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Category: Leadership Thoughts

Diversity Champion: Heidi Herzog, Former VP New Energies and Head of Commercial & Business Development, Americas at Vopak

  • Gas & LNG
  • 5 min reads
Diversity Champion: Heidi Herzog, Former VP New Energies and Head of Commercial & Business Development, Americas at Vopak

In the latest instalment of HC Insider’s Diversity Champion series, we sat down with Heidi Herzog, Former VP New Energies and Head of Commercial & Business Development, Americas at Vopak.

From navigating diverse cultures in negotiations to overcoming career challenges, Heidi discusses the importance of women's networks in championing diversity and inclusion within the energy industry, emphasizing collaboration, clarity, and the value of relationships in achieving success.

HC Insider: Please tell us about your career leading up to Vopak. 

Heidi Herzog: Upon completion of my undergraduate studies in Economics and Finance from Simpson College, I joined Archer Daniels Midland Company’s Management Training Program, gaining experience across the various divisions of ADM including grain processing, merchandising, commodity markets, and global trading. Two years in, I realized my interest lay in pursuing an MBA and exploring a different career path. In the midst of applying to business schools, I discovered an opportunity at Clark Refining and Marketing, which would also allow me to pursue my MBA at Washington University in St. Louis at the same time.

At Clark, I delved into the energy business, learning extensively about oil refining, energy markets, supply and trading, scheduling, logistics, and building valuable industry connections. As I neared completion of my MBA, I initially considered a career in the booming tech industry. However, the dot-com bubble burst, prompting me to reassess my options and ultimately redirect my focus back to the energy sector.

I then joined Enron. Enron had attracted many talented people who have gone on to have great careers, and although my time there was cut short by the bankruptcy, I'm grateful to still count a handful of those people as close personal friends. Following this, I moved to BP, spending most of my 10 years there in North America Gas and Power trading, focusing on commercial and business development across natural gas, natural gas liquids, power, and engaging in M&A activities.

My interest in midstream growth led me to Phillips 66, where I worked on developing strategic infrastructure projects across the midstream, refining, and petrochemical sectors. Eventually, I was recruited for a role at Vopak, attracted by the opportunity to lead commercial and business development teams and activities for their terminals across the Americas and to gain broader international exposure.

At Vopak, I oversaw commercial operations for 20 terminals across Canada, the US, Mexico, Panama, Colombia, and Brazil, managing a total storage capacity of 30 million barrels. I also led organic and inorganic business development projects to meet market and customer needs for bulk liquids, gases and new energies logistics and storage solutions. Following a recent reorganization at Vopak, I've been taking time to reconnect with my network, take on professional board roles, and reflect on my next career steps.

HC Insider: Leading high-performing business development and commercial teams requires effective leadership and inclusivity. Can you discuss your approach to fostering inclusivity within your teams?

HH: Absolutely. My approach to fostering inclusivity begins with ensuring that every team member understands their value and the importance of their contributions. I firmly believe that the best outcomes arise when everyone has the opportunity to contribute in their unique way.

Leading multicultural teams demands a nuanced approach. Clear communication is essential to avoid misunderstandings due to language or cultural differences. As a leader, it's crucial to ensure that every voice is heard. I actively seek input from all team members and address any barriers to participation, encouraging everyone to engage fully.

Acknowledging and appreciating individual contributions is paramount. I make a point to celebrate successes and use setbacks as learning opportunities, empowering team members to grow and thrive. Everyone plays a valuable role, and adapting leadership styles accordingly ensures a balanced and effective team dynamic.


My approach to fostering inclusivity begins with ensuring that every team member understands their value and the importance of their contributions. I firmly believe that the best outcomes arise when everyone has the opportunity to contribute in their unique way.

At HC Group we believe that inclusive organisations with diversity at all levels can deliver better performance.  

Explore how HC Group’s Diversity Studies service can support your DE&I vision.  

Fill in our Client Presentation Request Form to learn more.

HC Insider: With extensive business partner and transaction experience across various countries, including Europe, Asia, and the Americas, how have you approached cultural diversity in your negotiations and collaborations?

HH: When engaging with individuals from different cultures, especially those unfamiliar to me, I prioritize seeking guidance from contacts within my network. Adapting my approach based on this guidance, I recognize the importance of understanding cultural nuances and accepted norms in business interactions, whether in negotiations or collaborations.

Furthermore, clarity and defined expectations are crucial for successful engagements. While "laying the ground rules" may sound cliché, it remains essential. Taking the time to ensure all parties are aligned and operating from the same understanding is paramount. I've encountered situations where divergent goals or outcomes were not acknowledged, leading to misunderstandings or failed agreements.

By setting clear expectations, we establish a common foundation, allowing for more productive and mutually beneficial interactions. This approach fosters respect, facilitates effective communication, and enhances the likelihood of achieving desired outcomes in cross-cultural business engagements.

Women's networks are powerful platforms for fostering diversity and inclusion in the energy industry. They provide a space for individuals to connect, share experiences, offer support, and collectively grow.

HC Insider: What have been some of your career highlights?

HH: One of my proudest accomplishments was completing my MBA at Washington University while working full-time. Balancing a demanding job with studies, often on only a few hours of sleep, was a significant personal achievement.

In terms of professional highlights, there are several noteworthy moments. First, I played a pivotal role in supporting the commercialization of Phillips 66's midstream NGL fractionator and export terminal assets, a project valued at $3.5 billion. My responsibility involved cultivating relationships and securing the necessary contracts with upstream producers to facilitate this substantial investment decision.

Another achievement at Phillips 66 was successfully converting and commercializing P66's New York Harbour terminal assets for third-party business. This involved repurposing the assets to accommodate multiple customers, a strategic move that required navigating internal dynamics and customer relationships effectively.

At Vopak, I spearheaded the establishment of the company's new energy strategy in the Americas, interpreting global directives and translating them into actionable plans for our region. This endeavour included building a skilled business development team and identifying unique opportunities where Vopak could play an important logistics infrastructure role in energy transition projects, an effort that continues to yield positive results.

Additionally, winning the Vopak Global Deal of the Year award for the conversion of storage capacity for renewable diesel and sustainable aviation fuel stands out as a collective accomplishment. This project not only showcased our commitment to sustainability but also demonstrated our ability to execute complex transactions.

Lastly, leading the establishment of Vopak America's Women's Network was a significant milestone. Witnessing the impact of this initiative, particularly in empowering female employees and fostering diversity and inclusion, was incredibly rewarding.

HC Insider: What were some of the challenges you faced during your career and how did you overcome them?

HH: I can categorize my career challenges into three main areas. Firstly, there are the career shifts that were out of my control, such as the Enron bankruptcy, Duke's exit from trading, and the Vopak reorganization. Each of these experiences strengthened my resilience and emphasized the importance of leaning on my network to navigate through them successfully.

Looking back, I can say I always found myself in a better situation after each shift. Despite the initial challenges, I made career moves that continued to further my development and experience. I believe that most people, even when facing difficult events like corporate changes, often find themselves in better situations eventually.

The second challenge is related to situations I encountered where dynamics and personalities clashed, prompting me to seek training to sharpen my interpersonal skills. I learned to understand differing perspectives and to speak up to ensure my viewpoints were heard, which significantly increased my effectiveness.

The third challenge stems from frequently being the only woman in the room. The simple truth is that being a female in the energy industry, you stand out and I've learned throughout my career to turn this into a positive. Through standing out, I’ve learned to make sure I leave a good impression.

Developing and nurturing relationships is incredibly important. Especially in times of resilience, having a strong network to rely on is invaluable.

HC Insider: As a leader who has actively participated in and established women's networks, how do you believe these networks can be effective in championing diversity and inclusion within the energy industry?

HH: Women's networks are powerful platforms for fostering diversity and inclusion in the energy industry. They provide a space for individuals to connect, share experiences, offer support, and collectively grow. I was particularly inspired by the success of Vopak’s Women's Network in Latin America. During a visit to Panama, it was heartening to see mid-career women thriving in roles such as operations, maintenance and safety and really supporting each other.

Additionally, affinity networks address critical organizational issues like exclusion bias and groupthink by bringing together diverse perspectives for formal training and professional development. I've seen first-hand the impact of unconscious bias training sessions led by Vopak across our division, sparking enlightening discussions and fostering a deeper understanding among participants. Importantly, the women's networks and professional development events we've organized are inclusive and open to all, recognizing that the topics covered benefit everyone.

HC Insider: During your career, what has been critical to your success?

HH: I'd say there are three key factors. Firstly, it's essential to work hard and maintain focus on the end goal. There are always distractions, but staying focused is crucial. Secondly, I believe in collaboration over competition. And lastly, developing and nurturing relationships is incredibly important. Especially in times of resilience, having a strong network to rely on is invaluable.