Biliana is an Energy Strategist with Loews Corporation in New York. She joined Loews Corp. in 2014. Prior to that, Biliana was the Head of Global Natural Gas and LNG Research at Barclays. Biliana began her career at Enron as an Energy Analyst and has also held senior roles at Washington Policy and Analysis, Inc. and at Bank of America. Biliana has a degree in Finance from the University of Houston.

Originally published March 2017

Please tell us about the best and worst career decision you’ve ever made.
When I read this question, at first I thought through the big decisions I have made in my career so far and looked for the one I would call best and worst. But then I realized that what has truly made my career successful is not one or even 10 decisions. Instead, it has been a decision I keep making in every moment of my life – to be truly present in the moment and give it my best with an open heart. It may not sound like an advice for a career in banking, but I believe that how we approach each moment is what really sets us apart.

The worst career decisions are the cases when I did not acknowledge what was true for me in a particular situation. My schedule was already full to the brim, but I said “yes” to one more business trip. This was far from unusual, and I enjoyed traveling. In this particular case, however, it was the third month in a row that I was unable to recover from recurring colds as I was constantly on the road. I could have pushed the trip back to the following week, and work from home – my work arrangements would have accommodated that, but I did not.”

What do you think is the most significant barrier to female leadership?
In many cases the barriers are no different than those for male leadership, but that is certainly not true in all situations. An article from the Harvard Business Review really resonated with me on this topic: “the main reason for the uneven management sex ratio is our inability to discern between confidence and competence.

That is, because we (people in general) commonly misinterpret displays of confidence as a sign of competence, we are fooled into believing that men are better leaders than women. In other words, when it comes to leadership, the only advantage that men have over women (e.g., from Argentina to Norway and the USA to Japan) is the fact that manifestations of hubris” often masked as charisma or charm” are commonly mistaken for leadership potential, and that these occur much more frequently in men than in women.” (“Why Do So Many Incompetent Men Become Leaders?” HBR, August 22, 2013)

What advice would you give to women entering the commodity market?
Don’t be afraid to be yourself and share your passions. What is it about the commodities market that fascinates you? For me, it is the fact that our world is built on natural resources and the commodities markets are at the crux of how we value, develop, and use what our planet so generously provides. Your answer is likely to be unique to you. Sharing your passions may inspire those around you to find their own and allow you to build true long lasting connections in your workplace.

What qualities do you look for in individuals you hire?
I look for individuals who bring not only solid knowledge and skills to the job, but also a personal dedication to excellence, honesty and true respect and well-wishing for others in the workplace. Skills can be learned and knowledge can be acquired. The same is not true for personality traits that shape our everyday professional interactions and are often key enablers of success.

Do you feel there are additional challenges for women when building a career within the commodity market?
Careers are built on strong relationships that are rooted not only in professional interactions, but also in shared believes, attitudes and experiences. In this context, for women it is important to build strong relationships with other women along their career path.

Commodities markets still tend to have fewer women in management than other fields, and that can make it somewhat more challenging for a woman to grow at her fullest potential at every step of her career path.

In your opinion, has the market changed regarding the number of women in the commodity market over the last 5 years?
Yes! My own career is an example of that, and I am fortunate to have worked with many amazing women along my path.

What steps do you take to help balance your demanding job and your private life?
When you love what you do, it is easy to put all your energy towards it and feel there is often little left for your private life by the end of the day. I make it a priority to give my private life as much energy as I give to my work. And that means that sometimes life has to come first.