Geeta Sankappanavar is Co-Founder, President and CEO of Grafton Asset Management, a Calgary-based energy investment firm. Sankappanavar is responsible for managing $1 billion in capital, focusing on investments in oil and gas. Prior to founding Grafton, she worked with New Vernon Capital, a $3 billion asset management company.
Wednesday, Sankappanavar was inducted into the Women’s Executive Network (WXN) Hall of Fame after being named one of Canada’s Top 100 Most Powerful Women numerous times. This isn’t the first time she has been recognized for her work in emerging markets. She was also named one of Alberta’s 50 Most Influential People, and one of Calgary’s Top 40 under 40.
Question: How does it feel to be inducted into the WXN Hall of Fame?
Answer: Humbled. I have been honoured to be part of the WXN network and have had the opportunity to meet the incredible women leaders who comprise it. I am so honoured to join those amazing trailblazers in the hall of fame.
Do you remember the first time you got on the list of top 100 powerful women?
Of course! I didn’t believe it! I immediately called my family. As immigrants to this country, my family has worked hard to build their lives here, and they have always believed that a focus on constant and continuing education and hard work was critical to success. I live by these beliefs to this day. They have been my strongest supporters my entire life. I was so proud to share this recognition with them, for it was their support that enabled my success. It was a heartfelt moment for us all.
You are speaking at the Leadership Summit Wednesday, with the theme “unbreakable”. Does that theme resonate with you – and how so?
Very much so. I think all leaders face and surmount great challenges to achieve success. I think women in leadership execute those same challenges with significant biases- conscious and unconscious that make their paths even more difficult. Leadership is not easy, and you have to really, really be sure this is the life you want. Leadership is exciting, fulfilling and challenging, but it is not easy and it is not for the faint of heart. I am so proud to be part of the incredible group of women in leadership that WXN is celebrating tomorrow. Sharing our stories, our successes and our challenges, WILL make it more commonplace to be a women in leadership for the next generation.
Why did you help found Grafton Asset Management, especially considering your highly successful career prior?
My business partner and I saw an opportunity to connect Canada’s energy sector to global pools of capital. Canadian energy companies need billions annually to fund their capital programs. This need, however, had not been able to be served domestically in Canada with the traditional sources of capital for this industry. We founded Grafton in late 2010 and quickly grew to ~$1B in capital and have built an incredible team to capture the opportunities we are seeing.
Earlier this year you said that Grafton would be exploring alternative energy sources – is this something you can expand on?
I think our greatest challenge as a resource nation is our need to expand our problem space from a producer of hydrocarbons to a producer of power, fuel and petro products. If we do that, it enables us to understand the greater market forces at play in our industry and invest accordingly, which we at Grafton have done.
What’s next for you professionally and personally?
Continue to build our business and support the great team at Grafton to continue to achieve success. And personally, (besides spending time with my family and our growing list of fur babies (we just got a great pyrenees puppy) it is to passionately support women in business and in leadership in any way I can. It is up to our generation of leaders to support the women in the next generation to achieve their successes. If not us then whom, if not now then when?
What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs, especially women?
Entrepreneurship isn’t just about having a vision of where you want to go- Its asking yourself why not? -rather than just saying that something is impossible. And then it’s about assembling the team that wants to try and achieve it with you. It’s the willingness to take risks and not listen to naysayers. To ask yourself what is the right thing to do, and then doing it. It’s casting a compelling vision to motivate others while not being afraid to deliver the hard news or harsh feedback. So, I’d share some advice that has worked for me over the years:
1 – Be flexible- business is a rollercoaster, you need to be able to quickly adapt and pivot your business and your people as required to take advantage of opportunities that you identify,
2 -Hone the ability to assemble and rally a great team around your ideas. Build trust with each other in order to create and sustain a great culture- and I don’t mean picking the nicest people- I mean picking the people who have the courage to challenge you so that together you all get better.
3 – Persevere – Be unwavering, and unrelenting. You must have the belief that with the right partners, you can do the impossible.
For first-time winners, what advice would you give them to stay on the list and eventually be inducted into the Hall of Fame?
First of all…Congratulations!!!!! You have achieved great things professionally and Canada is recognizing and appreciating you for it. Secondly, you still need to be the best. You have to be unrelenting in your pursuit of self improvement. You must work twice as hard and twice as long as your male peers. You must be unforgettable. And when you get there, because you will, you will look around and be so humbled and so proud to be part of an incredible group of women leaders who are an inspiration for us all as well as for the next generation of women in leadership.
Featured image courtesy of oilandgascouncil.com