Today we are speaking with Alana Hill. Alana is the principal consultant and CEO of 2Hill Consulting Services where she has provided PM consulting, coaching and training for the past decade.
Alana M. Hill, PMP is a passionate speaker, author, trainer, and mentor. Her experience as an engineer and certified Project Management Professional (PMP) in upstream oil and gas provides a real‐world insight into how people and teams can excel. She has been recognized for her excellent communication, leadership, and team‐building skills. Her international, cross‐functional business knowledge shapes her perspective of developing talent. Ms. Hill holds a B.S. in Petroleum Engineering from Texas A&M University and has 20 years of leading successful projects.
As a speaker, she conveys a message of compassion and resilience that inspires leaders, and as a trainer she is fun, engaging, and thorough. She combines PM methodologies with DISC personality assessments to help people and teams excel even in the face of adversity.
She is the author of "Love is a Catalyst," where she shares her family’s trials and triumphs over cancer. When she is not traveling the globe, you will find her running and serving in her church and community.
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Gerald: Welcome to the P.P.M. Academy podcast for project program and portfolio management, where
we will interview Industry experts and discuss current and future trends in the world of project, program
and portfolio management and how what we do impacts our company execution culture. I am Gerald
Leonard, and today we're speaking with Alana Hill. Alana is the principal consultant and C.E.O. of Two
Hill Consulting Services, where she has provided P.M. consulting, coaching and training for the past
decade. She is a passionate speaker, author, trainer, and mentor. Her experience as an engineer and
certified project management professional provides a real-world insight into how people and teens can
excel. She has been recognized for her excellence in communication, leadership and team building skills.
Her international cross-functional business knowledge shapes her perspective of developing talent. Ms.
Hill holds a Bachelor’s of Science and Petroleum Engineering from Texas A&M University and has twenty
years of experience leading successful projects. As a speaker, she conveys a message of compassion and
resilience that inspires leaders, and as a trainer, she is fun and engaging and thorough. She combines
P.M methodologies with D.I.S.C personality assessments to help people in teams excel even in the face
of adversity. She's also the author of a book called” Love Is A Catalyst,” where she shares her family's
trials and triumphs over cancer. When she is not traveling the globe, you can find her running and
serving in her church and community. Alana, thanks for joining us today.
Alana: Thank you for having me. Happy to be here.
Gerald: How did you get started in the field of project portfolio management?
Alana: I actually got started in the early-mid 90’s. I’ll certainly date myself. I started as a young field
engineer with a goal and an idea to help digitize the oil field. So my first project was rolling out a system
throughout North America which we then rolled out worldwide, and I'm having to do so with as you
know naturally limited resources, limited time, and I was really thrust into project management as the
way to enable change.
Gerald: Wow, wow that sounds like a big initiative to start off with.
Alana: It was.
Gerald: And one that's critical and important to the country as a whole, right?
Gerald: Exactly, well to go from that to growing up in your area, tell me your story, how did you get
Alana: So I got started as I mentioned as a young engineer out of Texas A&M University and I started in
operations. In operations, one of the interesting things about the organization that I joined is that they
have very strong leadership track, very strong promotion from within concept. So very early on I
assumed lots of responsibility and leadership over my team, and it was an interesting situation, of
course, leading while learning and so having moved to the leading while learning in the moving out to
actually implementing technology to improve and enhance the operations that I had just graduated
from if you will.
Alana: Yes really, that is very much so how I got my start and in the rough and tumble oil field at the
time. When I would tell people that I was out Frac in South Texas no one knew what our Frac job was,
now everyone knows Fracing the household name now.
Gerald: Right, exactly like what you said leading and learning, I think, I'm not sure if that's what you start
with, but I know that's what we always keep growing with right? Especially in this field where it's always
changing, always something going on and I like that concept of leading and learning at the same time.
Gerald: So listen, I know you talk a lot about change leadership, so what exactly is change leadership and
how does it relate to project portfolio management?
Alana: Well, change of leadership is the notion: it is traditional leadership skills. But in the midst of
change, leading an organization day to day requires a certain skill set. There are a lot of similarities but
imagine leadership with the added skill benefit of managing change, so leadership plus change
management and what that means in P.P.M. is that as project managers we already know from Covey
that we have to begin with the end in mind.
Alana: And then [inaudible 5:16] can certainly involve demonstrating the need for stakeholder analysis
early and often and in the end understanding of the impact of the project on the organization as a whole.
No longer do project managers have the luxury of focusing on developing their product and not thinking
outside of that, so the notion of change leadership is not just leading your team through change but
helping to lead your organization through the change that is coming as a result of the project that you're
Gerald: Now I know that you have the concept of leadership and a lot of times leadership does deal with
change but it sounds like your emphasis on change leadership is a little different than just the basic
understanding of leadership itself. So can you help our listeners to understand the difference between
just pure leadership and governance and in this concept of change leadership?
Alana: Surely Gerald, one of the biggest: It was an interesting lesson that I learned early on I guess it was
kind of an accident and a lot of lessons we learned by accident and thankfully I took it to heart, but I saw
that with the new organization, that change was perceived as a loss. It was a loss for a lot of people, loss
of stability, loss of uncertainty and change itself just elicits so many emotions from people, and it is such
a talked about subject and studied subject, because change not just dealing with the technology side but
it is going to impact people. So when we began to impact people and their lives and their livelihood,
there's just so much more of a people component. If you will start to sound redundant but I mean that's
where I began to study D.I.S.C., and that's why I wanted to add disarticulation along with the traditional
leadership skills to show the impact of change and how to communicate that change to people better.
Gerald: So are you saying that because you do the D.I.S.C. assessment with individuals, when they are
able to understand themselves better and how they personally handle change, then they're able to not
only, handle change for themselves but also influence and help others to handle a change for
themselves as well, is that what you mean?
Alana: Absolutely, absolutely, one of the key traits of a leader, of course, is to know themselves and to
be self-aware. So we start with the D.I.S.C. personality assessment so that they can understand whether
they're someone who is change adverse or if they're change adaptable. That is something that's going to
help them understand how they're going to adjust to the change and as you mention how they can then
influence others in that change.
Gerald: Right, now I know a lot of our listeners might have heard of the word D.I.S.C. assessment but can
you go into that a little bit and explain what that exactly means?
Alana: Sure and so there are different methodologies out there. D.I.S.C. itself, not really standardize, it is
not standardly own, so I use the extended D.I.S.C. model, and the reason I use the extended D.I.S.C.
model is that D.I.S.C. are the four personality traits under the D.I.S.C. model. All the D.I.S.C. are based on
young science, so what you'll see are a different kind of acronyms being used, but in general, I’ll speak in
generalities, so you have your “D” personality we tend to say the dominant personalities, but they're the
drivers so your “D” dominant or drivers. Your “I” there your influencers there more outgoing and again
as I point out these traits sometimes are readily obvious, and sometimes they're not, and I will discuss
that in a little bit more detail. Your “S” profile type is a bit more steady there are people who we think
traditionally, they are not the ones who are as quick to change not for any fault of their own and as a
matter of fact the beauty of the DISC is not finding things that are wrong with us that need to be fixed.
To the contrary it's finding things that we do well naturally and then understanding what things just
require more energy for us. So it's really important to understand that it's not what's good or what's bad
for someone. You have people that are more or who would tend to use [inaudible 09:21] with
completeness again these numbers change, but there are people who tend to strive, tend to pride
themselves on accuracy and things like that. So we all possess a combination of the personality styles
but we have one that's more dominant and knowing your own personality style helps you understand
how you communicate and relate to people of different personality types, so it's a great communication
Gerald: Yeah, I could definitely see that having a big impact on an organization that's going through a lot
of change because one, it helps individual to understand themselves better but also to the help them
understand how they address or deals with change. But also, how their teammates depending on how
they may fall out within the D.I.S.C. assessment process; how they're going to handle change and be
able to kind of work together with a little more, understand a little more empathy and sympathy as you
go through this whole change initiative and change process.
Gerald: So what do you think is the most poorly understood about this whole concept of change
Alana: Well, I think the biggest thing is looking at changing leadership from a notion of being change
ready, as opposed to responding to change. So it’s not a matter of ebb and flow, it's a matter of
positioning yourself and your organization to be able to adapt to change. The interesting thing for me is
that something as you mentioned in my intro that is tied both professionally and personally; having to
adapt to change and becoming quite resilient and understanding the effects of change, how I respond to
change and just recognizing how common change is. Quite often and we tend to think of change in
something that's an anomaly when change is pretty sure to happen.
Gerald: If there's nothing else that's going to happen, it is always going to be some change right?
Gerald: Exactly, so what trends do you see in the industry, especially in the oil and gas industry when it comes to a project portfolio management and this whole concept of change leadership?
Alana: Well, so there are a couple things when we look on the product development side we certainly
see an adaptation of the waterfall traditional project management being merged and melded with the
agile methodology, so that the product development can be a bit more agile and respond to change and
respond to change requests. So that's just kind of on the projects side. What we're seeing on the
organization side is really seeing more people basically talking through situations. I was working with a
client, and they joked that coming in and dealing with the setting up for the coaching and training
sessions felt like Team therapy. The reality is what we're doing, and what we see organizations doing
now are really putting everything on the table and talking about things which are allowing and really
improving the performance of the team and allowing more cohesion and unity that is needed in the face
of adversity. So again you mention oil and gas, I mean I've been in the industry for twenty years, and I've
seen so many ups and downs in cycles. Unprecedented in the other industry everyone's got some air
and flow but it's certainly unique if you will return to oil and gas. So really helping people understand
how to build resilience, how to bounce back when situations happen, not if they happen but when they
Gerald:Ok, now just listening to you talk and looking at your background and obviously you share
openly about your book “Love As A Catalyst”. So obviously you’ve seen ups and downs, you've grown
yourself to become someone who has a global presence and a really stellar background and a set of
experience that I think is very commendable. When you think of role models who was, and you don't
have to go into details of who exactly, or maybe you can talk about your role models and why you
selected them. Because, obviously someone of to help groom yourself to this place because you've got
to grow yourself to a place that most people don't get to.
Alana: Yes, I've been blessed to interact and connect with some really amazing people, and I always
starts first and foremost with Paula McCann Harris who was the first African-American petroleum
engineer from Texas A& M. University. I had the opportunity to meet her as a sophomore in college, and
I almost didn't think she'd existed, I thought she was a unicorn. So it was an amazing happenstance that
she actually worked at the same company that I end up spending the majority of my career with. So that
was a great relationship regarding being fostered encouraged because you know one of the things that
are very difficult for people especially early on in their careers is isolation and feeling like that their
journey or their walk is unfamiliar to someone else and then of course as seasons change and as career
path change. I have been intentional about finding others, and I always love to give a special shout out if
I will to Frank Saladis. He is a Project met, project leadership expert and I've had the opportunity to learn
at his feet for the past few years through the P.M.I. Seminar at sea and I've heard him speak several
times and so when I was asked to speak and actually to the centrally be his cohort I was extremely
honored by his enthusiasm. His and energy and passion for leadership in project management are
actually one of the reasons, he hasn't yet formally taken credit, but I'm sure it is one of the reasons for
the for the talent triangle and emphasizing leadership so much because. You know with the natural
progression of many project managers project managers career path they typically come from a very
technical. Background and then they end up have to learn some of the soft skills and there's an
emphasis on learning leadership and you know going from being a project manager to being a project
leader, so the emphasis on that has had a major impact on me and my career, and so I'm just thankful to
have been able to have him as a role model for all these years.
Gerald: Awesome. Thanks for sharing that because I think as a project manager getting started I think a
lot of people think, that they have to, kind of, pick themselves up by the bootstraps and figure all of this
by themselves. Well actually besides yourself and others I've talked to, when you see someone who's
really grown themselves you always find that there's a mentor or two that's going to help guide them
and give them even a quicker path to get to where they're trying to go to and so I really appreciate you
sharing about the two individuals that had a big impact on you. So let me ask you another couple of
questions before we end here is one, what is the one thing that has made the biggest impact on your
career as a consultant speaker and a coach?
Alana: The one thing that has the biggest impact; I would say, the oil and gas downturn. Especially this
recent one. This recent downturn because one, especially with the length in the longevity of this one it’s
one thing to call yourself resilient It's one thing to say that you overcome adversity and it's another to
walk in adversity again, and that's what resilience is. It’s again and again and again. So you know for
those of us who have been in the industry for a while and again it's not just oil and gas ,we know many
factions have lots of cycles but when we find ourselves in that again and then we can look up and realize
that we were able to utilize the strengths that we had developed over the years we were able to use the
muscle that we had gained, and so while they can feel difficult they're actually character building time to
actually let us see and prove to ourselves that we're more than just a lip service.
Gerald: Now, I did talk about your book, and we didn't really talk about that a lot, I want to give you a
second, what inspired you to write a book about love as a catalyst?
Alana: So "Love As A Catalyst" when I wrote the first one; it's actually a two book series really. When I
wrote the first one it was it was what I considered as a project manager, the most heartfelt project that
I've ever had to manage and that was managing the care for my oldest son when he was diagnosed with
cancer. When we have a certain skill set we have leadership, and we have project management, and I
won't say I'm amazed because we're probably not, but we'd be interested to see how many, how often
it kicks in when we don't necessarily expect it. So managing appointments, managing medicines and
things like that but that is also from the compassionate leadership standpoint of loving a young adult
teen who was defiant about some of his treatment and so that was kind of what led me to that one. But
in the midst of writing that because I got to a point where I wanted to share my personal journey of
growing up in overcoming adversity time and time again and especially in the face of my mother's death,
when I was just a senior in high school and then going on to receive a college scholarship and
completing my engineering degree. So those were components of me as a project manager that most
people that know me usually don't take about five minutes but I typically share with them and the
reason for that is because I like to be an example an unfortunate example but an example of resilience
and example of overcoming. So what writing that book did is. Actually it combined all of my worlds, I
mean I'm a mom, I'm a project manager, I'm a consultant, I'm a speaker and so that just really
chronicled that journey. It’s the origin story of love people, that is like watching the origin story from the
X-Men, so that is, kind of the origin of myself as a heroine.
Gerald: Wow, what an amazing story and hats off to you to be vulnerable and to share that and to leave
a legacy of what you've done for your family and really to set the pace for a lot of us to look up to, so I
really appreciate that. As we get ready to end here, if listeners want to learn more about you, where can
Alana: If they want to learn more about me, they can go to my website, which is themsengineerway.com.
There I have some videos, my speaker profile, different ways they can stay in touch with me, my blog
which I regularly update with great leadership tips, and I'm especially passion about compassionate
leadership of making sure that as leaders that we're not leading with our emotions of our heart but
leading with the with the compassion and the capacity of our heart.
Gerald: Excellent! Today, Ladies and gentleman, we have had the honor to listen to Alana Hill, the
author of "Love As A Catalyst." She is a project manager and consultant speaker; Alana, thank you so much
for sharing your life and your expertise with us. Ladies and gentleman, for more expert insights, go to
Principles of Execution podcast.