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JobBoardGeek podcast: Bringing diversity to the not-so-diverse energy industry

JobBoardGeek PodcastIn this episode of JobBoardGeek, we talk to Katie Mehnert of Ally Energy about how her efforts to bring diversity into the energy industry has been a challenge – but a rewarding one. She uses a combination of live events, awards, partnerships with companies, and of course her job board to pipeline candidates of diverse backgrounds into the mix of energy businesses, both old and new. Jeff Dickey-Chasins of JobBoardDoctor and Steven Rothberg of College Recruiter ask her about the pivots – and which worked or didn’t. Jeff and Steven also discuss what the job board industry is doing to support their fellow businesses in Ukraine.


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Transcript:

Jeff Dickey-Chasins  0:01

Hello everyone and welcome to JobBoardGeek, the podcast about the business of connecting candidates and employers. I’m Jeff Dickey-Chasins, the JobBoardDoctor, I’m your host, and with me is the incisive Steven Rothberg of College Recruiter. He’s the co host. Hey, Steven.

Steven Rothberg  0:17

Hey, Jeff, great to be with you today.

 

Jeff Dickey-Chasins  0:19

Well, you know, it’s kind of like the cat got your tongue there for a second. But of course, I know you don’t have cats, you have a dog. Today, we have a wonderful guest with us, Katie Manhart, of ally. And I’ve known Katie for quite a while. She’s one of the most dynamic people that I know in the industry and fun and entertaining. So I think you’re going to enjoy it. But first of all, Steven, I just wanted to chat a little bit about what’s going on with the industry and Ukraine. One of the things that really impressed me course Ukraine has a very developed technical audience and technical workforce jubile, one of the largest aggregators is based there, and all the major job boards in Europe and the UK do business there. And one of the things that happened after Russia invaded Ukraine is that a lot of the job boards decided to change what they were doing with Russia. jubile pulled out of Russia and Belarus, which was impressive, they’re continuing to pay their salaries of their people, even if they’re, if the people are fighting for Ukraine up work. And Adzuna also stopped their work in Russia, and stepstone has also banned all jobs from Russia. And then you get into some of these other things that the job board industry has been doing for the Ukrainian refugees. There’s over 3 million refugees at this point, it’s growing every day. And so a number of sites have popped up, which I think is great. And I think it’s going to be a boon for the people that are immigrants, because they’re going to be able to at least find some sort of transitory work to help them get through this tough period. What do you what’s your take on this? Steven?

 

Steven Rothberg  1:55

Well, it’s, I would guess, I would say that on both heartened and also discouraged, I would like to see more action by more people in our industry to benefit more Ukrainians. What I’m seeing so far as piecemeal, it’s some individual people, it is a little bit spotty. I think that the war caught a lot of us by surprise, and the length of it, the duration, the scope of it, the the atrocities that we’re seeing, and it’s been a struggle, one of the things that I’m trying to do, but have not really had much traction yet is to kind of get a bunch of players in the industry to work collectively and to potentially do like a big fundraising campaign where individual job boards commit to a certain amount of money. And then that money is then provided to whether it’s to somebody at jubile, or another organization for relief work. So like I saw that I think that the person works for I think it’s smart recruiters in their in their Poland office. And basically, the guy’s like, I think he spent like the last four weeks driving back and forth to the Ukrainian border, picking up refugees and bringing them to Warsaw. That kind of selfless work is something that we should be able to all get behind, or whether an organization can write a check for $100 or $1,000, or $10,000, or whatever, he needs fuel, he needs food, he needs repairs to his vehicle. And I think we as an industry, at an absolute minimum should be doing more of that kind of stuff is getting money into the hands of people on the ground that they can then use to turn around and literally save the lives of 1000s or 10s of 1000s of

 

Jeff Dickey-Chasins  3:43

people. Yeah, I would agree. And I think one of the persons that I’ve promoted on LinkedIn Andrew from relocate me has Oregon as essentially turned his efforts into a foundation that’s that’s driving supplies into Ukraine and getting them to the refugees both over the border and in Ukraine itself. And he’s been doing that pretty much nonstop for the last four weeks. And I’ve seen a really good response on LinkedIn in terms of donating money, you know, because obviously, we’re not going to be going over to Ukraine and doing anything ourselves. You know, I hope we continue to see this because unfortunately, I don’t think this conflict is going to be over anytime soon. It has all the all the earmarks of being something that’s going to drag on for a while. It’s unfortunate, but

 

Steven Rothberg  4:27

And that’s andrew@remote.me relocate relocate.me Okay, awesome. So that’s awesome, because then then I can stop trying to reinvent that wheel and anybody else out there who might be listening and thinking along the same lines. If he’s already getting traction, let’s get behind

 

Jeff Dickey-Chasins  4:46

him. I will reshare that on my LinkedIn page so that you can look it up if you want to. Well on onto a more cheerful topic. today. Our guest is Katie manna from ally our ally energy or depending on how long you’ve known You could also say pink Petro, I guess that probably dates me. But anyway, Katie, welcome to Job Board geek. It’s so wonderful to have you here.

 

Katie Mehnert  5:07

Thanks for having me.

 

Jeff Dickey-Chasins  5:08

Yes, yes. It’s wonderful to have you, Katie, I was just hoping that you could start out for us by giving us sort of a rundown on your background, how you got into this business and give us sort of a description of ally, because you’re not really just a job board by any stretch of the imagination. It’s what what you’re what you’re doing there is much bigger than that. So

 

Katie Mehnert  5:30

yeah, so Katie Mehnert, founder and CEO of Ally Energy. My background is, you know, 20 plus years in the oil and gas energy sector, primarily in Health, Safety and Environment spent a number of years in two oil majors, primarily shell and BP, helping teams drive exceptional health, safety and environmental performance took note that diverse teams drove great performance. And it’s no surprise that great diverse and inclusive teams drive exceptional performance. And we know that today, fast forward to today, running a company that is about creating, what we’ve done is we’ve created a marketplace that connects the energy industry to jobs, and we hope training. So the idea is really to create this, what I’m calling a talent and culture platform. So we want to help candidates and companies create a marketplace where we exchange values and behaviors, and interests as well as impact, you know, candidates want to make a difference. And the energy transition is the single largest opportunity in our lifetime to make a difference. Climate change is the largest challenge ahead of us now that we’re coming out of the pandemic knock on wood, and equity in the workplace is an opportunity to make a difference. So when we put environment and equity, kind of in the same shaker, right, we have this opportunity. So we’re really excited at ally energy to help the energy industry get more diverse and inclusive. And we hope to attract a new generation of talent to help the energy industry drive better performance.

 

Jeff Dickey-Chasins  7:10

That makes total sense. And I’m just curious, can you give me a couple of examples of specific services that ally energy is offering employers at this point?

 

Katie Mehnert  7:20

Yeah, so the first thing that we’ve we’ve done for the past, actually, seven years is we’ve brought the industry together through a membership. So we’ve actually curated right, great content, we’ve brought together the industry through events and the like, one of the things one of our new services is we’ve got a data subscription, where we’re helping companies manage their human capital risk, that’s something that’s new. So that’s one element of what we’re doing the second element of what we’re doing, we just launched this product, it’s a partnership, actually, with cross check. We’ve just launched our platform where we allow candidates to Diletta cross check profile through ally, and companies can recruit through the cross check solution on the ally platform, so that they can assess candidates prior to hiring. So this reduces the cycle time, right? It also allows energy companies to look at talent outside the energy industry. And this is one of the things that I think is unique, the energy industry needs to stop and forgive me for using this term recycling talent. Okay, we can’t keep using the same people to do the same work. In fact, I think that’s largely the challenge we have is that we’ve been using the same paradigm to recruit and that’s what’s getting us the same outcomes, the industry has largely not gone outside for new talent, or has been unsuccessful in attracting new talent. And so I think that technology is really going to help in this space. So these are the two things that we’ve just started with. But we’ve got bigger plans for the future as

 

Jeff Dickey-Chasins  8:59

well, somehow I’m not surprised. You know, I

 

Steven Rothberg  9:01

think any job board marketplace, we find that our products align well with certain kinds of customers and not other kinds of customers, you know, and yours, you’ve got a very well defined industry that you focus on. But what I’m wondering is within that industry, are there certain kinds of organizations, large, small, old, new, maybe run by a diverse leadership team, not run by diverse leadership teams that are that are more or less receptive to your products? You know, like when you’re reaching out to them, or you know, folks in your sales team, where are you getting the best traction?

 

Katie Mehnert  9:35

I want to tell you, we’re getting traction everywhere right now. And one of the nice things I think about larger companies where we do primarily work primarily is many of them. In fact, I have a customer who recently called me and said she calls it post and pray. So there’s this theory of post and pray. She says, you know, Katie, we post and pray. I said, What do you mean by that just as well, we post jobs and we pray the candidates around Call and I said, That’s so sad. I said, so what that tells me is, is that the digital world is so inundated, or there’s so much information out there, right? And, and reaching people and telling, you know, candidates see uniques stories, right? The unique value proposition of what a company offers, that’s just changed so much. I mean, I think about what it was like when I was entering the workplace. And guys, I’m 46

 

Jeff Dickey-Chasins  10:27

You’re a youngster,

 

Steven Rothberg  10:28

I was gonna say, this in this call. She’s the youngster. So

 

Katie Mehnert  10:31

I am. And we’re, we’re the we’re the older folks, right? And if you think about it, it’s all changing right? Now, you know, how you reach people, how we reach younger generations, right? Being able to tell these stories, right? Being able to reach what I call hearts and minds and motivating people or understanding what people’s preferences are, you know, and a job and I think the pandemic has absolutely changed, right? people’s motivations for work. And so we’re gonna have to do things differently. The other thing I hear about is smile. And dial. You know, it used to be that used to be the old way, I remember when I would get phone calls, nobody picks up the phone anymore. Yeah, and nobody and nobody reads email, nobody even reads email. So before the pandemic, our engagement rates for emails were in the 40 percents in the 40%. Like, so we got really high engagement, that was pretty good. So and I still think our engagement rates for email is pretty good, you know, in the 25 28% range. Now the sea of the sea of span and sea of firewalls, I mean, tech is really hard. Today, it’s hard to get people’s time and attention, you have to be compelling, you have to have a really good reason to get somebody right to listen. So I think it’s going to be really hard if you’re an employer to get your message across. So when you ask me that question, what kind of traction do we have larger companies, but I also think smaller companies to smaller companies have, you know, they have better value propositions because they’re more nimble, right? They have, they have more neat and interesting things to do. I think smaller companies give the opportunity for more span of control, right. But it’s going to be an interesting time, I think, coming out of the pandemic, to see where the chips, you know, may fall at the end of the day, though, culture is is a big thing, right culture and wellness and overall impact, can I make an impact where I work, and I think in the energy industry that’s at the top of the list, you know, climate change is a big, big, big problem, as is equity and inclusion. And I can’t think of a better problem to solve than to leverage and equitable workforce to drive a more fair, just and a cleaner future.

 

Jeff Dickey-Chasins  12:50

So Katie, one thing if you can clarify for me, you know, when I’ve, you know, when we’ve chatted before, and when I’ve looked at your site, when you talk about a diverse workforce, in terms of what ally is trying to do, to me, it looks like it’s primarily focused on bringing women into the industry. Is that correct?

 

Katie Mehnert  13:08

Yes. And no, I believe that it’s really about going beyond just women. It’s about people of color. It’s about harnessing the power of all people in all forms of energy. I really see this moment in time as an opportunity to think about diversity in multiple shades. You know, if you look back, the diversity conversation started with women, and it did with big metro. I mean, when we started, we launched on International Women’s Day. And I remember seven years ago, when we started, I started my business on International Women’s Day, and already kind of went what’s International Women’s Day and, and we jumped around and we, you know, we threw pink and it was pink Petro and it was really cool. It was it was cool to me. And now I’m kind of done with it. I actually, this year’s theme was break the bias. And I went out on LinkedIn not too long ago, and I said, I’m ready to bring break up with International Women’s Day. That’s not to say that I don’t think we shouldn’t celebrate these things. Because I think it’s important to keep on top of mine, but I’m so done with with talking about it guys, like we need to start moving on the numbers, you don’t get to better anything just like financial performance, right? You got to know your numbers, CEOs and executive boards, you know, companies do not move the needle unless they measure things. So just like we step on a scale and we might see a number we don’t like we got to start looking at performance like we did in the energy industry for years. We looked at safety performance, you know, 0000 is the number are not gonna harm anybody, right? There was a time when safety records were terrible. Nobody wanted to look at them. We ought to be looking at our our diversity numbers. And I don’t mean just women. I mean people of color, I mean, all of the shades that make up a diverse workforce. And let’s face it, the energy industry isn’t the only industry with a problem. This is a pervasive issue across society. You know, you were talking about the war earlier, I believe we are living in a fundamentally different time. It has been 70 years since the last World War, we are questioning our values. As a society, we are questioning what we care about. And I think fundamentally, we are redefining what peace and prosperity is going to look like in the decades to come. So I think our history has taught us right that we’ve been through these challenging times, and the next 50 years, 6070 years right ahead of us, maybe in this moment being redefined in the workforce is no different. But I think diversity in general, right needs to be something we’re going to measure just like we’re hearing climate environment, you know, there are huge pressures that are just coming down the last couple of weeks disclosures that are coming down from the SEC, or is it overreaching? It looks to me like there’s, you know, a lot of guidance coming down from the SEC, investors saying they want to see more data. So I’m just hoping, you know, in my next 10, maybe years of working, hopefully, you know, I can make a difference and my mark, and then I’ll be done and retire like like you guys, right?

 

Jeff Dickey-Chasins  16:26

Yeah, if this is retirement, I hate to think what the next step is going to be.

 

Steven Rothberg  16:32

It’s weird because I’m, I’m sitting here in a beach, it doesn’t look anything like a beach.

 

Katie Mehnert  16:37

Like seriously. Okay, maybe, maybe that’s what I mean is maybe we can all like sit on our porch and be in the next slice of life, which is a little, maybe a little slower than like what the slice of life is. I mean, right now I’m running a startup. It’s a little crazy, right? But I’m hoping in the next 10 years, it’ll maybe be a little more sorted. You know, but this has been a really rough last five to 10 years has been pretty. If you look at it from a people perspective, right? From a political perspective, it’s been a tough time

 

Steven Rothberg  17:06

sitting on sitting on my porch sounds great. If I get to Yelp stand, get off my lawn. Yeah, Dan, kid,

 

Katie Mehnert  17:14

while you drink, while you get to drink your beverage of choice, right?

 

Jeff Dickey-Chasins  17:20

You know, all I can say is I had the good fortune to launch my business in 2009, at the height of the recession. And that’s, that’s something that really, I actually, it’s funny, I counsel my clients that the best time you can launch a business is in a very bad business climate. Because if you can survive in that you can survive in anything. I worked with a lot of startups during the height of COVID, who are basically saying, Well, I’m at home, I guess I’ll start a company.

 

Katie Mehnert  17:45

No. And and you know, you’re no, I’m so glad that you brought that up. Because I did that 2014, I started paying Petro when oil, it went from 120 to 50. And I told everybody, I said double down, I’m going to double down on women, I’m going to double down on diversity. And everybody said, You’re nuts. And I remember I was drum beating International Women’s Day. And I said, you I promise you diversity is going to be the future. And everybody looked at me was like, it was crazy. And here’s the thing, Jeff, and I think I remember talking about this, I didn’t have a product then right? I didn’t have a vision, the vision was believe that the power of diversity, right, and building a community that believed in diversity, and great content, right would would be enough and then build the product. So build the market, and then build the product accepted. Generally, when you have a startup, you have a product that you build, and then you go to market except that I tried to go to market first and then build the product, which is I have to tell you is equally as challenging, right? Because you know, now we’re sharing with our customers our vision, you know, of the products that we’re we’re building, right? So it’s been fun. It’s been an exciting, it’s been great to pivot during the pandemic, it’s been great to rename, you know, reshape the brand. My daughter’s name is Allie spelled a ll y. But we go by Ally, which I thought was a beautiful way to tribute, you know, my daughter. So it’s been a fun and interesting time.

 

Jeff Dickey-Chasins  19:12

It’s great talking with you, Katie, and you’re doing great work there, in my opinion, in my humble opinion. And if any of the listeners want to get a hold of you, how can they do that?

 

Katie Mehnert  19:21

They can go to ally energy.com and they can connect with me at Katie at ally energy.com.

 

Jeff Dickey-Chasins  19:28

That’s pretty easy. Even if people want to get a hold of you. How did they do that?

 

Steven Rothberg  19:32

Well, if Katie’s daughter, Allie wants my autograph, or anything else, she can feel free to for some reason, I doubt that’s gonna happen. I don’t know why, but I just I suspect it’s just a long shot. Stephen s t e v e n at college recruiter.com. And Katie, it has been a pleasure. Thank you so much for sharing.

 

Katie Mehnert  19:54

Absolutely.

 

Jeff Dickey-Chasins  19:55

Yes. Thank you, Katie. And folks, I guess that’s it for this episode of jobless geek I want to remind you to be sure to subscribe via Apple, Spotify, Google, whatever your tool is that you particularly like. I also want to remind you that if you want to review us, you should always give me a thumbs up. You can always give Stephen a thumbs down, you have that freedom. And my name is Jeff Dickey-Chasins. I’m the JobBoardDoctor and you’ve been listening to the only podcast about the business of connecting candidates and employers. That’s it for today. We’ll see you again next time.

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