Distinguished alumna Susan Cunningham will be returning to McMaster on Nov. 6 to give the inaugural lecture for the new Academic Women’s Success and Mentorship lecture series. Her talk, Leadership and the oil patch: How I got there and what is needed, will describe her path to success, lessons learned, and strategies for leadership.

Cunningham graduated from McMaster in 1979 with a bachelor’s degree in geology and physical geography. She is now the executive vice present for Noble Energy Inc., responsible for EHSR (Environment, Health, Safety, and Regulatory) matters and New Frontiers.

After she graduated from McMaster, Cunningham would not have been able to predict her career path in the oil industry.

“My career has been all about seizing the moment and being the best that I can be at any time,” said Cunningham. “Being ambitious, but without any major plan except to seize the moment.”

Seizing the moment will be a central theme in her lecture, specifically for women entering the workforce who may encounter barriers when trying to rise up the corporate ladder.

“What I’ve learned is if I look for barriers, I will find them. If I don’t look for barriers, they disappear,” said Cunningham. “That will be part of what I talk about, because I really have learned to appreciate that what we decide about things usually comes true. So it’s all about what we decide.”

When asked about advice that she would give to new graduates, Cunningham cited leadership as the most important quality.

“Academia, business, the sciences, humanities – everywhere in society we really need good leadership. I would like to encourage people to really think of themselves and study and understand leadership, that leadership comes from an individual at any time and will make a difference. If you want to be a leader, you can be a leader.”

The AWSM committee gathers and analyzes information about gender balance at an institutional level as well as nationally, and is responsible for the new annual lecture series. The talk will be held on Nov. 6 at Convocation Hall.

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