Co-Owner & Global CFO Worldwide Oilfield Machine (WOM)
Houston, TX (USA)
Recently, we had the opportunity to speak with Rani Puranik, a champion for women in the Energy Industry.
GIM: Historically, the energy industry has been a male-dominated industry, what was it about this industry that attracted you?
RP: Great question and yes! It’ s pretty alarming that women account for a mere 26 percent of the total workforce in the energy sector. Women ’ s representation at higher levels in organizations is even less: 23 percent of managers and 17 percent of board members on average according to a recent report released by the Boston Consulting Group and The Women in Energy Association. (https://www.womeninenergy.eu/wpcontent/uploads/2018/12/Women _ in _ Energy_ in _ t he _ CEE-SEE _ Region _ Dec2018 _ final.pdf).
As a little girl, I watched my father, Sudhir Puranik, work in, and with, energy companies. He is a problem solver and an inventor who came up with a revolutionary method of extending the life of certain types of equipment, which enhanced safety and efficiency, while also respecting the environment. As an only child at that time, my mother and I supported him as he launched WorldWide Oilfield Machine (WOM). The energy industry was introduced to me as a family affair. While I observed a group of three men working to launch the business, I also witnessed wives, daughters, and nieces working alongside them to provide solutions, streamline, encourage, inspire innovation and handle things like accounting, logistics, and customer service. As I worked alongside my father off and on through adolescence into early adulthood, I became more attracted to the industry because I realized what a necessity it is for society.
Living half of my life in India I experienced what life looks like without it. We all are paying customers that utilize oil and gas for energy, and its by-products in order to live and build a quality life and community. It’ s important to consider that. The challenge to find ways to innovate and design cost-effective products and processes that enhance the safety of people and the environment is what further attracted me to dedicate my life to the business.
GIM: Have you had any male mentors? If so, what role did they play and how did they champion your success?
RP: WOM’ s legal counsel, Homer Garza has been and continues to be like a second father to me. He has guided me to keep customers ’ problems first in mind and focus on making their lives better and easier. He advises me to have patience during the up and down energy cycles and urges me to always be prepared with plans to sustain in the low times and plans to focus on diversification for the long term.
Both Garza and my father are extraordinary mentors that champion my being a strong female and understand the challenges and strengths that come with it. My mentors have never made or cleared the path for me. They let me learn "my way" through observation, sharing wisdom, and supporting me in moving forward.
GIM: What skills or abilities do you recommend for women who want to have a career in the energy industry?
RP: First, I would encourage women to learn about the global economy and geopolitics. It’ s helpful to understand the underlying causes of the cyclical nature of oil and gas as well as the interdependence of countries, cultures, and priorities. Second, invest time to investigate and "own" your strengths as a woman. We can take on a variety of personalities and situations in stride and with empathy. We have the aptitude to look through differences and keep harmony while steering those around us to achieve a common goal. Third, as a woman, it’ s important to understand that energy will consist of conventional and renewables. As the industry evolves, you must be ready to evolve as well. So consider the future of the industry, the environment, and us as humans. My fourth and final recommendation is to be yourself. Don't succumb to stigmas or labels. Interact with others and present yourself in a way that makes you feel comfortable and confident. Be loyal to your own values. There is a place for everyone and the bottom line is - no one can defeat excellence.
GIM: It is more difficult to mentor other women at this time because of the reduction of opportunities to meet in person. Are there any changes that have occurred in your ability to mentor others because of COVID that you anticipate will remain in a post-COVID world?
RP: My view is that Covid pushed us to find new ways to stay connected. The options and comfort of using technology globally increased exponentially. Due to the restrictions on travel and in-person events, WOM initiated an online leadership series called the Women of WOM.
"My mentors have never made or cleared the path for me. They let me learn "my way" through observation, sharing wisdom, and supporting me in moving forward. "
It’ s a three-part series worldwide taking place over the course of six months. The use of technology aids in sustaining momentum and continuity of the dialogue across seas and time zones. I’ m sure post-Covid, virtual events will continue and my hope is that inperson mentoring can resume. There is nothing like connecting with someone face-toface and in the same room - but we all must play with the cards we have been dealt and I am proud of all of us for doing our best to connect during this time.
GIM: Share an example of when you provided advice to another woman and you were able to share in their success.
RP: At WOM, our workforce is diversified and global. A variety of cultures presents a variety of unfamiliar or new ways of thought and behaviors. As women, we are a minority in the energy industry and can sometimes prove our view with an assertion. However, in a setting with differing cultures, my advice to all women is to give people the benefit of the doubt before going on the defense.
It’ s equally important to understand everyone ’ s views, background, and approach before developing an opinion based on assumptions. Everyone has a story and who better to understand this than women. In the workforce, we can be the change we want to see. Empathy is strength, it shows others they are being heard and that we care enough to try and understand. This is a great way to build trust and strong teams for the long term. I’ ve been able to share the success of women in key positions as they ’ ve taken this approach - to understand differences, to give the benefit of the doubt, to be empathetic. This in turn has developed loyalty within the teams and longterm stability and commitment for a common purpose.
For as long as I can remember I have had a special place in my heart for young women. Especially those who have to rise above challenging life circumstances that are often out of their control. My daughter introduced me to a friend of hers who was struggling with identity, purpose, and her level of confidence. All of that combined with a need for a place to live. I welcomed her with big “ momma bear ” arms to stay with us and immediately playfully adopted her as my third daughter. Over the course of nearly a year, I learned of her confusion around what career to pursue. Right out of high school and nervous about what the future held she was just “floating ” . I began reading to her, sharing inspiring messages, reaching out to her family, and offering her jobs around the house and office to build her sense of accomplishment and drive for excellence. My daughter left for college as the fall semester began and I saw a sense of loss as an opportunity to instill purpose. I encouraged her to apply for college. Stressed out, insecure, and full a fear - she gathered the courage needed to apply. She just got accepted and I can ’t tell you how proud of her I am. Just a little bit of hope, encouragement, and a safe place to “just be ” can change someone's entire life.