When Tana Pool came to TGS in 2013, the legal executive vice president and general counsel had one overarching goal, a goal she made very clear to her recruit Whitney Eaton, current EVP of people and sustainability, who joined just a year later in 2014.
“Tana held a very strong position that her legal department was going to be service-oriented,” Eaton remembers. “Our goal was to work with the business units to overcome the issues they encountered, not set up additional roadblocks. And she’s done it.”
Pool, Eaton, and VP of Latin America Monica Fernandez Drotleff have all previously worked under the strict legal umbrella, and Pool continues to do so. Through opportunities presented by TGS management along with Pool’s mentorship and guidance, Eaton and Drotleff stepped out from under that umbrella and amassed eight promotions between them, taking on roles in different and equally impressive directions. Eaton is a lawyer who leads compliance, HR, and sustainability. Drotleff is a lawyer who has jumped headfirst into the business side of TGS, heading the Latin America Business Unit.
Pool’s legal team is still strong, though, and almost entirely female. The longevity and success of these women’s careers might seem strange given that the energy industry isn’t historically known for being a great place for women to build a career, but that is changing.
The word “family” is mentioned frequently and sincerely by each lawyer. There is something about TGS that has attracted and retained top-tier talent, and neither Pool, Eaton, nor Drotleff is shy about sharing what has made their employer unlike anywhere else they have worked.
Pool, a farm girl who grew up in a tiny town, says the culture is what separates it from just about anywhere else. “TGS is the first organization where I have been truly part of the business, but that has also has required me to get over that the idea that my thoughts around business strategies or objectives are not as valuable, perhaps, as someone that is responsible for that business,” Pool says. “I don’t feel constrained to say within a ‘legal box’ when voicing my opinions.”
Pool continues, “We also have such a strong level of passion and teamwork among our employees; in my thirty-odd years of practicing law, I have never seen this kind of passion throughout an organization. There’s a team-first mindset that binds us together and helps us achieve a common goal.”
But Pool is also part of what makes that culture great. Katy, Texas-native Eaton, was recruited by Pool to join the organization. “[Pool] recruited me into TGS and has helped me find and develop my path in the organization,” Eaton says. “And I am not the only one at our company she has done this for. Having someone who has been where you are wanting to go, and who will take the time to listen and advise you when issues come up or new challenges arise, has made such a difference in my career.”
That same guidance goes for Drotleff, a native of Spain who spent a significant portion of her legal career working in her other native country of Venezuela. The lawyer recounts being previously offered the opportunity to join what she jokingly calls “the dark side,” the business side of the organization, but needing a bit of encouragement to take on this new challenge.
“I was concerned about making the jump because I wasn’t sure if I was meant to be on that side of the company,” Drotleff admits. “That’s when I got to know Tana and she encouraged me to take the leap, saying I could always come back to legal if it didn’t work out.”
Pool says that kind of support is just a byproduct of where she is at in her career. “There are people in my life who helped me get here and I would not be here were it not for them,” she explains. “Now that I’m at this level in my career, it’s more important for me than ever for me to make sure the people behind me get that chance to move forward.”
But the question still remains: what has kept three powerful and skilled lawyers for the longest periods of each of their careers? A culture that supports its people? A passionate workplace that makes people excited about coming to work? There isn’t an exact answer, but Eaton brings up one issue that definitely sheds some light on what has made TGS an employer of choice for these women.
“Monica and I both went through the parental leave system as it previously existed here,” Eaton remembers. “I realized that this was a policy that needed to change. TGS wasn’t different from most American employers at the time, but TGS was where I was, and I wanted to make life easier for people becoming parents and for mothers. I was in a position to do something about it, so I raised the issue of needing paid leave for parents with our CEO Kristian [Johansen]. He was immediately on board, and we now have a policy in place that provides mothers sixteen weeks of fully paid leave.”
This is just one example of the change that this team of strong women has made over the years. As the three summed it up: ”It’s empowering to make a difference for TGS and know that our voices will be heard, at the very least.” It’s with the same spirit that Eaton has been able to help evolve TGS’ sustainability initiatives on a global scale, and how Drotleff has been able to immerse herself completely in her business role, not just as an advisor, but as a true member of the management team and strategic partner of the business.
What distinguishes this group of women is the context of their workplace: a company that fosters empowerment and leadership, propelling not only women but all its employees toward excellence. This unique culture at TGS is what sets the stage for these three remarkable women to make a significant impact.