1 August 2023

A lifetime of learning: From roller-skates, to rockets, to powering a cleaner future

Penny, human resources manager at OCI Methanol North America talks to us about how her career in HR took shape over a decade at NASA, and how she’s now solving new challenges and learning at OCI Global    
Penny, what is a surprising fact about you?

I have two – the first is that I used to work at a drive-through fast food restaurant called Sonic delivering food to customers on roller-skates, and the second is that I worked at the Johnson Space Center for NASA for 11 years! I’ve lived in Texas for most of my life, and when you live in the Houston area, you either work for NASA or you work in energy. I’m lucky to have done both – starting with NASA and now with OCI.  

What are your reflections on working across those two industries?  

There are interesting parallels between NASA and OCI beyond their physical presence in Texas. In terms of innovation, you see the same kind of innovative spirit at OCI as you do at NASA, because in both cases innovation is driven by a collective ambition to be a pioneer, in our case towards decarbonization. It’s important to me that we’re moving forward to create a better environment, for the world, but also specifically for our families and children. Having the opportunity to be part of OCI’s decarbonization journey and the growth that’s happening here in Beaumont pioneering green fuels has been exciting. The work we’re doing has a real, tangible impact on the community around us, the families that live nearby. I’m proud that the children in our community are going to grow up around an industry that’s constantly improving and trying to make the world better.  

How did your role in HR take shape? 

It felt like the stars aligned for me. Initially I was working as a technical writer for Government Furnished Equipment Safety. At a company like NASA, there are so many different opportunities and when a role in HR came up, I realized I was already doing a lot of the work. I did some research into HR and noticed that it was one of the top ten growing professions at the time, and everything clicked. The role felt like me. Employee relations, caring about people, trying to help them in learning and growing, but also supporting the company’s progress. It’s funny because even though I fell into it, in hindsight it’s always been the career for me. Early in my life I wanted to be in the medical profession and that changed but in a way what I do now is still about looking after people – from being a mother and Oma, to my role at OCI, caring about people is the common thread. 

What’s your role and what does a typical day look like?  

I’m the HR Manager at OCI Methanol North America. I work with our plant director, to agree on the culture we want to instill and push for it every day. Having that relationship with him has been wonderful, since he started, we have been very aligned with what we want our employees to feel coming into work. 

In terms of a typical day, there isn’t one. I start the day by writing a to do list, but that sometimes gets done, sometimes it doesn’t. The day could be filled with meetings, reporting, strategizing about improvements to the onboarding and continual learning process, looking at feedback we’ve received. Every day is different, some days have more meetings, but then others are more focused on people and looking at where people need more support. Those interactions remind me what’s important in life – being there, being an active listener and having empathy. It really slows you down and shows you want matters. That’s what I love about HR – there’s no typical day. 

What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced?  

I joined at a time when OCI was reconfiguring its HR systems, trying to make them more efficient and cohesive across the four continents we have operations in. With that transition, the biggest challenge was overcoming any residual misconceptions about HR. To address it, I made myself more visible, attending all the meetings I could even when I wasn’t necessarily needed. Being in those meetings talking about the plant and the day-to-day operations gave me a stronger understanding of the challenges people were facing, meaning whenever people would come and talk to me about issues, I could understand the specifics behind the challenges. It really helped me build relationships and bring the team together.  

What’s the culture like at OCI?  

We’re a team here. We collaborate, we really, truly care about each other. We all try to understand each other and see how we can help. There’s also a culture of promotion from within here, the company is supportive of any kind of professional development and training, so there’s a learning culture as well as a collaborative one. 

Finally, why should people join OCI?  

Working here gives you the opportunity to contribute to an exciting, forward-thinking, fast-moving company. Joining OCI, you know you’re going to get opportunities to be part of important milestones not just for the business and industry, but for the wider world too. Opportunities like fueling the first ever methanol container vessel with our OCI HyFuels green methanol are exciting, innovative things to be part of. If you’re interested, if you’re driven and want to be learning and progressing your career, then this is the company for you. We don’t let dust settle around here and we really care about our people. It’s a powerful combination.  

Find out more about a career at OCI Global here

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