Alumni Spotlight: Laura Folse-Ingle Shares Insight as Chief Executive Officer of BP Wind Energy
For Auburn College of Sciences and Mathematics (COSAM) alumna Laura Folse-Ingle, the Auburn Family has followed her through more than 30 years of work in the oil and energy industry, leading up to her previous role as Chief Executive Officer of BP Wind Energy.
Maybe it is spotting someone wearing an Auburn t-shirt, or exchanging a “War Eagle” while boarding a plane. Whatever it is that generates the intangible feeling of the Auburn Family, it has stuck with Folse-Ingle ever since her graduation.
“It is an acknowledgement of ‘I get you’, ‘I know the type of person you are’, and I appreciate it more and more as I get older,” Folse-Ingle said.
The former COSAM student received a degree in geology in 1980 and a few years later began her first position at BP – then known as Amoco – as an exploration geologist in the Gulf of Mexico.
During her time with BP, Folse-Ingle’s career included over 20 different positions of increasing leadership and business complexity, including conducting fieldwork in countries such as Thailand and Laos, leading large organizations, and moving both across the country and internationally, eventually landing her back in Houston.
However, quite possibly the biggest task Folse-Ingle took on was leading the operational, scientific, and technological programs within the multi-billion dollar cleanup and restoration effort in response to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon accident.
For about five years, Folse-Ingle led the effort of overseeing clean-up activities across the five Gulf States as well as working with federal and state officials to gathering data and drawing conclusions to restore life forms anywhere ranging from plankton to marine mammals, and as well as environments anywhere ranging from marshes to the water columns.
“We were there to just do the right thing,” she said.
In 2016, Folse-Ingle switched from hydrocarbon-based work to sustainable energy as BP named her the CEO of Wind Energy. In this role, Folse-Ingle focused on problem solving, running operations safely, optimizing the business, and improving profitability and growth.
The biggest challenge in adapting to wind energy was adjusting to the evolving technology – materials which was changing as fast as cell phones do, Folse-Ingle said.
Folse-Ingle describes her leadership style as collaborative, decisive, and fun.
Collaborative in being able to work cross-departmentally to generate rich texture and ideas, decisive in being able to make decisions even with limited information, and fun in being able to take the job seriously but not taking oneself too seriously.
After three years as CEO, Folse-Ingle retired from BP and is now working in advisory roles to other organizations. Looking back, she credits her success as a female in executive leadership to the skills she picked up at Auburn and the way she was raised.
While at Auburn, Folse-Ingle juggled her time as a student with being in the marching band, both opportunities providing her with the people who facilitated her ability to succeed.
The high standards and expectations of excellence that former band director Dr. Billy Walls put on Folse-Ingle inspired her to work hard, and the time and interest professors like Robert Gastaldo took in his students allowed Folse-Ingle to excel in her geology classes.
While Folse-Ingle may not remember all of the names of those who impacted her time at Auburn, she will never forget the genuine feeling of caring that they all left on her. To give back to a university that gave her so much, Folse-Ingle serves COSAM any way she can, including being a part of the Geosciences Advisory Board and turning what she originally created as a small scholarship program into a large endowment.
Folse-Ingle encourages COSAM students to follow their passions and see how they can apply it in the world.
“Science needs to be in pursuit of something to propel human progress,” she said.
Folse-Ingle was recognized as the 2015 Marie W. Wooten Distinguished Speaker at the Society for Women in Sciences and Mathematics Symposium and was featured in the 2017 Auburn University television commercial.
She was featured in Lori Silverman’s book Wake Me up When the Data is Over, D. Michael Abrashoff’s book Get Your Ship Together, and Auberi Edler’s French television documentary Something Has Really Gotta Give.