As anyone who has lived through the recession in Alberta knows only too well, the oil and gas industry is facing serious challenges. After years in the industry, parent with purpose Juli Rohl became increasingly interested in what would be next, and set out to be part of the energy transition. So with a friend, and fellow mom, she started ReGenerate Alberta, which has the mandate of finding new ways to reuse the resources oil and gas extraction leaves behind — whether equipment, land, or people.
Though it sounds complicated, in simplest terms ? Rohl is finding new ways to use waste left behind during oil and gas extraction — namely land, metal, and equipment — and finding new value in them. And her work goes deeper than that, “Now more than ever the oil and gas industry is leaving people behind,” she says, “So we thought, how can we put these people back to work?” she says. This is no easy task though, and Rohl is rocking it while raising her kids, aged two and four. We asked Rohl to explain her work, her philosophy on Alberta’s regeneration, and how she manages everything on her plate.
Why did you start doing what you do?
There was this sense that oil and gas industry is a bit of a sunset industry, and I wanted to be part of the next thing. And I didn’t know what the next thing was. And so I thought what if I could help create it? And that was kind of my idea. I actually asked for a severance package from my oil and gas company at the time and considered that to be seed money for what I’m doing.
People haven’t been talking about the problem of oil and gas liability building up to the point that the taxpayer’s eventually going to be responsible for it, but this is a real issue. One of our has been objectives trying to really create a market for what we’re trying to do. So getting out, talking about it, changing hearts and minds, and actually showing people that if we approach this creatively we can find a positive solution rather than just dumping a bunch of money down the drain and being worse off for it in the end. And so changing hearts and minds has been one of our key activities, and actually that’s gone way better than I could have imagined.
I’d say we’ve been extremely successful in that, but in terms of actually finding the right business model and the fit for that it’s been really challenging. Because of one of our focuses is to not create something that already exists. We want to figure out what what needs to exist in the system that doesn’t already in order to enable this stuff to happen. So we’re being really careful and slow about selecting our business model because we’re looking for a full system change, we’re not looking for a quick win or an easy buck. So that’s challenging but we’re getting closer.
Was it a big switch to go from oil and gas to this?
I think I’ve always been a bit of a tree hugging oil and gas person, which I know doesn’t really seem like it could be a thing, but it totally is. Like I’m a geologist, so my field of study — my background, is in the earth. I’ve always had a love for the earth, but I think the urgency of that changed when I had kids. That made me see how much of our resources we’re using up all the time, and a lot of it is just to do useless stuff with. It’s fine if we’re using energy to heat our homes, but do we need all the trinkets, and do we need all the things. I think that really brought into perspective — when you have kids you need all the stuff, right. And the sense of what does it cost the earth to get all this?
What does this work bring to your life?
It feels like I’m fulfilling my destiny. I know that is a really dramatic thing to say, but it’s like I’m totally on track with my purpose in life. Even days when I’m frustrated and kind of want to give up something will come up and somebody will not let me do that. And it is really humbling, actually, because the more I put myself out there, the more I allow myself to be vulnerable and just kind of put it all on the line the more that comes back in return in spades. Like people offering to help, and offering connections, and all sorts of things. This has been a really positive experience, and yeah, it feels awesome.
Why is this work important?
Because we have to do it, we don’t have a choice. We have to be good to the environment and the economy, because otherwise we’re doomed. It’s not an “either/or” It’s got to be an “and.”
What’s one piece of advice you’d give to other parents about living with purpose?
My only advice is just pay attention to what interests you. When you’re on your phone looking through Twitter, you’re looking through Facebook — what links do you click on, what do you research in your spare time, what is grabbing you? And just dive into that, whatever that is. It doesn’t need to be related to your career, or related to your kids, or related to anything. It can just be, I’m super interested in crocheting, whatever you are really driven by, just dive into it and learn as much as you can about it, and it just keeps fuelling you.
What do you think you have in common with other moms?
I hate making dinner and snacks. Totally. And I feel like there’s a sense of always feeling like you’re doing a bad job. Like the constant sense of even like, y’know even if you’re happy, you’re kids happy, even if you’re husband’s career is going well, is yours going well. There’s always this nagging sense you’re not doing enough. That you’re neglecting something, or someone, or I haven’t talked to my friends in a long time. You know what I mean? When we focus on something really hard, something else has to drop.
What’s been hardest about what you do?
Now that I work from home, it’s a challenge because I’ve taken on a considerable amount more of the pink jobs. Whereas my husband and I were very, very balanced in that before. Now I do daycare drop off and pick up, and food prep, and all of the things, and so my work day is very short as compared to what it was before. You’re always doing something on the side while doing something else. It’s a lot of multitasking, but in some ways actually I’m really grateful for it because when I do need to do something for the family, when we are sick, when the kids do have to stay home from daycare I have a lot more flexibility in my schedule, whereas before I couldn’t reschedule meetings with the senior leadership team — I just couldn’t, I didn’t have that option.
I do recognize being a mom has held me back in terms of getting this thing going. Probably if I didn’t have kids, probably if I was a dude, probably all these other things it would be further along, and we’d be making money and we’d could hire people, and it would be great but I’m just not willing to sacrifice that for that growth. It’s also playing the long game. This is something that is going to take a long time — to change this system, so why break my back when I know it’s going to be 10 years in the making?
What other moms do you admire?
All of them. Because like everybody is doing the best that they can. I have plenty of friends and their parenting style is not the same as mine, but they are doing what’s important for them, for their family, so that’s what’s the most important. And I don’t have to like their decisions about that or agree with them to know that they are doing a great job.
Interestingly, along this journey I have accumulated a lot of other women on my pathway. My cofounder and I met in university but we really became friends through our maternity leave together, so that’s kind of an important part of our journey too. We really became aligned on the the most important and most basic thing in life which is raising kids, and then found a way to create a company together too, so I think that’s really powerful.
The Whole Family Happiness Project is a group of moms exploring our connection to our individual purpose, our family happiness, and the happiness of the world around us. Come join us on Facebook.