Inside Aera
People of Aera Sep 19, 2018

Five from Aera selected from 2018 GRIT Awards nominations

Five Aera employees have emerged as finalists for the GRIT Awards, which celebrate those making a difference in the energy industry.

Chosen from a global field of 160 nominees are Aera’s:

  • Mystie Barrett, process specialist
  • Joann Christensen, engineering technology manager
  • Jorge Haiek, IT supervisor
  • Johanna Hoyt, geologist
  • Cindy Pollard, public affairs director

The winners will be announced Oct. 3 at the GRIT Awards ceremony in Houston. The event also will be live-streamed to thousands worldwide.

“The GRIT Awards celebrate people in the energy industry who have their heads down, doing great work,” says Katie Mehnert, founder of Pink Petro and its subsidiary, Experience Energy, which oversees the GRIT Awards.

GRIT stands for growth, resilience, innovation and transition in a transparent world. Nominees are evaluated on professional accomplishments, personal philanthropic efforts and other qualities. Winners are recognized in five categories: individual, executive, entrepreneur, male champion and team. There can be multiple winners in each category.

“The GRIT Awards are a celebration of the difference makers — the women who lead and the men who recognize the value women bring and advocate for their progress in energy,” Mehnert notes. “They are the unsung leaders who are down in the trenches, getting the job done. They are the role models this industry needs. Most importantly, they are nominated by their peers, which shows us their work has impact.”

Here’s a closer look at Aera’s GRIT Award finalists:

  • Mystie Barrett works with a team that’s responsible for safely recovering the Lost Hills light oil, heavy oil and Belridge light oil water flood production. The team operates “in the safest, most efficient and economical way while being good stewards of the environment by exceeding the environmental regulations we are required to comply with,” Barrett says.  According to her anonymous nominator, Barrett’s ability “to both empathize with people and ensure work is getting done correctly was on full display as she helped lead her team through . . . a workplace injury. She handled . . . the most challenging event in the career of an operations staff member in the most effective manner I have ever seen.”
  • Joann Christensen has led Aera’s transformational innovation project, Trailblazer, since it was formed in January 2018. Initially hesitant to leave her role as engineering technology manager for the Belridge light oil recovery team, she realized “this was a great growth opportunity for me, a potential game-changer for Aera, and with 33 years in the industry, an opportunity to leave a legacy.” In response to a GRIT application question about the biggest challenge she’s faced and how she overcame it, Christensen told how she and her husband, Todd, faced a life-changing experience 19 years ago when their daughter, Dana, then six months old, needed a liver transplant. Todd donated a position of his liver to Dana, who has been healthy ever since. Through the real-life “nightmare,” Christensen learned she could “keep hope alive and persevere in the face of adversity.”
  • Jorge Haiek was nominated for the male champion category by Aera Information Supervisor Kristi Culligan. Haiek served as Culligan’s supervisor before he took on the position of the IT supervisor for the data management team. When he moved, Culligan replaced him. “I nominated Jorge because he is a constant support to me and the women that work with him,” she says. “His encouragement to excel in my areas of focus and his willingness to advocate for me and others has helped me realize my own potential and opened doors of opportunity within my organization.” Haiek has worked for Aera since 2009.
  • Johanna Hoyt started at Aera in the summer of 2012 as an intern for the Exploration group. She began working full time that winter as a geologist in the San Joaquin Valley technical asset. Now a geologist for the San Ardo field, Hoyt says: “As a geologist, I work in a reservoir team to identify, plan, and execute drilling opportunities. We also manage production of the oil reservoirs and work significantly in the license-to-operate space with Environment, Health and Safety in navigating the increasingly involved regulatory environment.” Her anonymous nominator says Hoyt is “a strong advocate” in inclusion and diversity work at Aera. The nomination letter adds that “forward-thinking” Hoyt has “stepped out courageously” in her involvement with Aera’s Asian and LGBT Employee Groups.
  • Cindy Pollard, who joined Aera in 2014, “has forged a path . . . that is striving to create a new future for the industry by shifting the public narrative about the work we do,” writes nominator Kathy Miller, Aera’s public affairs coordinator. “She is standing against the daily barrage of negativity about the oil industry and creating a new conversation that is reflective of the great work taking place in our production fields and the benefits our industry brings to society as a whole.” Pollard, who helped develop Aera’s Ambassador Program “searches for solutions to problems that often are monumental,” Miller notes. “She does not back down.”

This year marks the second GRIT Awards. “The response to the inaugural GRIT Awards was overwhelming, so we decided to hold the awards separately to give them more attention,” Mehnert says.

The first-ever GRIT Awards were announced March 8, 2018, in conjunction with the HERWorld Global Energy Forum in Houston, Texas. Aera Information Specialist Tina Carmona was among the 30 energy leaders honored with a GRIT award at the forum, which reached 450 audience members onsite and 74,000 internationally through an online broadcast.


We live our safety motto that “Every day, everybody goes home alive and well!” / DID YOU KNOW? Aera Energy has been honored with the North American Maintenance Excellence Award and the AME Manufacturing Excellence Award.