Reaching New Heights

Karla Wall Thursday, August 20, 2020 Comments Off on Reaching New Heights
Reaching New Heights

New Phillips 66 LC General Manager Jolie Rhinehart Brings Energy And A Passion For People To Her Job

~ By Karla Wall

At the young age of 14, living in the small town of Elverson, Penn., Phillips 66 plant manager Jolie Rhinehart figured out what her career should be — with the help of the young man who would become her husband.

Jolie Rhinehart

“Growing up, I wanted to be an accountant, because I really liked math, and I thought my parents’ accountant had a really nice house,” she said. “Thankfully, when I was 14, I met my future husband, Jason, and he did some research and told me I should become a chemical engineer. I was, and still am, a very extroverted person, and he was concerned that accountants work alone a lot and I wouldn’t be a good fit. He researched the best field to go into if you were good in math and science and enjoyed collaborating with other people. He recommended chemical engineering.”

And what career did her husband embark on? Oddly enough, she says, he went into the recruiting field. “He also discovered his talents early,” Rhinehart laughs. 

Armed with Jason’s advice, Rhinehart told her chemistry teacher she was interested in chemical engineering. “He sent me for a ‘shadow day’ with a chemical engineer,” she says. “It seemed like a great job that I could progress in.”

In 1998, she graduated from the University of Delaware with a bachelor’s in chemical engineering. Her grandmother attended school, which has one of the top chemical engineering programs in the Northeast. 

Climbing The Ladder

Rhinehart has been with Phillips 66 for 21 years. She began as a process engineer in the Trainer, Penn., facility. 

“I provided monitoring of a part of the refinery to evaluate the operation of the units, ensure that they were operating at optimal conditions and were within environmental compliance. I identified and developed upgrade projects to improve the operation of the refinery,” she says. 

She worked in “a couple of different areas” of the plant before moving into the unit that blended gas and diesel. 

“This job involved creating the recipes for the different grades of gasoline and diesel and setting the shipment schedule for the pipelines to ensure all of the fuels were at the pumps when needed,” she explains.

She then moved on to a position in which she helped coordinate the types of crude oil the plants purchased, timed the deliveries and adjusted the operation of the unit based on the specific crude oil mix. 

“That was a really fun job, and I loved learning the business side of the operation — how we made money,” she says.

From there, she moved into the operations departments, where she supervised the employees who operated the equipment in the facility. She was eventually made area manager, tasked with controlling over half the process units in the refinery. As an area manager, she also led her team through the shutdown of the refinery, and the relocation and laying off of employees.

From Trainer, she relocated to Phillips 66’s Ferndale, Wash., refinery as operations manager, leading the entire refinery operations team. After three years in that position, she was relocated to Phillips’ Wilmington, Calif., refinery as operations manager. After some time there, she returned to Ferndale to serve as refinery manager.

She was offered the position of general manager in the Lake Charles refinery, and has been in the role for about a month now.

“(The Lake Charles refinery) is the largest and most complex facility I’ve been able to work in,” she says. “I’m really enjoying learning about our team, our facility and our region. I’m really impressed with the wonderful safety culture and performance of this refinery, and I look forward to helping continue the focus on ensuring everyone returns home safely at the end of each shift here.”

Moving from the Cascade Mountains of Washington to the coastal plains and marshes of SWLA had to have been an adjustment, and Rhinehart says that relocating has been one of the biggest difficulties she’s faced in her career. 

“The moving is always tough,” she says. “My husband and I have moved four times in the last eight years. But the move to SWLA gets us closer to family in Pennsylvania, so we are looking forward to seeing them more often.”

‘Small But Mighty’

Despite the gains women have made in business and industry, when most people think of top management in refineries, they envision a man, and Rhinehart realized she’s in a unique position. But she says she’s found her team has had no problem with a woman in charge.

“I haven’t encountered any real challenges,” she says. “At Phillips 66, we encourage diversity of thought, and I bring that as a woman. I don’t have the typical engineering mentality, so there are differences aside from being a woman. I’m an extrovert by nature. I love working on a team, getting to know the people on that team and working to get the best out of each individual. I’m able to use my differences to benefit the team and the company. Phillips 66 champions leadership qualities that include working for the greater good, creating an environment of trust, seeking different perspectives and achieving excellence. It’s created a wonderful and trusting culture.”

One of the characteristics that make her so well suited for her job is her openness and honesty, she says. 

“I find when I start with a new team, they are initially surprised by how much I will share,” she says. “I share my motivation, why I take certain actions, and why I think it’s the right thing to do. And I’m very interested in getting to know as many individuals on my team as possible on a personal level so I can understand what their motivation is, what work they enjoy most and how I can help them be successful.”

Rhinehart says that aside from the personality characteristics that make her different, her physical size has also been a major difference as a woman in her job.

“During my time at the Trainer, Penn., refinery, I worked for a great guy named George. He was a big guy, had played college football and would tell me all the time I was lucky I was so small because if I were his size with my energy I would frighten people,” she says. “I never really got it, until he transferred, and I saw a picture of us next to each other. I must be less than a third of his size. I guess I’m much bigger in my mind. I’ve been told a number of times that I’m ‘small but mighty.’”

The Future Of Women In Industry

Women in such careers as Rhinehart’s are on the increase, she says. And she expects that to continue.

“I think women have an amazing future in the petrochemical industry,” she says. “Women can provide a diverse opinion and a caring attitude. I see many exceptional young professional women here at Phillips 66 with the talent and work ethic to progress to upper management. I am honored to mentor several awesome young ladies and all are progressing in their careers. I fully expect to see them in upper management sooner rather than later.”

The current emphasis on Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) education, and the encouragement of young girls to participate in the programs, will create even more opportunities for women in her field.

“I see a good participation rate from young girls in STEM, and I am even more encouraged by their participation in extracurricular activities like robotics,” she says. 

“Both of my nieces in Pennsylvania are actively involved in both STEM programs at school and robotics competition.”

Phillips 66 has encouraged STEM programs in the parish in several ways, Rhinehart says.  

“Lake Charles funded a grant for the SWLA Economic Alliance that inventoried and assessed the five-parish STEM offerings in public education system. We’ve also been involved with the parish school board on coding and robotics classes as well as McNeese’s STEM Academy. I think it’s great to introduce kids to what we do, how to get into our industry and the amazing life that our jobs provide.”

A Positive Impact On The Environment

But it’s not only the future of women in her field that Rhinehart is passionate about. And the image of industry as no place for a woman isn’t the only one she is eager to dispel. 

During her time in the California refinery, she became, as she says, “involved in the political issues that affect our industry.” She’s still passionate about informing others of industry’s efforts to make its effect on the environment a positive one. And as an avid outdoorsperson who skies both snow and water, hikes, fishes and mountain bikes, among other pursuits, she has a first-hand knowledge of industry’s impact on the environment and a major personal stake in keeping that impact a positive one.

“People ask me sometimes how I can say I love the outdoors and still work in a refinery,” she says. “I tell them there is no one who has a more positive impact on the environment than Phillips 66 does. Each year, our company lowers emissions over the year before. The Lake Charles refinery is located in a beautiful part of the world, with shoreline and wetlands. Operating cleanly and safely to preserve our beautiful area for our employees and our neighbors is a responsibility I take very seriously.”

Helping The Next Generation Of Women

Rhinehart says she loves talking with young girls about careers in industry. She’s talked to her nieces’ Girl Scout troops and visited schools during her time in Washington as part of a Girls in Engineering, Math and Science program. And her advice to young girls who are thinking about a career in the petrochem field:

“Do it,” she says. “I have met some wonderful people and have an amazing career that has afforded me a life I could never have dreamed possible. Learning about and producing the energy that makes our lives possible in this country has and continues to be amazingly rewarding.”

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