There are far too few women in the energy sector. But some pioneers are helping blaze a path for more women to follow. One of them is Julie Munn-Sims, principal with KPMG and winner of a GRIT Award. She has a crucial message for women in all fields: “Don’t be afraid to ask questions and challenge the norm. Don’t be afraid to think differently.”
“We can’t be afraid to speak up. You have to use your voice. And to that point, there’s a value you bring in your thought process… There’s a reason you’re at the table to begin with — and don’t lose sight of that.”
Munn-Sims leads the Financial Management Advisory practice for the Oil & Gas sector at KPMG. For more than 18 years, she has helped global companies transform, leading large-scale programs in finance, treasury, tax, import/export optimization, profitability and more.
Her career started with a decision some found surprising.
After growing up a “third-generation petrochemical child” in Oklahoma, the Panhandle, and Houston, she went to Baylor University. She ended up graduating with a whopping triple major in accounting, finance and economics. The energy sector was “in my DNA,” Munn-Sims says, so some people expected her to join the sector as a tax accountant. But she had a different idea. “I wanted to really do more of the problem solving,” she explained during a panel at the HERWorld Energy Forum.
Munn-Sims wanted to pursue a role “high enough to address all the different inputs and outputs,” including downstream, upstream and midstream. “Consulting enabled me to talk and work with different companies” across the value chain, she says.
In advance of the GRIT Awards, Munn-Sims was asked about the biggest challenge she has overcome. “It’s been about taking advantage of opportunities that present themselves, which appear like challenges, but end up as the most rewarding experiences,” she wrote.
For example, leaving a firm after 16 years to join KPMG “was a big decision that meant building a new network, building a new team and growing a practice of consulting professionals that I didn’t know. I had to rebrand myself in the market and build new business relationships. There were many challenges including learning and adapting to a new culture and building a trusted relationship with my colleagues. As it turned out, it was the greatest opportunity.”
Asked about a mistake she learned from, Munn-Sims said that at one point when she was up for a promotion at another firm, “I was so focused on my own personal success that I lost sight of the visibility my career had for my team.”
A mentor told her, “This is a marathon, not a race. If you don’t take the time to find the right balance, your team that is watching you will believe that is the requirement for their success. You have to think about the bigger picture.” “That really resonated with me,” Munn-Sims says. “I needed to focus on work/life balance, taking a breath, and enjoying the ride.”
The most rewarding part of her career, she says, has been helping fellow professionals grow “by developing a culture that promotes and encourages collaboration, teaming, diversity, and inclusion. Every leader should have a sense of stewardship and building a work environment that’s better for the next generation.”
Munn-Sims is also passionate about community service. She volunteers with several organizations including the United Way of Greater Houston, where she’s a member of the Women’s Initiative, Friendswood Education Foundation, and the Alpha Charity League with her sons.
GRIT Awards℠ & Best Energy Workplaces℠
The GRIT Awards honor difference makers in energy — women who lead and the men who champion their progress. Often unsung, these leaders are in the trenches making positive change happen regardless of what recognition may come their way. They take bold steps forward, advancing the sector.
Experience Energy launched the GRIT Awards in 2018 to overwhelming response. Hundreds of applications poured in from across the world. The ceremony attracted not only a live crowd of hundreds in Houston, but also more than 74,000 people online.
For more information and to nominate someone, visit https://experience.energy/grit-process/