Time for a coffee break? Take a few minutes to get to know Nancy Swartout, Global Sustainable Procurement Manager of ExxonMobil, including her best career advice, advice for women entrepreneurs, and lessons from the energy industry.
What do you see as the newest or most important trend in the energy industry?
Sustainability. This is probably all industries but it certainly applies to O&G as well. Suppliers need to incorporate sustainability into their own operations but they also need to be thinking about how their product or service helps their customer’s stainability efforts. This can become a competitive advantage if a WBE can provide a more sustainable solution then their competitors.
What piece of advice would you give to women entrepreneurs that want to do business with your corporation?
Be prepared! ExxonMobil has very high standards for safety and quality. We have high expectations of our suppliers, but we’re also committed to helping them learn and grow with us along the way. I’ve had many diverse suppliers tell me that after working with ExxonMobil it made them a better supplier and they were able to meet the expectations of their other customers better.
What drove you to a career in diversity and inclusion?
I was offered a position as ExxonMobil’s U.S. supplier diversity supervisor in 2004 – it was my first supervisory role, so I was thrilled to take it even though I didn’t know much about it. Once you get a chance to work with courageous entrepreneurs and you see how contracts with companies like ExxonMobil impact not just the WBE owners, but their staff and their families, you get hooked. I don’t know of anyone who doesn’t get inspired by the stories of women who have built their businesses through blood, sweat and tears. I was lucky enough that in 2016, I was asked to lead our Global Sustainable Procurement group, which included U.S. supplier diversity. It was like coming home to an area I knew and loved. I feel blessed to have been able to work in the area of supplier diversity twice in my career.
You can certainly miss an opportunity if you procrastinate or delay making a decision, but you can also make a mistake if you decide too early. You can lose the opportunity to get more information or the situation may change before you need to decide. The sweet spot is not too early and not too late.
What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve ever received?
Don’t make a decision too quickly. I am actually a very decisive person. I don’t mind making a decision. You can certainly miss an opportunity if you procrastinate or delay making a decision, but you can also make a mistake if you decide too early. You can lose the opportunity to get more information or the situation may change before you need to decide. The sweet spot is not too early and not too late.
How has being a WBENC Corporate Member helped your corporation and/or procurement department?
WBENC has incredible women-owned businesses! WBENC WBEs are some of our most valued suppliers. WBENC WBEs help me to prove the business case for supplier diversity, because they are strong, capable suppliers who deliver results for ExxonMobil.
How is doing business in the Energy Industry different for women entrepreneurs and what education, training programs or special qualifications should WBEs ensure they look into?
Safety, Safety, Safety. Safety is the foundation for all we do. Any supplier to the O&G industry needs to have a strong safety culture and processes. For onsite work, you must have minimum safety OSHA performance to be awarded work. To say it another way, without a good safety record, it doesn’t matter how good your prices are or how attractive your offering is. Safety is a go / no-go criteria. I would also say if you can attend the Energy Executive Program (EEP) offered by WBENC and the O&G majors, it is an excellent course that not only gives you industry specific knowledge it also gives you hands on experience.
As a female leader in a male dominated industry, what important lessons have you learned through your career that have been key to your success?
First, be yourself. Speak up. Personally, I try to be firm and fair.
What are you reading or listening to now?
Seneca – 100 Women to Hear – podcast
What do you like about your workspace?
I love our ExxonMobil Houston campus. It allows 10,000 people to come together to collaborate and meet face to face. I miss that so much during COVID.
Fill in the Blank
When I face a challenge, I… talk it over with my team, we map out a plan, and then we work the plan.
If I could go back in time, I would tell myself… to dream bigger.
The one thing I couldn’t live without is… my husband and our two sons. (And coffee!)
Diversity and Inclusion inspires me because, … of all the brave entrepreneurs who build their business with no guarantee of a steady paycheck.
ExxonMobil, one of the world’s largest publicly traded energy providers and chemical manufacturers, develops and applies next-generation technologies to help safely and responsibly meet the world’s growing needs for energy and high-quality chemical products. Today we operate in most of the world’s countries and are best-known by our familiar brand names: Exxon, Esso and Mobil.