Regina Jones built her legal career in the energy industry

In this thriving industry, more women are wearing hard hats alongside their male peers. A perpetual need for skilled workers in the fuels and petrochemical industries long ago nixed the notion that these jobs are traditionally for men. But even today, as men and women work side by side to produce the energy and products that power our world, many of our nation’s women might not fully realize these high-paying careers are awaiting them.

One way to spread the word? Share their stories. As part of an ongoing series, join us for a look at some of the women working in today’s fuels and petrochemical plants.

If you know Regina Jones, it won’t come as a surprise to learn these two things:

First, she loves the beach, but is afraid of the water, particularly what’s in it… (things like sharks, stingrays, jellyfish).

Second, that in spite of that, when her husband wanted them to learn scuba diving, she dove right in – all the way to a level three, advanced diver certification.

And if you met her at her desk, where she is an Executive VP, General Counsel and Corporate Secretary — you’d see that same “all-in” approach.

Where you’d find her desk, is Brentwood, Tennessee (think Nashville) — headquarters for Delek US, which is primarily in oil refining.

So Jones knows about the energy business, but HER job, is to keep the company on the right side of the law:  and for a company that operates refineries, logistics, gathering and over 300 retail stores across the United States, there’s a lot of law:  compliance with business, environmental and labor laws here and abroad –corporate governance — fiduciary obligations to shareholders — contracts — day to day lawyering.

Though as she says, “I used to be a doer, back when I was doing legal work as a young lawyer.  Now, I find the core of my job is providing the right support and guidance to my team, my colleagues and my CEO.”

“A lot of people think that when you have a team, your team works for you.  My job is to work for them, so they know I have their back, and they have the resources, guidance and leadership they need to be successful.”

Jones had worked for other companies in the energy business before landing at Delek — and like a number of women we’ve talked to in this series, Jones found that not only were there opportunities for women to “get in” — once she got in, she was encouraged (and pushed) to take on new responsibilities and to move up.

Although — she thought her first promotion was actually going to be her first firing.  She was in her early twenties, and a couple of days after her first big project, which she’d presented to her board of directors — the CEO called her in.

Uh-oh, she thought.  But no.  He was calling her in to offer a job as chief of staff, a big jump up.  They’d been looking for someone with high potential to grow in the company, and that person had walked into the board meeting a few days before — her!

She did have some help along the way.  Even before that first CEO saw a potential worth developing in her — she’d been part of a national mentorship program for college students of color, INROADS.  “And then over time, most of my mentors have been men” though Jones notes that’s because “there weren’t as many women at the top.  So typically, when I was engaging with other women, it was as peer to peer, though that was important too.”

“Now I’ll be honest,” Jones says, “I think our industry has changed so much to embrace the value women bring across all parts of the organization.  It was different when I started my career.  Now there is a strong focus on diversity, whether it be gender, or whether it be cultural, geographical, or even educational background.”

And, it’s a good thing the fuel and petrochemical industries were a good fit for her because, “I think there are other careers in Texas, I just don’t know what they are.  It’s oil, gas and energy — my first three jobs, three different companies and they are all literally on the same block.  I never even had to change the place where I ate lunch.”

Her advice to young women in college, thinking about careers.  Absolutely.  Sometimes you might be the first, or one of a few — but this is an industry where you can go as far as your abilities and ambitions take you.

Oh, and if you’re thinking of taking up scuba diving — Regina Jones has a piece of advice for you too:  always carry a dive knife in your gear, (in case you find an oyster – smile).

Click here to read more about what’s new, what’s next and what it means for you.

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