Five Questions For … Katie Mehnert, Founder and CEO of Pink Petro

Houston—Katie Mehnert watched her father lose his engineering job during the energy industry’s depression in the 1980s, and swore to him she would avoid oil and gas jobs.

But she did eventually join the ranks of oil and gas workers, even deciding to form her own energy startup, Pink Petro, which aims to not only bring more women into the energy field, but also to help them get promoted into higher-level positions.

“I find it the right time to be having these conversations,” Mehnert says. “We launched right as the recent downturn started. We needed to keep people engaged. This crew change had finally come.”

Still, she admits that being a startup founder does take its toll. “I think that’s where a lot of people fail; they run out of steam,” she says. “You just have to remember: It’s a marathon. Some miles are good, and some miles are … .”

In this week’s “Five Questions For … ” Mehnert speaks about being a woman in a male-dominated industry, lessons learned from being bullied as a child, and how a diagnosis of cervical cancer helped her focus on her goals. Here is a lightly edited transcript of our conversation:

Xconomy: What’s the hardest lesson you’ve learned about managing people?

Katie Mehnert: Not everybody is suitable for the job. You hire people, you think it’s going to work out, and a lot of times it does. Sometimes it doesn’t, and when it doesn’t, you shouldn’t beat yourself up over it. I definitely feel like the entrepreneur life and corporate life are very different obviously. It takes a different kind of person to be in this chaos of startup life. People come and go. Everybody’s replaceable. I kind of used to think that I wasn’t replaceable. Then I learned young you are.

I lost my first job due to a layoff. Why did I get let go when I was the most productive? Fast forward a few years later—I was a hired gun … I did so “well” I got fired. Clearly, I learned I wasn’t savvy at office politics. I thought working hard and getting the job done meant you’re irreplaceable. What I learned through all of this is you need relationship currency and to build it at every opportunity. I didn’t learn this overnight. I watched mentors and sponsors maneuver. We all have to realize that life and work is about people. It’s a skill we must master.

So I was replaceable. You’re replaceable. In the new economy we all are. And that’s the attitude we all need to take. There’s a new idea on every corner and a disruptive business model at … Next Page »

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