Alumnae/i Feature

Allison Porter ’17MBA on the Need for Women in the Energy Industry

What led you to your MBA at Simmons?

When I finished my undergraduate degree at Boston University, I knew I would get my MBA at some point. My first interview after graduation was at a power plant, and I didn’t know anything about the energy industry. Six months in, it was such an integral part of my life, and every day I learned more about energy markets, fuel, the electricity grid. I managed to gain a lot of responsibility and scope early on in my career by challenging the points of view of the men and engineers in the room. 
 
In 2014 I was ready for a new challenge — either a new role with my employer or I would pursue my master’s. The energy industry is heavily male-dominated, so the idea of a women’s-centered MBA had a huge appeal to me. It was a culture change to be in class with women in the evenings, after spending my days in a workplace where I was often the only woman in the room.

Tell us about your role at Vicinity Energy.

I had been at the company’s prior owner for ten years before it was sold to a private equity firm, which launched Vicinity Energy in January 2020. I had been leading the local sales team but moved to a corporate role when the new leadership took over. As Director of Sales Operations, I was in charge of setting up the back office where we quickly grew the sales team under the new leadership. We implemented new software and processes and built a team and trained them on all of these new things. We had planned that there would be a remote component, but hadn’t planned to build a brand new team culture 99% remotely. It’s crazy when we finally get to meet in person!
 
Now my days are spent looking for the next steps to uplevel our team and bring us to the next degree of performance and efficiency. We can refine our sales process and track our performance in a way that will continue to drive improvement and organizational change. There is a broad spectrum of people on our sales team — new employees, and others who had been with the original organization for 25 years — with varying levels of comfort with technology. Change management is key for rolling things out and making sure they work for everyone.

Why is it important to get women into the energy and renewables industry?

Women are incredible leaders, and we need more of them! We need them on boards and in executive level positions. Women account for less than 5% of the population where I work. We are leading positive change culturally, facilitating principled leadership and DEI consideration, and the only way to continue is to have a robust pipeline of qualified women to apply for positions. We also have awesome young women in the field forcing leadership to think about sustainability, divesting from fossil fuels and decarbonization — how to make energy with less carbon. I want to help other women understand the importance of our contributions and to have the confidence to enter this career. It’s a great pathway for students interested in STEM fields.
 
My favorite part of the energy industry, and the reason I’ve stayed in it for so long, is that I am challenged and learning every day. The energy industry is so large and complex and technical and I love that you have the opportunity to learn how buildings work, how industries within them need and use energy, and how we can better sell our services to them. Our industry touches every other industry in Boston and all the cities we serve.

Tell us about your work with Women’s Energy Network Boston (WEN Boston).

After my MBA, I missed that regular ongoing connection with women. I missed having an impact on other women’s daily lives. I met so many younger or less experienced women at Simmons and offered career advice, negotiation support, and mentoring throughout our time in the program. I missed those relationships and mentoring opportunities.
 
Women’s Energy Network, the national organization, has been around for 25 years with over 6,000 members. As it was originally Houston-based, it largely encompassed the oil and gas industries, but over time the membership and its industry makeup has evolved. In 2017, a group of local energy women leaders founded the Boston chapter. 
 
WEN Boston is leading the charge for a clean energy transition in the green economy, with awesome women leaders among our members. The professional network offers an outlet for my need to help people personally by facilitating connections and empowering them in their careers. We inform and educate women about what’s happening in the industry with skill-based workshops, a lot of which focus on leadership in a virtual environment, dealing with imposter syndrome, informal leadership, and change management. I share so much of what I learned at Simmons with our members, as well as facilitate community and networking the way that Simmons did for me, professionally and personally. Women find great career opportunities through WEN Boston.

How did Simmons prepare you to be a leader in your field?

Simmons gives you a lot of confidence in your own leadership abilities and the way you show up to any role that you take. In November 2020 I had my first baby, and in January 2021 I became President of WEN Boston. It’s not how I imagined it happening, but I felt that Simmons prepared me for all of the challenges I’ve faced over the last two years. WEN Boston ended up being an incredible outlet for me while on maternity leave with my son. I was continuously pushed outside of my comfort zone in this leadership role for all of last year, meeting with senior leaders in Massachusetts and beyond and helping develop and drive WEN Boston’s strategic priorities throughout 2021. 

Advice for students?

The energy industry touches everyone more than most people appreciate. There are incredible companies that have had to evolve as consumers have demanded smart products and clean energy solutions. There are amazing AI technology companies in the clean energy industry that can better forecast what our energy needs are going to be and match those needs with sustainable green economic energy. The fact that the industry is changing so rapidly is exciting — even ExxonMobil has a plan to decarbonize, which is now being driven by every single area of the supply chain. In this new world we are living in, we need to be connected all the time, and you can’t do that without the energy industry. We need a new generation of leaders to help figure out how to make this possible.

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