The Faces and Voices of Energy

GRIT Awards 2019: Celebrating the transition to an “experience economy”

The 2019 GRIT Awards and Best Energy Workplaces were presented by Experience Energy on October 10, 2019.

With the third annual GRIT Awards 2019 taking place this past Thursday, October 11th, it’s only a matter of time before the ceremony becomes known as the Oscars of the energy industry. Photographers and TV crews were there to capture the moment and, while the carpet at the Westin Memorial City isn’t red, the “stars” (nominees) were out in full force, some having come from as far as Nigeria.

Let's Dance

Opening the ceremony to celebrate what Experience Energy™ calls “the difference makers in energy,” Arquella Hargrove, Owner D&I Coach & Facilitator of Arquella Hargrove, Inc., took the stage and shared her favorite analogy about diversity and inclusion with a rapt audience.

“Diversity is representation – you’re at the dance. Inclusion is being invited to dance. Equity is being asked to pick the song.

Arquela Hargrove at the GRIT Awards 2019 presented by Experience Energy

As Brittany Schaefer, Vice President of Medallia, explained to the audience before introducing the keynote speaker, “We believe we live in the “experience economy.” It’s about creating great experiences, having the tools to measure them, and making them better every day.”

"We all have the power to remove barriers."

Haben Girma, the dynamic keynote speaker, then took the stage with her seeing-eye dog, Milo.

Priceless #GRIT2019 photo. @HabenGirma speaks and the dog sleeps. What an amazing #keynote

She kicked off the event by sharing her story as Harvard Law’s first Deafblind graduate, and why she doesn’t like the word “grit.” When asked by Pink Petro CEO Katie Mehnert to explain her aversion to the word, Haben explained,

“People with disabilities have been told to work harder. I worked really hard in school and to be a good job candidate and so many employers rejected me. We need employers to remove barriers and to stop being ableist. Rather than put the burden on people with disabilities, let’s put it on employers.”

Haben Girma delivers a profound keynote address at the GRIT Awards and Best Energy Workplaces, put on by Experience Energy.

She later emphasized that everyone has a voice and the power to remove barriers in some way.

Bringing out the best in others

In what must be an industry first, a second differently abled energy difference maker took the stage. Longtime Anadarko (now Occidental) director and GRIT Awards℠ judge, Mike Royal, who is blind, accompanied by his guide dog, Subi, sat and chatted with Emcee Josh Levs, a former CNN and NPR journalist. Mike shared how he was inspired by the stories he read during the selection process.

“I think my team would say I’m a pretty good coach and mentor, but once you think you’re pretty good at something, there’s always room to get better, so I started doubling down, tripling down, and asked my team, what can I do to help you be more successful?”

Mike Royal chats with Josh Levs at the 2019 GRIT Awards with his seeing-eye dog by his side. Presented by Experience Energy.

It was Mike’s hope that after the excitement of the moment had passed and it came time to return to work, participants would find ways to make those around them more successful.

A glimpse into the future

Pink Petro generously provided a table for 10 students from Houston’s Energy Institute High School, who proved to be some of the most inquisitive and engaged audience members, asking thoughtful questions of each speaker. Inviting the next generation of potential energy industry workers to the event granted them the opportunity to meet current industry influencers and literally gave them a “seat at the table.”

Students from the Energy Institute High School asked insightful questions at the GRIT Awards

And the GRIT Awards 2019 winners are...

Josh Levs, also known as Experience Energy’s chief storyteller, kept things moving with his animated speaking and rapid-fire commentary, although it didn’t take much to keep the crowd motivated – they came to celebrate! – and cheering on their nominee, although all winners received enthusiastic applause. The complete list of winners encompasses many companies and the diverse background that makes the energy industry thrive!

Celebration of life

Each of the winners is making a difference in the industry, as evidenced by their nominations, but there were special moments, such as when Ray Eisbrenner, husband of the late Kathleen Eisbrenner, former CEO of Next Decade LNG, accepted the Honorary GRIT Award on her behalf and shared how Kathleen would “go out of her way to create a win-win situation. She wanted everyone to feel like they won.

The husband of the late Kathleen Eisbrenner, chairman and CEO of Next Decade, accepted her honorary GRIT Award by Experience Energy.

The third time's a charm

Another memorable moment occurred when Monica Krishnan, Technology Manager, Chevron, won in the Professional category after being nominated every year since the GRIT Awards inception in 2018 (#shepersisted)! Director, Baker Hughes, Tina Unachukwu’s colleagues couldn’t contain their excitement when she was recognized in the Professional category. After swarming to embrace her, they proceeded to give her a standing ovation.

Monica Krishnan scores a win after her third nomination for a GRIT Award in the Professional category. Put on by Experience Energy.
Tina Unachukwu of Baker Hughes accepts her GRIT Award in the Professionals category to the cheers and standing ovation of her colleagues. Presented by Experience Energy.

Support from the top

In recognition of the culture of support individuals have in creating change in the workplace, Best Energy Workplaces was added as a new category this year. The judges were locked in a tie with top honors for Oil & Gas Producer going to both Aera Energy and Marathon Oil Company; Oil & Gas Services was awarded to Halliburton; Renewable Power Company to SPower; and Professional Services to The Global Edge Consultants LLC.  

Community engagement

Especially poignant was the announcement that one of the three awards in the Industry Advocacy Category would go to the Oil & Gas Trafficking Advocacy Group (OGTAG), whose goal is to fight human trafficking, which includes labor trafficking and sex trafficking, a crime which disproportionately affects women.

The OGTAG team accepts their GRIT Award in the Teams Category. Presented by Experience Energy. With Alexandria, COO at OVS Group, Jen Hohman CIO at Seadrill on far right and David Reid, CMO, National Oilwell Varco.

That's a wrap of the GRIT Awards 2019

During the ceremony, audience members were tweeting live and one participant summed up the collective mood of the attendees when she posted, “I am experiencing the most inspiring moment of my life.”

It’s never too soon to start thinking about next year’s GRITAwards℠! Nominations will open in March 2020. Watch this space for more details on how to nominate someone who inspires you because of their grit. Proud of the hard work and determination that have elevated you to where you are in your career? Nominate yourself!

Nominations for the 2020 GRIT Awards presented by Experience Energy open in March.