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the ladder

Ranjana Martin, 54, is director of regulatory services for Enbridge Pipelines Inc., based in Calgary.Chris Bolin

Ranjana Martin, 54, is director of regulatory services for Enbridge Pipelines Inc., based in Calgary.

My family came to Canada from India when I was 10. I'd never seen a cleaner country. There was this abundance of food and no poverty I could see on the street.

It was apparent my parents weren't going to be able to finance our higher education for three kids so we all worked toward it.

My first job was as a maid at the Holiday Inn in Ottawa. I cleaned 16 rooms a day. I was young and had energy but it was a workout every day. I thought: 'This is not a living. I am not going to be in a position of having to do this.'

An incredible Grade-13 economics teacher encouraged me to study economics at University of Ottawa. Then I persuaded my parents to let me move to study for a master's of economics at the University of Toronto. They wanted me to be a doctor, lawyer or engineer. They valued me, but not the economics degree. But I loved it. It was a mix of pure science and art.

I wanted to pursue forecasting as I thought it was a skill every company could use.

One of the highlights of my career was appearing before the Ontario Energy Board (on behalf of ICG Utilities) at the age of 30. It was terrifying, nerve-wracking. There's witness prep – it's called wood-shedding – to make sure you know your stuff and don't get rattled by questions.

At the time, energy was a male-dominated field. I was once the only woman presenter at a sales conference in Timmins (Ont.). Everyone said, "You have to play golf." I'd never played in my life. I was horrible at it but people were nice. … I golfed with an old boss a week ago.

I moved to Vancouver with Westcoast Energy and worked on natural gas pipeline rates. At the time, pipelines were not on people's radar. Now the public discussion is around whether pipelines should be built, not the rates charged.

I moved to Calgary with my fiancé in 2001. After Duke bought Westcoast in 2003, I took a package. To get another job, I volunteered at a regulators' conference where I'd been a speaker the year before. It was a fall from grace. But I made a contact and got a new job with Alberta Electric System Operator.

While on vacation in Nelson, B.C., I had a premature baby. My employer (AESO) was incredibly supportive and flew the baby back on a charter flight. It taught me, if you work hard for your employer, they will be there for you, too. .

Later, I targeted Enbridge. I wanted to round out my career with oil experience. I always admired the company from afar because everyone I met in my business dealings really enjoyed working there. I was hired in 2006, working in strategic planning and regulatory services.

At Enbridge, I once pitched to work on a new program to collect rates from shippers for future abandonment of pipelines – and put the money into trusts. It wasn't a high-profile project but I think it's important.

Now, I'm responsible for preparing rate submissions for Enbridges's liquid pipelines. There is a lot of pressure to get it right so we can collect the right amount of revenue.

When I hire, I look past credentials on paper. Hard skills are pretty easy to test; the soft skills are more difficult. It's a gut feel and soft skills are important because we work in teams.

I've had great bosses. The best ones are there in good and bad times for their people. They ask: Is the person still valuable and bringing a lot to the table and is just having a bump in the road? Employees are human beings with lives that can affect their work lives.

Many of the goods that you buy, the paintings you enjoy, come from energy resources. Energy is integral to our standard of living in this country.

My staff tells me: "You get excited about tariffs." It's true: I look for opportunity. You better be excited about what you're doing or it's a long day at work.

As told to Janice Paskey. This interview has been edited and condensed.

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