When the Oil and Gas Diversity Council announced its 2015 list of the most powerful women in oil and gas, it wasn't surprising that Margie M. Harris was in the ranks. As the Executive Vice President of Human Resources for Apache Corporation, there is no doubt that she has more than earned her place among this prestigious company. In a career spanning more than 25 years, Harris is committed to learning all aspects of the business she has chosen.
Growing up just outside of Columbus, Ohio, Harris is one of 6 children that include two sets of twins. She attended Ohio State University, with her twin sister, and graduated with a BSBA in Finance and a minor in Accounting. In her senior year of college she read an article in the Wall Street Journal describing the career of a landman. Rejecting several employment opportunities in investment, banking and corporate finance, Harris began reaching out to oil companies with the hope of entering that field. This led to a position with Shell Western E & P in the Rocky Mountain region where she was the only female landman in the region with approximately 200 male counterparts.
“I think Shell was just really surprised that there's this girl, a “Yankee” from the North, who wanted to do this,” says Harris.
Staying with Shell for the next five years, she gained valuable industry experience and completed her MBA in Marketing and Finance. Wanting to utilize her finance education, she made the decision to work for Continental Airlines, ultimately becoming their International Financial Controller, in her late 20s. Although this position afforded an opportunity to travel and experience the world, she found herself wanting an aspect of creativity not found in the day to day of the finance position.
Harris made the move to Hewitt Associates, a top-tier HR consulting firm. At Hewitt, she was able to learn the ins and outs of Human Resources. In her six years there, she did everything from designing benefits and compensation plans to working with executives to talent development and orchestrating training programs. She was recruited from Hewitt to lead the human resources department at Santa Fe Energy Resources, where she became the Vice-President of HR.
HR positions, at several companies, would take Harris through the industries of construction to private equity and power where she realized how much she wanted to be back in the energy business. Apache recognized the value of her experience and knowledge, not only in Human Resources, but also understanding the energy field at multiple levels, and they brought her on board in 2007.
On Apache, Harris says, “I am here because this is a very dynamic company. I like the culture, it takes a certain person to work here, but it's very infectious. So, I would say that the first six months, for some individuals is really tough. You have to make the decision whether you're going to jump in or not. I always tell candidates that to work here you really can't be the kind of person that wants to hide behind the door or your computer because you'll be found. Everybody is important. Everybody makes a difference.”
The philosophy of “everybody makes a difference” is evident in Harris’ passion for mentoring. She is quick to acknowledge that she has gained good advice and inspiration from others throughout her career and still today. She is dedicated to passing that experience on to those who are beginning their careers saying, “That gives me a lot of personal satisfaction in growing and developing others.”
Jessica Shatkun, a Senior Analyst of Executive Compensation and Special Projects at Apache, shared what a role model Harris has been for her, especially in encouraging her to believe in herself. “She (Harris) has made me realize that I'm made of more than I thought I was.”
On Harris’ work ethic, energy and professionalism, Shatkun describes how Harris not only wants the best for her team and expects even more of herself than she does others, causing those around her to strive to do better.
“She’s very tough on herself but I think it has made her so successful. She’s never settling. She’s never just sitting back saying, ‘All right, I made it.’ She’s constantly discovering that she can do more, she can do better, and in the process she makes us better.”
In addition to the mentoring Harris does at Apache, she has also started the Apache Women’s Network. The mission of the group is to build a supportive and collaborative community within Apache by offering networking, educational development and service opportunities through informative and professional programs and events. The group hosts regular events including lunch and learns (topics have included money management, dressing for success and leadership development), book clubs (both a fiction and career related club) and networking events. The first event took place in the spring of 2015, and the Houston office now has over 200 members. There are plans underway to expand the program to other Apache offices.
When asked how she would encourage young women to enter the oil and gas industry Harris said, “There is a tremendous opportunity for young women, and men, in this industry. It’s still a very vibrant industry and individuals can be technical, or non-technical, and do quite well here. I think to have a successful career you really need to understand the drivers of the business and really decide what you want out of a career.”
Not only great advice for those about to enter the job market, but obviously how Harris has navigated her own career. She put in the time to learn both the energy industry and Human Resources from the ground up. In an industry most often dominated by men in executive roles, it's hard to think of Margie Harris as an exception because gender simply isn't an issue. She deserves to be where she is because she did the work to get there.