Meeting Recap: Fireside Chat with Industry Executives (November 16, 2020)
December 18, 2020
As the industrial and medical gases industry expands globally and new applications for compressed gas products evolve, there is an ongoing need to cultivate the next generation of leaders to sustain the industry’s continued growth and advancement. Additionally, as a large number of technical experts approach retirement, there is a critical need to foster the development of subject matter experts and technical leaders who will drive innovation and maintain the industry’s legacy of safety.
But how can today’s young professionals take charge of their own professional development, prepare for advancement, and become impactful leaders for the future?
Members of the Young & Emerging Professionals Committee of the Compressed Gas Association (CGA) are taking a proactive approach to addressing this strategic challenge. On November 16, 2020 they hosted an innovative virtual event open only to committee members: “Fireside Chat with Industry Executives: Leadership Insights for Young & Emerging Professionals.”
This live panel discussion, which was open only to committee members, featured four senior industry executives from CGA member companies who spoke candidly about their professional experiences and provided invaluable advice for those looking to advance their own careers:
- Jack Butler, CEO & Owner, Butler Gas Products Company
- Susan Ellerbusch, CEO, Air Liquide North America LLC
- Jillian Evanko, President & CEO, Chart Industries Inc.
- Michael Sinicropi, President & COO, Matheson
The moderated discussion included live Q&A, enabling participants to ask questions of the panel directly. Melissa Heard, Director of Marketing for CGA member company Weldcoa and a young professional herself, served as moderator.
This Fireside Chat provided our committee members with a unique opportunity to hear first hand experiences from panelists, their thoughts on advancement and leadership, and what they look for in emerging leaders in their own organizations. We appreciate the authenticity that our panelists brought to the discussion and the time and expertise they shared with this group.
As Melissa Heard remarked after the event, “It was a privilege to hear how these senior industry executives took charge of their careers, the lessons they learned along the way, and their advice for the next generation.”
Advice for Young Professionals
We share below just a few of the invaluable insights, lessons learned, and recommendations provided by our panelists during this Fireside Chat.
Question: “Looking back on your own career, how did you get where you are today as a senior leader, and what advice do you have for young professionals looking to build a successful career?”
“Leaders should lead through people vs. telling others what to do. Keep an open mind about different career possibilities – and be willing to get out of your comfort zone.”
“Be willing to take measured risks in your career – except in safety.”
“Seek out and accept the right roles to build your career. Look for positions where you feel 75% prepared for the job – that way, you can be successful, while still having the opportunity to grow.”
“Keep your head down, work hard, and the results will come.”
“Come with great effort and great attitude. Be a lifetime learner.”
“When you leave school, you begin your career with a toolbelt filled with certain tools. Don’t just chase job titles. Chase experiences that will deepen and expand critical tools in your toolbelt.”
Question: “What attributes do you consider before deciding to promote someone in your organization to a senior level position?
“Have some technical awareness, at least. Know what you don’t know. Demonstrate good decision-making and collaborative skills. Spend some time with customers.”
“We’re in the people business, so we need leaders who are humble, hungry, and demonstrate good people skills. We’re also in the gas business, so we need leaders with at least some technical skills.”
“We look for good listeners – those who are good at listening both internally and externally. Also, we look for someone who is willing to take on any challenge and figure out how to do it.”
Question: “Some young professionals suffer from ‘imposter syndrome’ – we worry that we’re not qualified for the position we’re in… How do you overcome this?”
“Commit to being a lifetime learner. Lean on your mentors. Position yourself so you have more confidence – get active in CGA to build your technical expertise.”
“The best way to grow your toolbelt is to do new things. Understand which tools you have, and which tools you lack. Look for opportunities that can help you add new tools to your toolbelt.”
“Don’t worry about imposter syndrome – everyone feels that at some point. Check with your colleagues and direct reports for their insights and input. Then form your own opinions, and act.”
Question: “What’s something you wish you’d been told early in your career?”
“Be a lifelong learner – keep your mind open to possibilities. Be willing to take on risks that shape you as a professional and as an individual. Learn, learn, learn.”
“Expect your career to be a winding road. Try to develop a breath of experience. I began my professional career as an engineer. I wish I’d gotten customer exposure earlier. Ours is such an interesting industry – consider taking on a sales role early in your career.”
“Remember, you can be a good parent and be good at your career. It’s possible to do both.”
“I wish I’d gotten active in CGA much earlier in my career. Working on standards development efforts offers such a wonderful opportunity to learn and increase your technical knowledge.”
We are sincerely grateful for the time and expertise that our panelists shared with members of CGA’s Young & Emerging Professionals Committee. The committee’s task force on leadership and professional development, chaired by Jim Reebel of Air Products and Chemicals, Inc., is already working to plan a series of events with industry leaders and roundtable discussions between committee members for the coming year. We look forward to continuing the conversation with you in 2021.