Part Two: Helping Others Thrive
In Episode 2 of the Oil and Gas Elevate Podcast, hosts Sean McCoy and Eric Johnson interviewed Witting Partners Founder and Executive Coach Joe Sinnott in their Talking Points section. In this article, OGGN contributing writer Stephen Forrester spoke more with Joe about his passion for coaching and unique career path. In Part II, Joe explores his time at EQT in drilling engineering, completions, and asset development, his founding of Witting Partners, and how his appreciation for building sustainable careers drives him to coach others to be more effective leaders, communicators, and decision makers.
This is a continuation of a former post. For Part 1 of this blog post, click here.
“Then,” he says, “I became manager of reserves engineering, where I was given the chance to head the corporate reserves process, produce regular investor relations material, manage support for potential A&D activity, coordinate the flow of AFEs, and generate the company’s production forecasts.”
When you’re asked to make forecasts that are used to make significant long-term decisions, Joe admits, there’s a lot of pressure on you and your team, especially because of the likelihood—if not certainty—of the forecast being incorrect; but what was important for Joe was making timely and well-supported projections, while building trust with his team’s internal and external stakeholders, particularly those responsible for constructing and maintaining the midstream infrastructure necessary to support EQT’s production plans.
As he grew in the role, so too did the size of the team, with Joe eventually managing around 50 people as director of EQT’s Asset Development department. Joe’s team managed operational scheduling, permitting, coal company coordination, GIS, production forecasting, and midstream collaboration responsibilities. Managing these diverse functions meant that asking good questions and listening to the team was critical, especially considering Joe’s initial unfamiliarity with many of these responsibilities.
Joe also had the privilege of managing exceptional talent, which not only helped the group succeed but helped him grow as a leader, as well. During and after the 2017 acquisition of Rice Energy by EQT, Joe’s Asset Development team had a front row seat as the two sets of assets—and, more importantly, cultures—merged. And as best practices, new technology, and enhanced communication tools took root at the 130-year-old organization, Joe had the good fortune of witnessing the transformation of EQT over the prior decade from a regional production, midstream, and distribution company into the largest natural gas producer in the United States.
About a year after the close of the Rice/EQT deal, Joe began his final role with the company, standing up a centralized data governance and analytics team to help the company make more consistent use of data science and better capitalize on the massive amount of data it produced each day.
“Our mission,” Joe says, “was basically to help leaders make faster, better, and more confident decisions by leveraging existing data-minded personnel who became more powerful once they were aligned as a single team. And our quick success happened largely because we had operations folks who already had the experience and insights necessary to gain the trust of our internal customers; and we also benefited tremendously by having full sponsorship all the way up through senior leadership, including an IT team whose resources were aligned to support the digital transformation the company was seeking.”
As Joe and his new data team moved forward, Rice Energy’s former leadership launched a campaign to take over EQT, which would eventually lead to significant restructuring and the layoff of about 200 legacy EQT employees.
Dusting off the “forecasting mindset” mentioned earlier, Joe sensed about 2 months prior to getting let go that his time with the company would be coming to an end; and during his remaining time at EQT, Joe had an epiphany that his calling was as an executive coach, built out of his tenure at the company leading teams, past coaches and mentors he’d worked with who had shaped him professionally, and a desire to continue making a difference within the energy industry.
“Growing with a company for so long,” Joe says, “really fueled an appreciation for building sustainable careers. You see leaders who are approaching issues in an unsustainable manner, and you watch their influence and effectiveness fade; and you watch other leaders who are able to navigate ups and downs and keep people moving forward even when things are challenging, and you begin to see what approaches really work; and some of the insights I left with likely wouldn’t have been possible without the 11 years of continuity that kept so many variables the same as possible even when it seemed like things were constantly in flux.”
To today’s job-hopping generation, “continuity” might seem strange—for better or worse, gone are the days of staying at a single company for your entire career. But it’s that continuity—along with having access to such a high-caliber mix of colleagues, managers, and reports—that Joe credits with the opportunities, perspectives, and insights gained throughout his career.
Joe’s passion ultimately led to the founding of Witting Partners in late 2019, giving him the opportunity to help fellow energy industry leaders build more sustainable careers via his professional coaching approach that leverages the insights, experiences, and results gained throughout his 15-years in oil and gas. Any writers among the readership will appreciate the play on words with “witting partners.” Joe explains the name:
“The name came from the idea that you want an intentional, committed coach and partner that’s going to help you avoid unwittingly limiting your chances of success in your career. That’s the idea—you want a conscious partner with you on your journey, and the partnership is between me, as coach, and the person I’m working with, to help them become witting participants in their careers and in the lives of their many stakeholders.”
Joe also launched a new leadership podcast called “The Energy Detox” to enable leaders to combat and cut through the toxicity in the oil and gas industry, helping them lead with more clarity, less baggage, and more focus—all with the same intention of not unwittingly limiting their odds of sustained success.
Summing it up nicely (and summoning the stated mission of his former data team), Joe concludes that,
“Effective coaching helps people make better, faster, and more confident decisions…it helps people get to the source of the information, which is often within themselves, and to clean up how they think about things without wasting time on things that don’t help solve the problems they’re facing.”
Potential clients typically fall into two buckets: individuals facing a career transition and organizations seeking executive coaching for their leaders. The demand for the former, which accelerated dramatically in 2020, is not what Joe expected when he transitioned into the world of professional coaching; but even though he hadn’t envisioned spending as much time working with individuals who are pivoting to a new job or a new industry, there is extensive overlap between career coaching and corporate-sponsored executive coaching that benefits everyone he works with.
In a time where attracting and retaining talent is more critical than ever—especially as oil and gas is many times an unattractive career prospect versus tech companies and others with huge salaries, incredible benefits, and none of the baggage that comes with fossil fuels—the insights this overlap provides help existing and emerging leaders take a more sustainable approach to career development, allowing them to mold future leaders who will drive exponential impact and positive change where it’s needed most. Knowing that he’s playing a part in that positive change—and in energy’s ongoing evolution—Joe is confident that he’s chosen the right path and is very pleased with where it’s taking him.
This article was written by Stephen Forrester.