Recently, Bizzuka, the company that designed and hosts the Plymouth Technology website, conducted an interview with our CEO, Amanda Richie, on what it’s like to be a woman-owned business in what could be considered male-dominated industries, oil & gas specifically. Here is what Amanda had to say.
First, tell us about your background and how you came to serve as president and CEO of Plymouth Technology?
My father founded Plymouth Technology in 1991 as an industrial boiler and cooling water company.
I was in college at the time and planned on entering law school when I graduated. After working at a firm in Washington, DC, I decided that was not the direction my life should take, so, in 1994, I went to work with my father in the company.
At that time, the majority of our business involved building steam and cooling water treatment systems for light industrial and commercial customers.
I found myself being drawn to environmental issues as it relates to wastewater treatment in manufacturing. My father gave me the opportunity to explore that area, and we developed several products along that line.
My father passed away in 2005, and I purchased the company from his estate. I retooled it entirely to center around wastewater treatment, water reclamation and reuse, compliance wit the Clean Water Act, and other environmental issues. That focus would become the future of the company.
As that part of the business matured, in 2008, we got involved in the oil & gas industry and began working in the Marcellus and Utica shale plays in Appalachia.
We started with six people and have grown multiple times since I took over the company.
What key factors would you suggest attributed to that growth?
I tend to be very goal-oriented. I also believe in building a great team consisting of people who have mutual respect for one another. I designed the business around people who want to be part of a technology company and invest in an innovative team approach.
We cared about our customers and what we could do that was unique. We wanted an environment where everyone contributed in an unfettered way, and where there was a high sense of camaraderie.
Ultimately, our growth has to be attributed to the team we've built and to an environment that lends itself to innovation and growth.
What challenges do you face as a women-owned business in what could be considered a male dominated industry, especially where oil & gas is concerned?
There are always challenges for any minority-owned business. That's true in any situation, not just industrial or oil & gas industries.
I have been working in manufacturing since I was 20 years old, so I grew up facing those challenges. I think you have to read people well and understand the bias and concerns they bring to the conversation and address those, whether they are overt or not.
You have to be confident without becoming hard or abrasive. The biggest challenge is to stand firm and be comfortable with that.
You also have to adjust to different environments in terms of what brings you power as a female executive and see the opportunities that lay within the problems those challenges present.
How do you not be "hard" in an industry like oil & gas?
I enjoy the rough edges of the industry quite a bit. Relationships developed within that industry are very authentic without much pretense. You have to understand it from that context and don't mistake strength with being negative toward the people with whom you are doing business.
Do you foresee more women assuming leadership roles in industrial companies? Is that a trend?
I definitely see a trend developing. More and more women are assuming leadership roles, and that's not limited to industrial companies. Still, with only four percent of women serving as CEOs of Fortune 100 companies, we have a long way to go.
There are huge changes in how people communicate in today's economy, and I believe effective communication is essential to growth and doing business internationally. I think talents that women bring in terms of communication skills lend themselves to growth in leadership in this new economy.
As a woman, do you feel you face unique pressures to prove yourself?
I believe that anyone who is successful in business is driven by the need to prove him or herself. It's universal, not just inherent to women. Frankly, I find I'm more challenged to prove myself to me more than to anyone else.
What advice would you give other women who are seeking leadership or ownership roles within a company?
I have several very talented women who work in our company, so I have this conversation routinely.
My answer: Get a housekeeper. I'm not kidding!
You need someone to help you do those things that are not the highest and best use of your time. Whether you have children or not, having help around the house is vital.
It may sound minor, but it's huge actually.
Thank you, Amanda. This has been very informative.
Thank you. To learn more about Amanda and the services her company provides, visit the Plymouth Technology website.