Updated on 5 March 2013
I tend not to think of one person having a major contribution within a company-more like everyone can bring significant knowledge and experience to the table for combined success. For me, creating a team culture where all members' contributions are valued and an environment of communicating our shared achievements is probably the main thing I would highlight as having brought to the company. My experience in taking new technologies to market when people have told me that it can't be done, has shown me that having a great team behind you, which works well as a whole, is of fundamental importance to getting your product from a concept to a reality. There are two major milestones that I can think of straight away: going to the US to live and marrying my husband. I would have been a different person if hadn't moved to the US. These are the two things that define me - help make me who I am.
Throughout my career and my education I have been fortunate to have professors, managers and peers who have pushed me to be the best I can be. I have also been blessed with a naturally positive outlook - I tend to see the potential for good outcomes rather than the risks associated with failure. In the business I am in now, you need to be aware of the risks, but you must continually focus on the prize. So I don't consider things as a challenge in a negative sense. If you make the wrong decision then you make a change and you learn from your experience. I don't think of anything in my life as a major problem. I usually have a back-up position.
Throughout my life I have been fortunate to be pushed, pulled, supported, mentored and inspired by so many people. If I had to name a few, I would say, my dad taught me that you can succeed beyond your means by working hard, my mom gave me my social conscience and the need to make a difference, my husband taught me patience. I have had teachers from elementary school through to University who have believed in me and helped me succeed. Professionally, at UOP, Dr Stanley Gembicki, our CTO, taught me to dream the big dream and Dr Carlos Cabrera, our CEO, taught me that good ideas aren't enough, you need to execute if the idea is going to be a commercial success. I also knew that it was possible to be successful as a woman as I had two women role models - Ms Mary Good and Ms Edith Flanigen. Mary was VP of Allied Signal's R&D and became US Under-Secretary for Technology in the Clinton Administration. She taught me that indeed, a woman could be a good leader and Edith Flanigen, the inventor of a petroleum refining method and one of the most innovative chemists of all time, taught me what it really takes to innovate (vs just invent).
My husband and I have two greyhounds, which were retired from racing and we rescued them. If we are not walking them, we like to go tramping. I don't consider managing professional and personal life as easy or hard. It is what it is. The key is having a supportive family, friends and coworkers.
To the young women in the field, I want to say that you should do what you want to do and make your own decisions. I was told my career was over because of a decision I made. Of course my career wasn't over. You should go with your gut instinct and make personal decisions that you think are right for you. You should listen to people and take advice, but what they see as your trajectory and the path you choose do not have to be the same. When we have finished building LanzaTech into a globally successfully renewable's company I am going to retire and spend my time with my husband and our dogs.
(As told to Vipul Murarka)