Hilary Foulkes - Geologist/Chair – TPH Canada

Hilary Foulkes

Geologist/Chair – TPH Canada

I was born/grew up in: Montreal, Quebec

I now live in: Calgary, Alberta

I completed my training/education at: Honours B.Sc. in Earth Science at the University of Waterloo in Waterloo, Ontario

Describe what you do at work.

Every day I meet with people who are making decisions about what to do in order to make their companies better. Sometimes there are physical things they need to fix. Sometimes there are people problems and sometimes there are both! I use math to analyse the financial results a company has in order to get clues to why the company is successful or why it is not! I also look at what their competitors are doing to compare and contrast. There are some software packages that allow us to look at this data easily.

I use a software system to look at maps that show me where the company’s assets are located. I also use this software to show me where these assets are located underground. I look at graphs that show how much oil or gas a well is producing and how that changes over time. I also use a lot of psychology to figure out how to communicate with people and understand how they are going to react and also how the team I have will work together best.

I do a lot of problem solving and use deduction mostly. For example I will look at the evidence and try to figure out where the problems are. I then come up with the options for fixing those problems. This goes for both the people problems and the physical / operational problems. I make a lot of decisions every day. Sometimes they are hard decisions that people don't always like and I have to try and explain the reasoning to them. I like to think I make decisions based on evidence, experience and most importantly, ethics. It is really important to firstly be ethical and then use an evidence based and logical approach to decision making. That way the process can be repeated, and the decision will be more reliable and defendable. Scientific principles and logic play a big role in my decision making. When we are problem solving it is a very collaborative process. Everyone has specific skills and experience that they bring to the problem. It is my job to bring the best out in everyone. Sometimes I feel like I am a conductor in an orchestra - my job is to help everyone work together well and ensure we have qualified people; I don’t have to be the best violinist myself!

When I was a student I enjoyed:

How does your job affect people’s lives?

People invest money in the companies we are trying to help. Sometimes management teams and investors can both benefit from what we do. I also think the approach we have helps people do their best and feel like they are contributing and are successful. On a larger scale, Canada is a world leader in ethical energy production. I feel it is important that our accomplishments as a country are represented factually and our citizens have energy security for the future.

What motivates you in your career?

The thing I enjoy most about my work is meeting with interesting people and having their trust. I’m also one of the few women executives in my industry. I feel it is important to lead change in this industry that will open doors for more women at top management positions. What gets me the most excited is having interesting ideas and being able to see them turn into reality. Also energy affects our everyday quality of life. Globally, the increasing need for energy can create political tension and strife. The science behind energy is really interesting and also misunderstood. I think it is important for people to understand scientific principles and not judge prematurely based on sound bites from a tweet.

When I was a student, I would have described myself as someone who:

Describe your career path to this career.

I’ve had an interesting career with a few different paths, but all founded in a love of geology and what those rocks can do for us. After I graduated from the University of Waterloo with a B.Sc. in Geology, I worked as an exploration geologist. In this role I worked as a geologist in remote mining camps and on oil drilling rigs in western Canada. I used my knowledge of geology to help find ore and oil deposits for the companies I was working for.

As I worked for different companies I took on different roles and responsibilities. I also took additional courses and training that led me to taking on leadership and management roles. My career evolved from using the technical application of geology to locate and access oil deposits to strategic planning and creating investment opportunities for individuals and companies.

Today I’m the Chair of TPH Canada, a major multinational investment banking company.

What activities do you like to do outside of work?

I played competitive squash for many years but I’m getting a bit older and my knees are sore now! I’m a skier, cyclist, love traveling and am an avid gardener. I mentor young professionals. I am mom to three grown daughters and love playing with my grandchildren Amelia and Harrison (Amelia loves rocks)!

What advice or encouragement would you give others seeking a similar career?

For any career it’s important to become an expert first. Don’t be in a rush to be a manager or be concerned about titles. Be realistic and focused on what you like and what you don’t. Over time, steer to what you like. Be honest and truthful always.

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