Sarah Barpoulis

board member, SemGroup Corporation

I think a lot of Tuck graduates find that their strengths rise to the top when they manage change or confront a crisis.

Sarah Barpoulis wants to get one thing out of the way. “I’m not inventing the next solar panel,” the independent director says. That’s not to say she hasn’t been a pioneer throughout her career. In her first job after Tuck she participated in deregulating the wholesale energy markets, eventually building the energy commodities trading floor at PG&E Corporation’s non-utility subsidiary, then led it through the California and Enron crises. The experience gave her an appreciation for risk management and transparent corporate governance, which are more important than ever in today’s rapidly changing energy industry.

“Where I have been successful is looking at things from a risk-management perspective and thinking through a range of scenarios,” she says. “That means not looking for one solution but rather a suite of possible solutions.”

Barpoulis and her husband, Tuck classmate John Barpoulis, T’91 have three children. When their youngest was diagnosed with autism, she chose to stay home and work as an asset-management and risk consultant, which soon led to a seat on the board of Reliant Energy. She was 41; many of her peers were in their 70s.

“I think it was a little intimidating to be both young and female but I think being opinionated was probably the more difficult thing,” says Barpoulis, who now sits on the boards of publicly traded energy companies SemGroup Corporation and South Jersey Industries, as well as Educare, DC, an early childhood education nonprofit.

“From a board perspective I believe diversity is important, and not just in gender and race. Generational diversity is important too and having fresh thoughts on a board—if you have a board member with the right decorum—can really be powerful.”

Barpoulis credits Tuck for a style that lends itself to constructive debate, consensus building, and empowering others, which she sees as the key attributes of successful board members. “Joining a board at a young age tested all of those skills,” she says. “I think a lot of Tuck graduates find that their strengths rise to the top when they manage change or confront a crisis.” She likes what she sees at the Revers Center, where students are learning not just to navigate the fast-changing energy industry, but also how to be wise leaders.

“If I look back over my career and someone asked me what I consider my greatest success, I would say it was positioning others for success,” she says. “Even in the boardroom you’re not there to run the company. You’re there to create shareholder value by positioning the management team for long-term success.”

Continue Reading

Related Stories

Less Waste, Longer Use: Meet Nike’s Peggy Reid T’98

Through profitable reuse and recycling programs like Nike Grind, Circular Economy Director Peggy Reid T’98 is helping eliminate waste and creating a longer life for Nike’s products. 

Read More

Colin Butterfield on Developing Global Leaders

Colin Butterfield T’04 describes his investment process as collaborative and bottom-up, not a top-down approach that follows established trends. 

Read More

Phil Giudice

Phil Giudice T'85 is CEO of AMBRI, a Boston-based startup chasing the Holy Grail of renewable energy: cheap, reliable, and massively scalable electricity storage.

Read More

Mike Miskovsky

Energy entrepreneur Mike Miskovsky T'90 is bullish on the future of electric vehicles even though he doesn’t think much of today’s electric cars.

Read More

Robert Wallace

Robert Wallace T'84 is a Baltimore-born entrepreneur who has written six books and runs three companies focusing on information technology, executive coaching, and most recently, renewable energy.

Read More

Pace Ralli

Pace Ralli T'09 came to Tuck after the 2003 blackout inspired a career change from corporate finance to energy.

Read More

Damali Harding

As executive director of nonprofit The Energy Co-op, Damali Harding D’99, T’06 helped Philadelphians increase their renewable energy use for a sustainable future.

Read More

Lee Taylor

Lee Taylor T’12, co-founder and CEO of REsurety, is helping to redefine the way energy companies approach risk in the promising but volatile wind energy industry.

Read More

Andrew Smith

Andrew Smith T'07 chose Tuck first because he was looking for a beautiful environment where he could spend time thinking about how to maximize his impact on big challenges in the world.

Read More

Thad Hill

As the president and CEO of Calpine, a Fortune 500 power generator and retailer, Thad Hill T’95 is doing exactly what he envisioned when he came to Tuck in 1993.

Read More

Elyse Allan

GE Canada CEO Elyse Allan D’79, T’84 is helping advance the company’s innovation agenda one good idea at a time.

Read More

Daniel Revers

The new Revers Center for Energy, made possible by Daniel Revers T'89, expands Tuck’s energy programming in the classroom and beyond.

Read More

Eric Spiegel

People call Eric Spiegel T'87 the most natural leader they’ve ever met. Now CEO of Siemens USA, a global electronics and engineering powerhouse, he gets to lead on the issues that matter most. To his company and the country.

Read More