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Angela Kouplen never anticipated a career in the energy business, but her skills have led her into an industry where she can be spiritual salt and light.
After studying engineering and business and discovering her affinity for human resources, she found a good fit at Citgo to launch her career. Later she earned her MBA. Her career trajectory took her to Williams Companies, and to WPX Energy in 2012, spun off from Williams. WPX has since promoted her to vice president of administration and chief information officer, with human resources, IT and facilities under her care.
Kouplen believes her faith makes her a better leader in a number of ways.
"My Christian faith really grounds my decision making," she says. "It's at my core." Sometimes, she says, that means "doing the right thing even when it's not popular."
Guided by Colossians 3:23, "Whatever you do, do it with all your heart, as if working for the Lord, not for man," Kouplen says her faith drives the effort she puts in every day to do the work in the context of good relationships.
"[Faith] also gives me guidance on how I treat others—with mutual respect and grace and kindness, always trying to get the job done but working well under pressure," she says. "I think stressful times are the true test of your character."
Spending devotional time with the Lord first thing in the office helps Kouplen find perspective on the day ahead of her.
"It helps me get focused on the day and calms me, because there's usually a lot to do," she says. "There is typically not a lot of time left in your schedule to really breathe. It gives me the drive to make it through the day and it helps remind me of what's important. Often, I will try to slip my devotional, or something I've heard at church lately, into conversations during the day."
Kouplen looks for ways to minister to her colleagues in her high-stress world.
"The Bible talks about commending ourselves as servants of God in every way and being patient through hardships, the challenging times, and the energy business is challenging," she says. "It's a pretty volatile environment, and commodity prices go up and down. Every company is going through reductions in force and different growth spurts at all given times, so given all of that, I try to walk and live my faith pretty openly so people recognize that I'm a believer, and hopefully that gives me the opportunity to be a force for encouragement or an encourager to others who may be feeling discouraged at times when we're having to make tough choices."
Although there are no formal Bible studies or prayer times at WPX, that doesn't mean there is no group prayer. Kouplen joined others in regular prayer out of concern for a colleague who was seriously ill.
"We met on a regular basis to pray for her health," she says.
Kouplen's faith is building her consistency as a leader.
"Faith helps me be consistent, and people know what to expect when they're working with me," she says. "It helps me be consistent in the way I conduct myself and my activities, so I think it helps with those that I work with to know what to expect and how I'll handle a situation."
Kouplen also recognizes God as the source of all good things. This belief comes into play in an industry that must address such controversial topics as fracking and climate change.
"At WPX in particular, we realize that we're the caretakers and stewards of natural resources, so we do the right thing and follow the law. I think faith plays a role in that and we are fortunate to have a fantastic leader who is a Christian man [CEO Rick Muncrief], leading by example. We try to be very transparent about each of those issues and work closely with our landowners. We talk openly about fracking. We produce multiple communication materials that speak to how fracking works, the safety around it and the regulations under which we operate. Recently, for the first time, we published a methane management report that talks about the steps we're taking to protect air quality. So I think we're making steps in the right direction. It really comes down to the correlation between energy usage and quality of life and what we are doing every day so that we can ultimately help people out of poverty."
Overall, faith helps her handle the demands of her workday.
"Having that relationship with Jesus helps you worry less, maintain perspective and have faith for the future," she says. "So you still have to be tough, but it gives you a great perspective on life."
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