Reed - Energy Advisory Board Member Spotlight: Sonya Reed, Phillips 66

By Edward Bailey

When Sonya Reed joined Phillips 66 in May 2015 as its senior vice president of human resources and corporate communications, she admitted that imposter syndrome is real. After all, Reed’s professional development isn’t rooted in the energy realm. And as one of the few women holding a leadership role as well as being the lone Hispanic in such a position, she questioned herself as to where she’d fit in the grand scheme of things.

Quickly, she learned that her skillset not only translated, but also made her a difference maker once she embraced her unfamiliar settings the only way she knew how: with 100 percent effort and 100 percent authenticity. “… It’s important to have confidence in the value and impact of your opinions and your shared experiences,” Reed said. “You have to bring your whole self to work every day. For me, that’s a recipe for success.”

That recipe has worked out well as she’s transitioned from the worlds of industrial manufacturing and financial services into her current role as executive for one of the top energy brands in the world. Prior to joining Phillips 66, Reed served as executive vice president and chief human resources officer for General Cable, where she spearheaded the globalization of all human resources practices.

Reed has more than 20 years of global experience in human resources, and her professional travels have sent her stateside and abroad. Along the way, her adventures revealed that there’s more than one path to a solution.

“I have learned from the many countries and cultures where I have worked that there is no silver bullet for an HR challenge, nor can you assume that communications necessarily equates to either understanding or engagement,” Reed said. “People are unique, which requires that you understand what is important to them and tailor your message or action to what motivates them. Only then will they listen, engage and if you’re lucky, become advocates.”

Reed hopes to bring that same philosophy to the Energy Advisory Board. As one of its newest members, she will help lead the critical conversations that need to be had about all aspects of the energy transition. As someone who is well-versed in people and effective messaging, it’s fitting that the chance to define the energy narrative is what drew Reed to the EAB, along with the prospect of powerful dialogue that serves to map out industry’s role in the energy transition.

“It’s an opportunity to share insights and debate the kinds of innovative and creative ideas that result in action,” she said. “With only one board meeting under my belt, I am confident this forum is THE forum to discuss one of the greatest challenges we face today: How to provide affordable, reliable energy that enables growth and prosperity while also addressing the impact of climate change.”

Reed hopes to tap into her dearth of knowledge to provide a needed perspective from the energy workforce that will help the University of Houston’s efforts in workforce training. When armed with this cognizance, UH can continue to lead the world in effectively preparing the future of industry to tackle the next phase.

“As the namesake University for the Energy Capital of the World, we need to help make sure the University of Houston is fulfilling its obligation to meet the workforce needs of this next era in energy,” she said. “I hope to provide insights into that workforce, especially on how employee expectations are evolving in a post-pandemic world amid the energy transition. It’s also critical that we help shape the energy narrative, and I hope to provide insights on how we can better tell our story to all our stakeholders.”

Phillips 66 is doing its part to embrace the road to sustainability as well. Reed noted that her company is excitedly taking on marketplace challenges with a litany of initiatives rooted in digital advancement alongside cutting-edge and adaptive organizational practices.

“Early last year, we created an Emerging Energy group, which is working in four areas where we have capabilities and expertise: batteries, renewable fuels, hydrogen and carbon capture,” Reed said. “Prior to that we launched a digital transformation focused on agility, efficiency and just plain smarter ways of working. That’s yielded a number of advancements that range from predictive analytics in pipeline maintenance to digitizing operator rounds on site to wifi’ing an entire refinery (the first of its kind in the U.S.) Currently, we are implementing a broader business transformation to evolve our operating model, eliminate costs and create an organization that can prevail in the energy transition.”

As industry continues to evolve, Reed is steadfast that its personnel is more than equipped to take on the next obstacles. Though she acknowledges that the challenges themselves aren’t easy to solve, the potential for growth and innovation is just as prevalent. To that end, Reed encourages Coogs with designs on impacting energy to prioritize three things when lining up their shot at painting the portrait of energy’s future: Core Values, an enterprising mindset and of course, authenticity.

“Join a company whose values align with yours, whose culture resonates with you, and whose people you enjoy working with and can learn from,” she said. “Be proactive and look for opportunities. Don’t wait around to be told what to do. Get started. Offer ideas. Come up with solutions. And when you are given a task, give it your all (and) do so with confidence. Challenge the status quo, and make sure you show up to work as your authentic self with your unique ideas and points of view - all of which are shaped by your life experiences.”