Thursday, January 28, 2021


Record Turnout for Women in Energy Conference


A record number of attendees joined Women in Energy for their annual conference held Sunday, May 19 and Monday, May 20 at the Hershey Lodge & Convention Center in Hershey, PA. The theme for this year’s fourth annual conference was “Connecting, Empowering, and Succeeding,” and the event featured a multi-day educational program as well as many networking opportunities.

On Sunday evening, Women in Energy presented its first Mentorship Awards to Dee Perla, Celeste Moquin and Autumn Schreiber. Women in Energy created this award as a means of investing in the industry’s future by providing students with valuable connections and tools for success, as well as highlighting the outstanding career opportunities available within the energy industry.

The Mentorship Award recipients were granted free admission and accommodations for the Women in Energy Conference, as well as complimentary membership in the organization, and will receive additional mentorship opportunities throughout the year. Before the conference began, each award recipient was paired with a volunteering mentor from Women in Energy, who introduced the students to the field and offered helpful career advice.

“It was very beneficial for me to see where I can end up in this industry!” said Shreiber, who majors in HVAC technology at the Pennsylvania College of Technology. “As soon as I arrived, my mentor was introducing me to professionals in the industry.” Shreiber was paired with mentor Liz Hill, of PriMedia, Inc.

“Being surrounded by so many strong women in the energy field made me feel empowered to pursue my future career,” said Moquin, who is enrolled in on-site power generation courses at the Pennsylvania College of Technology. Bobbi Hill, of W.B. Hill, Inc., is Moquin’s mentor.

Women in Energy also presented the Woman of the Year award to Judy Garber and Erin Holohan Haskell for their outstanding contributions to the industry. Formerly the executive director of the National Association of Oil & Energy Service Professionals, Garber is now the executive director of Women in Energy. Haskell serves as both vice president of Women in Energy and president of the trade education website, heatinghelp.com.

“Looking at how this group has grown over the past two years is amazing,” said Garber of the conference turnout. “The energy, openness, honesty, and intelligence of these women is infectious. It is truly a joy to be involved in this organization.”

Though the Women in Energy Conference was once again held in conjunction with the Eastern Energy Expo, the events differed in format from one another. The Women in Energy Conference included a single-track educational program, with no two Women in Energy sessions or seminars overlapping each other. Additionally, these sessions were observed to be highly interactive, with roundtable discussions and educational programming that removed the barrier between conference presenter and participant.

Tough Talks

One such program took place Monday morning from 8:45 a.m. until noon. With “Tough Conversations Made Easy,” Ann Ward and Aimee Allen of Ward Certified Consulting addressed the sometimes-touchy subjects of employer-employee and business-to-customer interactions. However, rather than simply talk about these topics for three hours-plus, they broke the seminar attendees up into groups, which engaged in roundtable discussions and came up with “tough conversation” issues that helped set the pace and tone for the session.

The six groups focused on delivering tough news to an employee, to a supervisor, and to a customer, and requesting something from an employee, from a supervisor and from a customer. The six issues they raised, respectively, were cell phone use, frivolous spending, raising a customer’s rates, getting deliverables from someone who isn’t a direct report, getting help and/or attention from an indecisive and/or busy supervisor, and getting information that a customer doesn’t know or isn’t willing to provide, e.g. tank readings or credit applications.

In handling each of these scenarios, attendees were encouraged to recognize and separate what they can control from what they can’t, and to be assertive rather than aggressive or passive. Attendees then broke off into pairs to exercise assertion and active listening techniques. Later in the session, the presenters introduced the Situation Behavior Impact (SBI) model, which offers guidelines for providing effective positive and negative feedback. This was then put to the test with a “hot seat” demonstration, where attendees volunteered to play the roles of manager and employee in scenarios based on some of the tough conversations discussed at the beginning of the session.

One question that was raised several times throughout the seminar was how to ensure results and accountability after a tough conversation. To this, Allen responded, “When you have a difficult conversation, I am a big fan of recapping it and making sure that you are both on the same page, that there are no misconceptions, no judgments, that it is very clear who is doing what.” She later returned to this point in response to a question about “repeat offenses” on the part of an employee, adding, “If you continue to have a conversation and there’s no feedback or recap, there’s no accountability.”

Words of Wisdom

Not listed in the Women in Energy Conference program guide was a series of exclusive interviews with female industry leaders. Throughout the conference, eight Women in Energy members and supporters were invited to participate in video-recorded conversations about the energy industry and women’s changing roles therein. These interviews were conducted by Liz Hill and will be made available for online sharing and social media in the near future.

The eight interviewees were Bobbi Jean Hill, Marketing, Sales & Parts Manager, W.B. Hill, Inc.; Katie Russell, Sales & Marketing Director, Energy Kinetics; Beth Tocco, Global Fleet Leader, HB Global, LLC; Tina Starner, Fuel Safety, Maintenance & Compliance Specialist III, Retail Business Services, LLC; Marci Gagnon, Vice President of Strategic Alliances, Qualpay; Judy Garber, Executive Director, Women in Energy; Roberta Fagan, Executive Director, Oil Heat Institute of Rhode Island; and Allison Heaney, President, Skaggs-Walsh.

All eight professionals offered invaluable insights about the energy industry. While some told stories about their own experiences as Women in Energy, others gave sage advice for young people coming up in the trades. Short “teaser” versions of these video interviews can be seen online at goprimedia.com/videos/women-energy-teasers.

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