Ashley Zumwalt-Forbes is co-founder and president of Black Mountain Metals 1, Black Mountain Metals 2, Black Mountain Exploration and Black Mountain CarbonLock. Featured in Forbes’ 30 Under 30 in Energy in 2020, Ashley also sits on the advisory board for About Hennessy Capital Investment Corp. V, Female Venture Fund, Polestar, TCU Energy Institute and the University of Oklahoma’s Mewbourne College of Earth and Energy.
In this week’s Q&A, Ashley discusses her start in energy and where she sees the industry heading in 10 years, and shares advice for those entering the industry today.
What was your first job?
My first job was as a carhop at Sonic in my hometown of Choctaw, Oklahoma.
What was your first job in energy and how did you get it?
After my sophomore year at OU (University of Oklahoma) studying petroleum engineering, I landed a reservoir engineering internship at ExxonMobil. I switched to an internship in drilling engineering the following summer and then was hired on at ExxonMobil full-time as a drilling and completions engineer upon graduation.
Who is your inspiration at work?
My forever all-time career hero is Sara Blakely, founder and CEO of Spanx.
What is the first thing you do when you start work in the morning?
Talk to my Australian team before they go to bed to hand over or fight any necessary fires. Then I reply to emails. I’ll have a full day of Australian emails when I wake up.
What would you be doing if you weren’t in this career?
I definitely anticipate that I would be sleeping more than I currently am — or at least hope that I would be. Jokes aside, I really love tangible assets. So, if I wasn’t in energy, I could see myself being involved in real estate development or something similar.
How do you relax?
I love to hang out with my husband, friends and family. I am generally most functional when I am making time to work out and eat well, but those two things don’t always happen!
What was your favorite school subject? Why?
Math — it always made sense to me and I liked that there was no room for interpretation. Numbers are very black and white. I also found that it really helped explain how the world worked.
What advice would you give someone entering the energy industry today?
Be open-minded and constantly learn about new and evolving areas. I think approaching the energy industry as an entire value chain as opposed to only thinking about it as oil and gas — or another piece — will really benefit professionals looking to maintain a long, interesting and prosperous career.
What do you think the energy industry will look like in 10 years?
I think it will be an incredibly lively, innovative and diversified space. I am a long-term believer in natural gas — particularly when coupled with CCS/DAC — but also think there are logical deployment opportunities for renewables, nuclear and inevitably new technologies. Energy storage will be a massive growth sector. I am a bit of a naysayer on large-scale hydrogen deployment but can see niche applications.
What book has helped you most at work?
I read a book a week and find that reading helps me expand my viewpoint and way of thinking. Some of my recent relevant favorites are Daniel Yergin’s “The New Map,” Bill Gates’ “How to Avoid a Climate Disaster,” Bob Iger’s “The Ride of a Lifetime” and Phil Knight’s “Shoe Dog.”
What excites you about your job?
I really like the concept that you get out of something what you put into something – that is certainly the definition of entrepreneurship. There is no one else there to pass the buck to; if it needs to get done, you need to do it. In terms of sector, the energy business is one of the most fundamental industries in the world; I love being able to see the tangible impact we can make on the world.
Looking to connect? You can find Ashley’s LinkedIn here.
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