The People of America's Oil and Natural Gas Indusry

Emerging Industry Leaders Talk Opportunity, Making a Difference

Mark Green

Mark Green
Posted April 24, 2015

To identify members of API’s second Emerging Leaders Program as “millennials” would really be oversimplifying things. Sure, they generally fit that age demographic, but they’re not being defined by such a generalized label. Rather, they’re defining themselves in the professional world – which surely is a reason their companies nominated them to participate in a program that focuses on future industry leadership, which included joining API at IHS Energy’s annual CERAWeek conference in Houston.  

leaders

(L-R – Patrick Rodgers, Baker Hughes; Nathan Snoke, Halliburton/Baroid; Lesley Ann Jones, Cameron; Daniel Short, Marathon Petroleum; Bethany Clarkson-Morgan, BP; Scott Carpenter, Occidental Petroleum; Elana Marion, Chevron; Omar De Leon, ExxonMobil. Not pictured: Jeff Jacobson, Newpark Resources.)


This year’s program centered on how modern politics impacts the oil and natural gas industry. Specifically, the curriculum examined the growing importance of public policy, advocacy and mobilization within daily industry operations and underscored the importance of political participation.

Still, much of the context for these discussions involves the career expectations and experiences of the emerging leader cohort – which in some ways reflect the aspirational trends of the larger generational grouping. Just don’t pigeon-hole them as “millennials.”

During our conversation at CERAWeek there was agreement that the oil and natural gas industry fits with younger career people (whatever you call them) who are adaptable, appropriately ambitious and invested in the notion of making a difference. Nathan Snoke, northern region manager for Halliburton/Baroid, based in Denver:

“I think it’s a custom fit, personally … the ability to move on. That’s one of the things that’s been identified – that millennials love new challenges, they love learning, they love continuing to develop themselves. It’s not just about pay, it’s about many more things surrounding their job, and I think our industry is a custom fit for it. If you want to move every three years, we realize you can do it. … Our industry provides that ability for that flexibility. From that aspect and from the continuing development and education, I personally think it’s tailored for them.”

Bethany Clarkson-Morgan, BP Global Operations Organization Assurance lead, said industry faces some challenges getting younger generations to see oil and natural gas as a career path. But she said these can be neutralized with fact-based conversations about industry’s role in driving the economy and fostering individual prosperity, as well as discussion of the looming “crew change” – literally, significant job opportunities in industry that are coming because a large number of current workers are expected to retire over the next few years.

Mainly, though, working in this industry offers individual opportunity – for varied, well-paying careers and achievements that are personally fulfilling. Again, it’s a good fit for the generation of younger professionals. Snoke:

“I grew up in central Illinois, Peoria, Ill., headquarters for Caterpillar. There, everybody in town, in high school, is going through school and your goal is to go to high school, go to work for ‘Cat’ and retire at ‘Cat.’ Forty years and you have terrific benefits, right? … Obviously, this (the oil and natural gas industry) is a world away from that.”

Daniel Short, fuels technologist for Marathon Petroleum:

“With the industry and the opportunities … what millennials don’t have to worry about is being married with kids. The average age now is what, 29 to get married? So you’ve got a 25-year-old who can take that job in the middle of nowhere. He doesn’t have to think about … whether his wife’s going to be happy. He sees that really good job in the middle of nowhere, and it’s like I’m going to take it because that will give me the experience to go somewhere else in the industry and build a family maybe there.”

Scott Carpenter, financial analyst with Occidental Petroleum, said the younger generation is entering a jobs marketplace that’s increasingly competitive and demanding in terms of specific skills. It’s one reason oil and natural gas industry leaders are stressing the need for an emphasis on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education, to prepare future workers for industry employment.

The work is challenging, but also rewarding. Elana Marion, community engagement specialist with Chevron, said there’s nothing out of place with a person trying to have positive impact through their work:

“A study talked about how millennials want to make a difference, and I don’t think that’s a bad thing. If you can harness that and find out what that means to different people, that can be incredibly powerful. I think a lot of times millennials get dogged as being selfish or what have you, but the desire to make a difference, that’s very unselfish to me. That’s wanting to affect other people, to have a positive impact, to feel connected to others.”

That can take various forms. Omar De Leon, regulatory advisor with ExxonMobil, talked about the opportunity, through an oil and natural gas industry career, to lift entire families and communities:

“You see the industry pays a lot better than a lot of other industries. So folks whose parents earned minimum wage their whole life, and all of a sudden they get a college degree and they’re coming out of school making more money than their parents did, they’re able to buy a car and able to buy a home and things like that and elevate their standard of living, their family’s standard of living. Ideally, as that grows in a community, that makes a big difference.”

De Leon also noted the difference-making that comes with helping people outside industry understand how closely tied energy – and the acquisition of energy – is to virtually everything in life:

“When I joined the industry I had no idea about all the touch points we have in our daily lives, and I’m really glad to see we’ve put out some messaging, some nice videos and commercials. One that strikes my attention is (ExxonMobil’s ad) about boiling an egg. Something so simple as boiling an egg, but everything that goes behind that, to really make sure people understand that it’s not so simple and that work we do at different parts of our industry, whether it be really upstream or really on the downstream side, plays a major role in helping folks boil an egg. There’s something so simple as that, but maybe it’s more essential – like powering lights at a school or hospitals and making sure that they have the right equipment, a lot of which comes from petrochemical feedstocks. … What we really do touches everyone.”

Snoke:

“Since we deal in a natural resource arena, when we can make an impact on that it’s exciting. We can drill wells now in half the time that it took before and do these amazing technological achievements. … You talk about making a difference – it’s an extremely tangible difference.”

Patrick Rodgers, integrity management advisor with Baker Hughes, said industry can do a better job communicating the importance of every one of its jobs in the overall ability of energy to fuel positive change, which is significant for workers just entering the industry:

“One thing maybe as an industry we haven’t done so well at … is helping the guys that are in the field understand the big picture of their role. Management level, executive level, maybe if your role is associated with the messaging – you can see that. But at their level, they don’t see the bigger picture, and that’s where a lot of millennials are coming in, at the laboratory or in the field.”

These ideas, then, circle back to the value of participating in the emerging leaders program: the exchange of ideas and experiences – and certainly the encounter with the flood of information and dialogue at CERAWeek – that they’ll retain. Carpenter:

Being in this environment, being around the networking opportunities, hearing what other companies are doing and their struggles, there are a lot of things I’m going to take back to what I do and look at things in different ways.”

Snoke:

“This is where you come together and collaborate. It’s so refreshing seeing you guys are facing the same challenges we’re facing in our company. Omar was talking about their program and their engineers in the field, guys that want to stay in that discipline – validating toward what we’re working for as well. It’s so encouraging to know that there’s resources out there.”

Lesley Ann Jones, marketing manager with Cameron:

“I think it’s pretty validating, actually. … To be able to be in a room this diverse … really helps me to get that what I do makes a difference.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mark Green joined API after a career in newspaper journalism, including 16 years as national editorial writer for The Oklahoman in the paper’s Washington bureau. Mark also was a reporter, copy editor and sports editor. He earned his journalism degree from the University of Oklahoma and master’s in journalism and public affairs from American University. He and his wife Pamela live in Occoquan, Va., where they enjoy their four grandchildren.