Promising young CEO Jana McDonald advancing the case for profitable emissions reduction

'I think that we're really privileged to be in the heart of oil and gas town here in Calgary… We’re seeing innovations and ideas that are brilliant'

By Cody Ciona
Jana McDonald the CEO and founder of Guardyan Conservation. In Calgary Monday, March 18, 2024. Photo by Dave Chidley for the Canadian Energy Centre.

The emergence of women in leading roles within Canada’s oil and gas industry is a testament to strong role models, says one of the winners of this year’s Young Women in Energy (YWE) awards.  

Jana McDonald, CEO of Guardyan Conservation Corp, said that the annual YWE awards program helps that momentum as a vital stage for women’s successes to be showcased. 

“I am very fortunate to be on this kind of wave of the industry as women make more space. Sometimes it’s not even about making space, it’s about the fact that you better get out of the way or women are going make their own way,” says 29-year-old Jana McDonald, CEO of Guardyan Conservation.  

“I think that YWE gives a phenomenal platform for women to show up and to be seen. They create a platform where there isn’t one.” 

Guardyan Conservation, which started around four years ago, is focused on the energy transformation taking place across Canada and around the world.  

Its goal is to help clients identify ways to help reduce their environmental impact while continuing to provide sustainable energy for the world through carbon markets. 

McDonald leads a team of environmental strategists who help companies assess their carbon footprint and provide carbon offsets to enable a profitable path toward emissions reduction goals. 

She is encouraged by the progress being made within the energy industry to make a meaningful impact on the environment and believes those innovations will help the sector thrive into the future. 

 “I think that we’re really privileged to be in the heart of oil and gas town here in Calgary… We’re seeing innovations and ideas that are brilliant. The energy sector will always be present and there will always be a degree of resource extraction and natural gas use,” she said. 

Being the CEO of a company now going through an investment growth raise of $15 million can have its challenges. That’s why having a whip-smart second in command and a solid team helps bring everything together. 

Having Kaila Stepanic by her side as co-founder and president has helped Guardyan grow from a scrappy little start up to a multimillion-dollar firm, McDonald said, noting her expertise in project management has helped the company aim high while setting realistic goals. 

“Guardyan really became Guardyan when Kaila came on…She was my first hire” said McDonald about Guardyan’s president.  

“She brings so much leadership and steadiness to this company” 

One of McDonald’s proudest achievements is building the team that has helped realize Guardyan’s potential. 

“It’s a silly thing but getting to have the first Guardyan Christmas party and collect all those people in that room and be so incredibly proud of this stone-cold group of weirdos. A misfit collection of experts who are changing the industry.” 

Overall, as a female leader in a STEM environment, McDonald sees the rise of women as leaders or in executive roles as significant progress toward positive representation. 

 “I think that we’re in a place where the greater community wants to see women and female-centric organizations.”. 

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