For almost 33 years, Tracy Kiefer has been able to see and participate in Neste’s transformation journey from a regional oil refiner to becoming a global leader in renewable and circular solutions. Through her roles in Neste’s office in Houston, Texas, she has been able to continuously develop and learn. She has an important role in maintaining Neste’s unique culture and developing a sense of belonging locally.
“I started at Neste in July 1989. Joining Neste ended up being the best decision I had ever made, even though I had my doubts in the beginning. Before Neste, I had worked at a globally well-known, big organization that had a lot of development opportunities. I did not think that the small, traditional oil and gas company would have the same opportunities but I couldn’t have been more wrong,” Tracy smiles.
Tracy started her career at Neste working in the Finance department at the Houston office.
“I led a very small Finance team for 26 years, which also handled human resources related topics. As the company grew, we clearly needed separate departments for HR and Finance. At first, I was hesitant about moving to HR based on my background in Finance but I have really liked it because I enjoy working with people. For example, in recruiting, I get to introduce Neste to people and see how much they connect with Neste which has been rewarding,” explains Tracy.
The challenges have helped Tracy to learn and develop
Neste started its business in North America in the 80’s. When Tracy started, Neste had around 20 employees in Houston, where the regional headquarters are still located. Now there are over 500 employees all over North America helping more cities and businesses to achieve their climate goals faster.
“Development is a part of everything we do here at Neste. I think acquisitions of Mahoney and Agri Trading along with announcements of other projects and ventures are great examples of how we are never sitting still but always developing and innovating,” Tracy announces.
She continues: “I remember when we sold renewable diesel for the first time in the United States, and now we are doing acquisitions here. It shows how far Neste has truly come.”
“I have never been bored because there is always something more to do. Neste encourages its employees to learn more about the business and take on new challenges so you don’t get stuck in one role or task. I continue to participate in every info session that I can because there is always something new to learn, even after these years,” Tracy says.
Neste’s one purpose speaks to people
“Even in the beginning of my journey at Neste, culture was already very important. I have always thought that Neste is a company that makes commitments and sticks with those commitments,” Tracy says.
Tracy was surprised how different Neste is with its development opportunities from other companies she has known.
Tracy's hobbies include gardening
“Neste feels like a tree that has many branches. You have several different options to go in different directions for growth instead of only going up. I have always said to people when recruiting that they can go to another company that might have similar benefits and similar roles but they won’t necessarily be afforded the same opportunities to grow and to make an impact. The fact that Neste has one purpose, creating a healthier planet for our children, really speaks to people,” she states.
Tracy and the US HR team try to continually develop the benefits for employees to stay competitive and reflect Neste's care for employee wellbeing. For example, recently Neste reviewed and improved their parental leave for their employees in the US. Also, for many years, Neste in the US has been providing coaching sessions, available twice a month, that employees can sign up for without charge. These sessions can be used for wellbeing, leadership development, communication advice among other things.
"We continue to do what we can to make Neste a family, not just a place to work."
Even with the fast growth, the HR & Admin team makes sure that everyone feels welcome and part of Neste by organizing get-togethers for example in the form of socials, walks, runs and volunteering. Tracy highlights the importance of weekly, or even daily, coffee calls to stay connected.
Sometimes we also cover business topics but quite often we instead use the opportunity to talk about our lives and interests so that we can connect on a personal level and have a break from the work and life pace. Engagement and maintaining our culture has been a top priority during Covid-19 so we continue to do what we can to make Neste a family, not just a place to work.