Reflections on Episode 12 with Tish Berge, General Manager of Sweetwater Authority

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What a great interview to round out our first season!  Before I get into my reflections, I want to take moment and thank Mel Butcher for putting together such a wonderful experience for our listeners.  When I had the idea to reflect on each podcast as a way to share the message with others, I had no idea how much it would touch my life.  Actively listening to these women for how our lives might align was a true blessing.  I invite you to take time to reflect as well; there is something about listening to a story…

In Episode 12, we hear from Tish Berge who earned a B.S. in Engineering from Harvey Mudd College and an MBA with a focus in Finance from the University of California. She has over 25 years of experience in the environmental industry, from private chemical manufacturing, to consulting, to public service. Currently, Tish serves as General Manager for Sweetwater Authority, a water provider in California.

As you know by now, I am fascinated by engineering and have a deep respect for public service professionals. Tish shares her love for the water industry and great pride she receives from making a product that we, the consumers, will always need.  I loved her conversation about Water being essential to Life and she enjoys making sure we have clean water…

I really appreciate her quote, “You can be feminine and strong… I think it does take a unique person to have the confidence to be able to handle it.”

Part of my mission is for women to feel comfortable being women, and I believe Feminine and Strong is the perfect definition of that.  I was just listening to Halle Berry on InStyle IGTV talking about when she felt most beautiful, sexy, and like a woman was when she was pregnant.  It pains me to think of all the engineering stories where they felt they couldn’t have a career and be a mom. Whatever Feminine and Strong means to you, I want you to have the confidence to be just that!  I can also relate to Tish’s quote:

“I remember trying on a lot of different personas. And maybe it’s because I didn’t feel like I had role models. I would try them on, and then they didn’t work. For example, back when I was in technical sales, I used to try to be a guy. I used to tell jokes like a guy, I used to hang out with the guys, do shots with the guys… I wish I could have found a way to get to know myself earlier better and get more comfortable in my skin, instead of bumping around so much as far as — what works for me?

I too have tried on several personas.  I used to think it was just the sales person in me trying to put the customer first.  Now I know, I just didn’t know what I liked, needed, or deserved.  I remember dressing up like some nautical golf pro (whatever that is) when I first accompanied my husband to the golf club.  I don’t know how he didn’t bust out laughing at first sight of me… I still laugh when I think about it.  I do think it takes some trial and error to know how to grow in our careers, but I think having a strong role model is key.  To find a role model as a woman in these male-dominated industries is hard…

But I plan on helping to change that! Join us September 26th in Chicago for our first annual Empowering Women in Industry Conference & Awards Gala and help #BeTheChange!


Reflections of Episode 11 with Charli K. Matthews, CEO of Empowering Brands

Cieana and Charli smiles


Author: Cieana Detloff

When I participate at Pump Industry events, I frequently hear, “Oh, I Know Charli!” She is a leader in this industry and (almost) everyone has either met her, seen her online, or knows of her. Starting out as an ‘underdog’, Charli K. Matthews has likely surprised some folks with her ability to stay in this industry – which, by its very nature, is competitive and slow to adopting change. Charli has been leading change in this industry since 2011 (on August 11th, Empowering Pumps & Equipment turns 8!). She has educated people on how to use social media; she created a platform for people to CONNECT (which has continued to grow); and she is constantly searching for ways to EMPOWER people, companies, and brands.

Even though I have known Charli since 2012 and have worked closely with her since 2015, it was still an eye opening experience to listen to her thoughts, feelings, and insights on Episode 11 of the Empowering Women in Industry Podcast. For example, the fact that she has to defend her decision to host the Empowering Women conference & gala on September 26th was surprising to me. I did not realize that she gets comments, daily, about this effort. In the interview, Charli talks about inaction being one of the motivators for this initiative. This idea around “inaction” or ‘waiting too long’ really resonated with me and I’ll tell you why…Bear with me… because I’ve recently been engaged in an online discussion around ‘ambition’ in the CollabSuite group (graciously hosted by Mel the Engineer on Facebook). In that group, I commented that motherhood had been the thing that had knocked my level of ambition down to a ‘zero’ (sleep deprivation puts you in complete survival mode – so Rockstar mode is something I had to work back up to ::grins::). What I realized is that there are many things that can deeply affect a person’s level of ambition and INACTION is one of them.

When a person feels like they are ‘stuck’ in a job, and even ‘stuck’ in a relationship, it can kill a person’s ambition. The minute we recognize that inaction (including inaction from an employer or someone we’re looking toward to lead the way), our power comes back. We realize that something needs to be done, and we make the choice to either stay stuck, or DO something about it. The ‘doing something’ is always the hardest part – because there will always be people questioning your every move, even as you are trying to self-validate. In the interview, Charli states, “It’s disappointing to have to defend the need for a women’s conference.” She shares a story about feeling push-back, which creates a lot of self-doubt internally – even when you’re defending something externally, it can be easy to still feel the need for that validation internally (and I think this is a feeling that has been felt by both men and women alike – so very easy to relate).

I appreciated her sharing the importance of having confidence, being direct, and practicing Mental Toughness (a topic that will be covered at the conference!). Charli is very vocal about where she stands and what she is about, and yet, there were statements she made that I was surprised to hear her say. When she said, “I don’t see myself as a Leader”, I was shocked. In my eyes, she’s always been The Leader. Then, she clarified – “I’m still learning how to be a leader” – and then I realized that her statements are coming from a place of humility (which is an attribute of some of THE BEST Leaders in the world).

It is hard to be the Leader, but she shares her realization that “I need to become a leader to empower others”. She talks about the confidence that is needed to overcome limiting beliefs and that challenging those doubts are necessary to grow in a career.

Another point that is discussed is that women are not brought along the steps of leadership the same way male counterparts are, and this inadvertently, and often unintentionally, sets women up for failure. This discussion is not ‘dissing’ or condemning men, but once again, points out *the need* for a program that highlights Women who are making a difference in the industry. Women who can be role models – who can attract other talented women into an industry that needs a more diverse workforce to tackle the problems it’s facing (skills gap, loss of workforce due to retirement, etc.).

About 30 minutes in and Charli is talking about her experience earlier on in her career “feeling like they don’t want you to be there…feeling like I needed permission… I didn’t know how to ask to grow.” This was a lightbulb moment for me…seeing the inner workings of a leader – the experiences that have helped shape Charli into the Leader she is today. Charli is constantly asking me questions about what I’m passionate about, things I like to do, the parts of my work that get me really fired up. And she does this with all the other members of our team too because she is trying to keep a pulse on making sure every member of her team loves what they do and that they have a path to grow. Charli talks about not originally having a “career development path” – sharing “I was drifting, happy with my job then given more responsibility. I was not thinking about a career path.” I think many people can relate to this experience. I certainly do. I did not set out to join the Pump Industry – I fell into it! And just like Charli, I fell in love with the people – Charli being one of them. I mean, how could you not love her?!

Of course I smiled when Charli mentioned that “Cieana leads me a lot of the time.” It’s very nice to be called an “Empowered, Confident Woman” (and I know that I am!), but I am probably one of her more challenging employees to work with (for reasons I will not go into ::smiles::). What I am grateful for is that despite my shortcomings, Charli continues to Lead. For example, when I mentioned one of my “weak spots” performance-wise, she corrected me…responding with “you mean learning spot.” Now that is Powerful. How many bosses do you know do that? Take an employee’s acknowledgement of falling short, and turn it around with a response that makes a person feel better about themself… A response that inspires a person to DO Better. To BE better….that is Powerful to me and further reinforced by her statement that “We’re stronger when we work together.”

“One of the most important things I could do is contribute to another person’s life for good.” Charli is not talking about me in this story, but I know who she is talking about, and it makes my heart swell.  Charli is on her own journey, but while she is learning and growing, she wants to help others “be the real you…and grow in confidence and leadership”. She admits she doesn’t have all the answers, but that’s the beauty of being real. That’s the beauty in what she is working to build. And I, for one, look forward to being part of it.


Authors note: If you’re curious about what we do at Empowering Women in Industry, Empowering Brands, and/or Empowering Pumps & Equipment, don’t hesitate to ask…every position from every single member of our team is “how can we help you?”. It’s never been about what our team can get, or how much money can we make – we are not driven by money. We are driven by collaboration for mutual benefit. So if you’re wondering how we can be partners and support each others’ missions, just ask! As Charli says…. It’s better when we work together!

Originally posted

Reflections on Episode 10 with Shereen Yusuff, Production Petroleum Engineer

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Shereen Yusuff… what a fascinating human!

Shereen is a Production Petroleum Engineer who has held positions in Project Management, Business Development and Customer Success through her 15 year career in Oil and Gas. Within oil and gas, she has worked on Production, Drilling and Reservoirs. This is a unique experience in the context of oil and gas professionals because she has worked on both the service and operator sides of the industry.
When listening to Mel and Shereen talk openly about Shereen’s life, I am again reminded about the power of storytelling! The talk of Oil & Gas took me back to my first time walking on a fracing skid (not in the field), I was fascinated by the equipment and this industry!   I recently found out my dad had been a Derrickman (A derrickman is a person who sits atop the derrick on a drilling rig to help guide the stands of the drill pipe into the fingers at the top of the lifting device.  He also worked on the piston pumps and diesel engines!) before I was born, and I felt a sense of pride rush over me!  It is a tough job, but very rewarding… so I’ve heard!  I was actually working on a media brand for the Upstream Oil & Gas industry when I faced my largest career struggle.  I had such high expectations for myself and my team, and I didn’t have the skills nor opportunity to manage the situation.  This is part of the reason I am so determined to teach these skills to the future generation.
I have been thinking a lot about Change and it’s power to increase or decrease an organization’s success. As I listened to Shereen’s story about facing culture change at an early age, I believe her quote “You must adapt” is the key to her success and ours!  We have to adapt to people, places, roles, and expectations.  I remember facing similar challenges and opportunities as a young woman in this challenging male-dominated industry.  I LOVE the challenge of this industry, and I’d like to keep the good while improving on the bad.  To do this, we must listen to learn and then use our voice.
Shereen has lived in many different countries and cultures.  Her stories reminded me of my time in college when I was the historian for the International Student Association!  I loved this group and it introduced me to many different cultures.  One of my tasks was to cover the “Flavor Fest” event. On this day, students showcased their culture with food and dancing… What’s not to love there! I remember the bellydancers and beautiful Indian clothes during the festival! ( I still want to be invited to an Indian wedding!)  I love fashion and any type of dancing… but I have a special place for Bolly which I learned from this amazing group!  I have never been to India.  My first time across the sea was to Australia.  This was such a transitional moment for me (22 at the time) as I planned the trip, secured the funds myself, and traveled alone.  When I was there, I faced adversity with the host family and had to adapt to my surroundings. I created a stronger relationship with my internship verses the family.   It was there my eyes were truly opened.  It was the first time I saw a room full of women all from different countries leading the meetings.  Similar to Shereen, I had a moment when I thought, “WOW! I want to be like her!”
Shereen’s story about a leading lady that impressed her with such graceful leadership reminded me of two women in the pump industry that stood out to me early in my career. With such  graceful presence, Janet Jessen and Gretchen McClain impressed me.  I didn’t have enough direct access to these ladies early in my career, but I still have their image of leadership in my mind.  Controlled. Graceful. Success.   I feel I have a lifetime to go to attain this level, but at least I was able to see them at the top, so I know it is possible.
I will close by restating my favorite quote from Shereen and the mission we are on today…
“You can do a lot just exactly where you’re at. Even if you’ve been in the company for 6 months. Even if you’re in college. Even if you are in school. Even if you’ve been at the company for ten years. It doesn’t matter what space of life you’re in, what your career path is, or where you’re at. I think you can make a difference no matter where you’re at…. You are a walking talking role model for all of the women around you. “
Join us and #BeTheChange!  Hope to see you September 26th in Chicago at the Empowering Women in Industry Conference & Awards Gala.

Reflecting on Episode 9 of the Empowering Women Podcast with Taralinda Willis, Co-Founder & CEO of Curate Solutions

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Taralinda earned her MBA from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater with a focus on operations and project management. She has experience in large-scale public project management, overseeing the creation of a $94M multi-use facility for the state of Wisconsin, sales and account management at a performing arts venue, and customized client solutions as the owner of a consulting business. At Curate, Taralinda leads customer acquisition and business operations.

It was so refreshing to hear another CEO talking about the trials of running a business. It brings a truth to the profession when most of the time we are trying to put our best face forward to be our most effective advocate for the business. The truth is… it’s not all “sunshine and puppies” as she reminds us! Having said that, it’s very rewarding to have built a career in an industry you love with a mission you can be proud of every day!

The most notable quotes from Taralinda’s interview, I found are:

“If you’re trying to get contracts through, they might have a 20% success rate. So, when you get to 8 ‘No’s’ out of 10, celebrate that – because you know you’re getting close. You have to celebrate those and you also have to celebrate the small stuff and the wins. Being comfortable celebrating both sides is really valuable…if 8 people tell me ‘no’, then I will take myself to dinner and have a glass of wine.” “Fundraising is very similar to the sales process. It’s all about your follow-ups. It’s all about making connections with people and being able to share the vision.” “Building a company takes a village…so many people have had an incredible impact on me personally, as well as the company that have made us successful.” “You have to optimize for both the wins and the losses.”

I’d also like to highlight the summary Mel gave us with her statement “Letting go of the answer being tied to your own validity.”

I would, also, like to point out how helpful Curate could be to the Pump & Equipment industry. I have heard so many stories about vendors trying to get on an approved list or even know when bids are happening. I will have to follow up with Taralinda to learn more about this technology! I like the way she invests in “doing what you say you are doing.” Having her team vote on the municipal water polices is one of the examples she gives. This is truly inspiring.

I’d lastly like to comment on and thank her for qualifying the need for building a community of women. She talks about the need for women support groups and how important it is to have someone at the end of the day to talk to about the challenges. I will add that we must also celebrate our wins, together. Whether it’s a sale, a project, a prayer answered, or a job offer, this is life and we are the best at encouraging and celebrating each other! Cheers to more of that!

I normally close these reflections thinking… I hope you will come and celebrate with us at the Awards Gala on Sept 26th. I mean it…I truly hope to see you there!

Listen to more empowering women!

Marrying Your Networks

Carter & Charli smiling

Carter & Charli smiling

While I was listening to the Empowering Women Podcast, I heard the phrase “Marrying Your Networks.”  I thought, this is another way of describing my passion for connecting.   I enjoy the challenge of taking two seemingly different groups of people and finding a common bond. I also think we can learn so much if we take the time to listen to other point of views.  So many times, people see “different” and avoid the situation completely.  I see difference as an asset.

Sometimes I do find myself with an uncomfortable feeling around a stranger.  Now, I am not talking about the “RUN, you are in Danger!” uncomfortable. (This should be given immediate attention!)  I’m talking about the person looks different or views the world differently than me, and I don’t know what to say to them uncomfortable.

I think about this a lot in my own business and family.  Each of my children are on a completely different wave length…

To tie this into our daily work, I’ll use Carter and I as an example.  When it comes to Sales & Marketing, we are like oil & water. We usually agree with the final result or goal, but we go about the work completely differently.

Me: Focused on customer at all times and how they feel about working with us.

Carter: Focused on the details of customer expectations and measurable results.

Now, both of these are very important to ensuring success in the overall customer experience. However, these differences can cause some confusion at times.  If we take into account the other person’s goals and how they process information needed to make a decision, we can learn how to communicate in a language the other person can understand better.

Thinking of the other person’s communication style and goals:

Carter could say to me, “I think the customer would feel better about their program if they received________.”

I could say, “Based on this stat, we should be doing more ________.”

This is a simple example of how we can communicate differently with people just by taking in their point of view.  As we look to grow our networks to grow industry, I challenge you to connect with a person outside of your normal “looks like me, thinks like me” circle.  You will be surprised what you learn about yourself while listening to another person’s story.  Also, if you go into these networking opportunities with a mindset of helping the other person accomplish their goals, this is where the magic happens!  Marrying networks with a common goal make us better, faster, and stronger!

I’d love to hear your tips for better communication with people outside your comfort zone.