Keeping up with SiGNa

SiGNa is committed to diversity

June 1, 2017

Companies often talk of diversity and the need to create a diverse workforce. After all, the research shows that employers who invest in diversity when hiring outperform their competitors. Why? Recruiting and retaining a heterogeneous staff is more reflective of today’s global marketplace, and it helps companies develop more creative pathways to achieve their goals.
Diversity hiring isn’t just about race. It can include employing workers with diverse cultural or racial backgrounds, adding employees that span generations and speak different languages, and building teams that blend non-adjacent skill sets (like creatives with technical staff). These approaches all serve to bring a richness of new methodologies and different ways of thinking, which ultimately pushes the boundaries of established business models.

In the world of high-tech start-ups, where pushing the boundaries is a must, companies like SiGNa view diversity as more than just a metric to strive for. It’s a way of life. According to SiGNa’s CEO, Michael Lefenfeld, “To survive, SiGNa has to succeed in several arenas: technical, operational and commercialization – or go-to-market – excellence. Each requires a very different skill set, yet they must also integrate and work together elegantly. Hiring the right team is critical to our success. In a growth environment, it is critical that we have people who can think differently and imagine outcomes that might seem unrealistic or even a bit crazy. We need people with a duality to their natures, and an understanding of what SiGNa needs to accomplish across the spectrum. In other words, we need a very diverse workforce.”

Since its inception, SiGNa has made it a point to employ individuals with diverse gender, race, cultural and experience backgrounds. They have brought together chemists and chemical engineers with experience in commercializing new innovations – at companies both large and small. They have hired a batch of fresh, agile, new operators who are trained by manufacturing veterans. SiGNa also benefits from financial chops gained on Wall Street to the rainmaking experience hard-earned in the trenches of the start-up community.

SiGNa has also been successful in achieving gender diversity – especially as females are such an underrepresented group within the STEM field. Women make up 48% of the U.S. workforce. In the STEM fields, though, women only make up about 24% of the workforce, and in the oil and gas industry only around 20%. When it comes to leadership, women are an even scarcer commodity in many established oil and gas companies. The U.S. percentage of women in leadership roles in O&G is around 16.7% (lower than the national average for women in leadership across all industries at 19.2%). In comparison, the percentage of women on SiGNa’s leadership team is above the national average, with one third (33%) of the team being women.

Kate Carney is SiGNa’s Senior Vice President of Corporate Operations, a position held by a woman in only 16.5% of U.S. companies. According to Michael, Kate’s qualifications and experience make her the perfect fit for this critical role. “Kate is a real growth architect with over 20 years of experience working with growth companies and project teams. She’s great at making sure we have a clear vision of success and helping developing plans that allow us to reach our goals. She brings a great degree of discipline and strategic thinking to what can be a rocky path to commercialization. And, she navigates a very diverse team dynamic to get the best out of everyone.”

Melanie Marshall is SiGNa’s Health, Safety and Environment Manager, and, like Kate, she has over 20 years of experience in the HS&E field. Melanie has implemented a new “Stop, Call, Wait” program, where if even the slightest abnormal situation or potential hazard is observed, the employee is to stop what they’re doing immediately, call their supervisor, and put a plan in place to mitigate the hazard.

“Melanie is a core addition to the SiGNa team,” says Michael. “I have found her to be very passionate about keeping our people safe and healthy – while relying on scientific methods and metrics to do so. In the HS&E field, there are so many requirements to juggle, but employee and customer safety is our ultimate concern. She is doing a great job of building a culture – with both new and veteran employees – where safety always comes first and people make the right choices.”

He adds, “While a lot of the official diversity metrics solely measure race or gender, SiGNa is focused on true diversity of thought. We ultimately look for individuals – in our labs, on our manufacturing floors and in our corporate offices – who can adapt to the speed of a growth environment, learn quickly, challenge the tried and true and find new ways to serve our customers. We want people like Kate and Melanie who combine technical, operational and go-to-market skills, while bringing a passion to the work they do and the team they support. The diversity of our workforce brings a high level of innovative thinking to our company and I truly believe that’s why we continue to do things that nobody else has been able to accomplish.”

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