Rising Star Kay She: Bridging the gap between polarized interests

Kay She is an associate with Bennett Jones LLP. Image: Joey Podlubny/JWN

Kay She has built her career on advocating for a common ground. At the University of Calgary, she ran for and won three student elections as VP External of the University of Calgary Students Union.

In her first job at the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP), she lobbied U.S. senators and congressmen on market-access issues for the oilsands. That was role that she got on the strength of her experience in university politics, her internship at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for scholars in Washington DC and her view that for Canada’s energy prospects to improve, we need to bridge the gap between polarized interests.

And currently, at Bennett Jones as a lawyer, she helps put together energy deals between parties that sometimes are far from seeing eye to eye. These efforts include the recent US$289 million acquisition of Noralta Lodge Ltd. by global workforce accommodation company Civeo Corporation.

One of the hardest decisions She had to make while in mid-stride of a great career with CAPP was whether to go back to school for a law degree.

“Essentially, it meant starting at Ground Zero again,” she says. “But having done it, I would like to say to other professionals, ‘Don’t be afraid to take a non-traditional route to get to where you want to go.’ Returning to school only gets harder as you get older. So, if you’re thinking about doing it, I suggest, ‘Go for it!’”

Kay She is one of the Fluor/Oilweek 2018 Rising Stars. To read all of their stories, click here.

Recently, She was part of a year-long national policy and leadership development program led by the Public Policy Forum (an Ottawa-based think tank). Working with other young professionals from across Canada, She co-authored a paper recommending policies to support displaced workers affected by climate change, which she presented at the 2017 North American Women in Energy Forum.

“When I finished this fellowship with the Public Policy Forum, that experience really drove home how important it is for groups of different people to just talk to each other and to understand each other points of view,” she says.

That is a message she amplifies as a board member with the Young Professionals in Energy (YPE), an international non-profit organization with more than 40,000 members worldwide.

“I’m very involved in curating a professional speaker series, where young professionals get to hear the movers and shakers in our industry talk about what’s going on and where the industry needs to go,” she says.

One of the themes in “where the industry needs to go” is breaking down silos even within oil and gas itself, among its engineers, geologists, communications professionals and regulators.

“These [YPE] events break down the silos,” She says. “We partnered with the Canadian Energy Executive Association, formerly known as Oilmen’s, and brought executives with 15-plus years in the industry—basically C-suite people—into the same room as people just starting out in the industry. The CEOs shared their perspective on the challenges to the industry and where the opportunities are and how young people need to position themselves to get the right skills to tackle those challenges.”

“But equally interesting was that young people were telling executives how we need to do business better and be more relevant in the 21st century when the gold standard is to work at Amazon or Google,” she added. “So how can oil and gas companies be more like those tech companies in terms of their business and cultural focuses?”

Education: Bachelor of Arts in Political Science, University of Calgary, 2011; Master of Public Policy, University of Calgary, 2013; Juris Doctor degree, University of Calgary, 2016

Favorite charity: Centre for Newcomers

First job: Waitressing at Earls

If not for your career, what would you be doing: I would probably get my PhD. As you can tell from above, I’m a big fan of academia.

Best advice received: My first boss out of university told me, “You can get a lot of things done if you don’t care who gets the credit.”

Favourite pastime: Spending time with friends and family (not an original answer I know, but it’s true).

Favourite book/movie: Harry Potter —Oh wait, this is Oilweek, so, The Quest, by Daniel Yergin

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