internships are a form of long-term interviewing. The key is to act as though you’ve already landed the job. I interned for two summers with Chevron before [being hired] full-time after college – one summer in California and the following summer offshore on a drilling ship. A lot of people think that internships are about creating value for themselves, but it always comes back to the company. The person who can create the most value for the company will be hired.
What challenges keep you awake at night?
Work deadlines and balancing work with family.
There are nights that I choose to walk out the door so that I can have an evening with my husband. And it’s not easy when other people on my team stay behind to work late. I always find a way of getting the work done on time, but it usually comes at a higher stress [level]. Managing a high-stress and ambitious career with the people I love keeps me up at night.
When work/life balance is a challenge, what is one no-fail tactic you use to create balance?
On any given day, there’s no guarantee I’ll make it home before 7 p.m., or not have to work on a weekend. On top of that, I’m attending school full time for my MBA. It’s safe to say that work/life balance is a huge challenge. First, I have the most supportive husband in the world when it comes to my career. Second, we make sacrifices. The obvious one is that we are waiting to have children until later in life. But we make a lot of other sacrifices, too. For instance, we pay a pretty penny to live downtown where I can walk to work and avoid time on a commute. We also use services like FancyHands.com or TaskRabbit.com for help with time consuming tasks. If I know I have to work later one night, I’ll schedule a lunch date with my husband. And we get out some weekends or schedule time away every few months. Even if it’s only for a couple days, it’s critical to unplug and have something to look forward to when times get crazy.
Was there ever a moment in your career where you’ve thought, “I made it!” What was it?
There’s been a few, but a more recent one was when I was working a deal with Wells Fargo and presenting to about 30 men in a boardroom and every one of those black suits was hanging on to every single word I said. It was a great moment.
That being said, I’m a go-getter and have high dreams so it’s hard for me to ever feel satisfied with the status quo.
What are some of the rules you live by?
Things don’t just happen – you have to make success happen.
And on days when I’m discouraged, I always remind myself that the most important thing is to “show up” and things will generally fall into place.
What qualities does it take for someone to be successful in either the investment banking and/or oil and gas industries?
The oil and gas industry has so many different niches and subcultures, so there’s likely a place for anyone. That being said, the overall theme is a "good old boy" mentality. Investment banking, on the other hand, is much more aggressive. Once you marry the two worlds – which I've done in my current position – you’ll need to be incredibly resilient.
In my line of work, the skill set lends itself towards people who are both technically and socially skilled. Being able to present in a boardroom, wine and dine with clients, and then go several questions deep on a technical subject is what makes a successful A&D (acquisitions and divestitures) energy investment banker.
How can aspiring Leading Ladies enter the investment banking and/or oil and gas industries?
Majoring in petroleum engineering or geology is the ideal entry into oil and gas.
From there, most finance shops will look for an MBA, but sometimes, solid experience at a major oil and gas company is enough. (I’m happy to talk to anyone who is interested in either!)
What one piece of advice do you wish you could tell a 21-year-old version of yourself?
You’re capable of more than you think.
It’s easy to get caught up in the fascination of others, to consider their success untouchable and not even to consider it a possibility. I was fortunate to have mentors truly believe in my capabilities very early in my career, before I really believed in myself. So bottom-line: Find an awesome mentor!
How do you handle working with all men all the time?
My team is 95 percent male and the statistics don’t change any across my clients. Furthermore, the business is aggressive and the guys live up to it. The key to being female and a minority in the group is to first, above all, establish respect. This takes time in every new job and I’ve learned it’s best to let it come naturally through credibility from hard work ethic, new technical creativity, won deals, etc. I find that once I’ve earned respect, it is far easier to exuberate confidence and assertiveness, both of which are vital to being “one of the guys.”
And sometimes, you just need to "act as if." If you don't know that term, you should. YouTube it!