Fueling a Legal Career

During his 17 years with Shell Oil, Hector Pineda has steadily risen through the ranks of this multinational firm’s legal-services department. He currently serves as associate general counsel for Shell’s Upstream Americas Onshore Division. In this capacity, he spearheads a team of US and Canadian attorneys who provide legal support and counsel for Shell’s efforts to discover and extract tight and shale oil and gas in North America. A New Orleans native, Pineda readily credits his family and their shared Hispanic heritage as pivotal to his own success.

Executive Timeline

The career of Hector Pineda

1995–1998 
Works as an attorney for Shell Oil’s exploration and production section 

1998–2001 
Shifts to international
exploration and production section 

2001–2005
Provides legal support to chemicals business on complex commercial transactions,
advertising, and marketing

2006–2009
Serves as managing counsel for corporate (transactional)/corporate secretary’s office section. Also, oversees corporate secretary’s office governance, which encompasses legal maintenance for US subsidiaries affiliated with Shell. 

2009–Present
Thrives in associate general counsel role for Onshore Gas

How does your team support Shell’s onshore gas operations?

In general, we provide counsel to help ensure that gas operations are in line with legal requirements and corporate policies, as well as business goals. This takes many forms—from developing contracts for the leasing of oil and gas properties to advising on state and federal regulations applicable to the [oil- and gas-] extraction process.

Why is shale gas important to Shell?

This resource could contribute much to our country’s energy security. Because this source of natural gas is located deep underground within impermeable rock, accessing it has long been too cost prohibitive. Technological advances, however, have made it possible to finally tap these resources in an environmentally responsible manner. Currently, Shell is focusing its operations in seven core areas from western Canada to South Texas.

Was this always your career path?

As a child, I wanted to become a doctor. But, the fact that I couldn’t stand the sight of blood soon ended my medical-career hopes. Later, at Louisiana State University, my love of problem solving and my ability to address problems from multiple angles attracted me to a career in law. As a law student at Tulane University, I clerked at Shell during my summers and was fortunate to discover that I really enjoyed working there. I’ve been here ever since.

You’ve had several mentors at Shell—how have they helped you in your career?

I’ve been blessed to have several extraordinary mentors who have provided me with great guidance and support. Among these was my first boss, John Esquivel, who showed a great deal of faith in my abilities. My mentors have helped me to grow by encouraging me to take on new challenges like accepting overseas assignments and leadership positions.

What influence did your family and Hispanic heritage have on you?

My parents and grandparents are immigrants—my mother is from Cuba and my father is from Honduras. As experienced by many Hispanics, my family’s emphasis on family values and faith made a strong impression on me. My late grandfather, who was a shipyard worker in New Orleans, also instilled in me the importance of hard work and education—he wanted me to have a better life than he did.

Did your background influence your participation in community causes?

Very much so. The Hispanic belief in the family extends to the larger community. At the same time, Shell encourages involvement in civic projects. As a board member with Healthcare for Homeless Houston, I am proud to help this organization provide Houston’s homeless population with medical care—including mental-health services—with a minimum of resources. In my work with the Houston Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, I’m part of a committee helping to increase the international presence of Hispanic-owned businesses in Houston.

What career advice would you offer to Hispanic youth?

Work very hard and try to establish yourself as a solid performer as soon as possible. I’d encourage them to continually expand their skill set, look for opportunities where they can network, and build upon their leadership abilities. Finally, don’t forget to bring your Hispanic background to the table—this is especially important at a time when businesses are seeking to profitably increase their presence on the world stage.

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