Nicola MacLeod

Nicola MacLeod

General Counsel and Company Legal Secretary

Spirit Energy

A politics graduate of Edinburgh University, Nicola MacLeod worked in roles as diverse as Scottish Office criminologist, Police Federation researcher and special adviser to the Principal of the University of Aberdeen during her early working years.

Amidst those roles, she also completed a law degree and embarked on a legal career with an Aberdeen firm.

She subsequently joined Maersk Oil, rising through the ranks to become a Director responsible for legal, commercial, HR and external relations, before recently joining Spirit Energy as General Counsel and Company Secretary.

Nicola is a Fellow of the Institute of Directors and member of the Association of International Petroleum Negotiators.

When I was at school, career advice was perhaps a little stereotypical. Like a lot of females at that time, I was encouraged towards being either a teacher or a nurse, and I actually thought about teaching for a while. At that time a lot of it came down to finding role models and encouragement from teachers and my parents. In the end I chose to study Politics and English being the two subjects I enjoyed most at school and ones I felt would give me a good general degree and keep my options open.

“My career path has involved me stepping outside of my comfort zone…”

I kind of fell into the oil & gas industry – but I’m glad I did. The law firm I joined had a dedicated oil & gas department with an international client base, and having worked in Edinburgh, Glasgow and London, it was exciting to be involved in an international industry.

When I first joined the industry, I’d go to social occasions with friends who already worked in oil & gas and there would be people from 20 different countries there. It was clear that that the industry offered so many opportunities.

You have to be ready to take on new challenges. My career path has involved me stepping outside of my comfort zone of legal and managing cross discipline teams. You need different skills sets for managing different areas of responsibility but it is a really good way to understand the business from outside your own discipline. This has been invaluable in taking me to the next stage of my career and my new role at Spirit Energy.

Our industry is still a male-dominated environment. I don’t mean that in a negative way, but it is factual. Things are nevertheless changing. There is more focus in companies, not just on gender diversity, but on diversity per se and looking at our own unconscious biases when we are recruiting, evaluating and developing our people.

It’s important to have diversity in your team.
When I’m appointing someone, I look for a person that’s a good fit for the job,
the team and the company. My aim is to maintain diverse teams, not just in terms of gender and ethnicity but also in the way people think.

It’s a common mistake among managers to hire or promote people like ourselves. In my view the best teams are made up of a real mix of people with different approaches and styles, but all with the right attitude.

“I aim to maintain diverse teams, not just in terms of gender and ethnicity but also in the way people think”
Where educated:Thurso High School, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Strathclyde Universities. First job: Working in a newsagent.
Advice to your 15-year-old self?Don’t feel you need to have your whole career mapped out. Things will happen, and opportunities will come along.
A moment of inspiration?When I was 13 years old, working in a newsagent, I remember receiving my first pay packet and thinking: ‘Wow, you get rewarded when you do a good job.’ I always want to do things well – I think it reflects how I was brought up.