Field Session from a Student’s Perspective

CoBank by Jackson Goldsberry

CoBank Group PictureDuring our summer field session, we visited CoBank, a cooperative bank that is one of the country’s largest lenders to agriculture related businesses. CoBank also invests heavily in renewable energy, primarily wind and solar to help provide electricity to rural areas. Their office is located just south of the Denver Tech Center and prides itself on being just as efficient as other large banks with less employees.

We met up with Beth Campbell, a recruiter for CoBank who organized and gathered presenters for our visit. Marshall Essig presented to us about credit administration and he gave us some advice for what to look for in our first jobs. We then met with Randy Medina who oversees risk analysis and the creation of financial models for CoBank. These models ranged from the likelihood of any early payment on a loan to more common economic models. Next was Ryan Bouckaert, who oversees the management of the models and modifies them to minimize the errors that occur in these models.

Jennifer Daurio described to us the details of CoBank’s CAP program which is a great way to gain experience and could potentially lead to employment at CoBank. Should someone be accepted to this two-year program, they will go through classes and the experience necessary to qualify as a credit analyst at CoBank.

Tanner Ehmke is a prominent member in CoBank’s Knowledge Exchange Division whose purpose is to perform analysis on common agriculture products and to forecast expected market price changes due to a range of things, from political factors to changes in input costs, to help their customers make informed financial decisions. The KED does quarterly reports which are posted on CoBank’s website and are free to the public.

While meeting all of these wonderful people, we had discussions about the inner workings of the company and got to ask a large number of questions about economic modeling and how we as students could better prepare for life after graduation.

After all of our questions had been asked and answered, we received a tour of the luxurious CoBank building, complete with its own gym and cafeteria, as well plenty of parking for its employees, which can be hard to find around the Denver Tech Center.

Overall, it was a wonderful experience and we got to meet with talented men and women in the banking industry who apply economic concepts in their work to help them model, make loans, and forecast possible changes in the agricultural industry.

Newmont Mining Corporation by Alex Adams

On May 16, we were lucky enough to get the opportunity to visit Newmont Mining Corporation’s headquarters in Greenwood Village. Newmont’s office is located within the Denver Tech Center, a beautiful tech hub on the edge of Denver.

Newmont is a gold mining corporation with operations worldwide. One of the first things we noticed was that there was no indication that Newmont, the largest gold mining company in the world, was headquartered in the building. There was no sign on the outside and no indication of their existence in the lobby, only a small sign existed in the elevator to guide visitors toward their reception area.

Once at Newmont’s offices, the first thing they had us do was watch a safety video on the building, highlighting emergency escape plans and where items such as defibrillators were located. Newmont has a strong safety culture. This was further illustrated when our meeting with their corporate development department started with a safety share. At this meeting, we met with Eric Colby, the senior director of corporate development at Newmont. We learned much about Newmont and the individuals who work there.

A few things really caught my attention. First, the only program they use in corporate development is Excel: no Matlab or R. Second, everyone we met with had a master’s degree or above. Thus, a career in corporate development at Newmont would require attending graduate school simply due to the complexity of problems they work with at Newmont. Thankfully, Mines would be an excellent place for this due to its strong mining focus.

Overall, our visit at Newmont Mining Corporate was quite enjoyable. We gained excellent insight into possible careers at Newmont and were also able to gain general career advice that will help us with any job in the future.

S&P Global-Platts by Scott Marshall

As part of summer field sessions, Mines undergraduate economics students visited the downtown Denver offices of S&P Global-Platts.

As one of the leading market intelligence, benchmark pricing, and analytics providers within the energy and commodities industry, Platts’ intricate use of data analytics to gain a stronger insight into the complex global markets was fascinating.

Upon our arrival, we were met by Jennifer Van Dinter, a Mines geological engineering graduate, and started to gradually learn about how the Mines technical education can effectively set one up for success within the realm of analytics. The opportunities at Platts for Mines economics majors are plentiful regarding the sheer number of industries and businesses that Platts’ business spans. The Bench Program seems like the perfect opportunity to test the waters of the many different arenas of S&P Global Platts and jointly match the skills and interests of the employee to the needs of the company.

Van Dinter organized a wonderful program of market analysts who helped us understand the application of data analytics to real-world problems. Bob Yu, a quantitative modeling analyst with Platts and a Mines graduate, explained the modeling avenue that his math background opened with Platts and showed that quantitative modeling is a growing necessity as big data transforms the ways business decisions are made.

Aside from the technical aspects of Platts’ business operations, Suzanne Minter importantly noted that effective communication skills are needed in technical spheres and has the potential to open up doors throughout one’s career. Platts’ blending of technical and communicative skills opened up my eyes that there are real-world consequences to actions and real-world problems do not always have a clear-cut answer. All complexities and intricacies must be weighed to gain a better understanding of the subject at hand. Conclusively, this big-picture approach to problem solving was fascinating and recharges me to dive between the lines and numbers and try to understand “why.”

I was thoroughly impressed by their office suite and the individuals with whom we met. Upon beginning the presentation put together by the various employees gathered by Platts, the first matter of discussion was that of the Bench Program for recent college graduates. This six-month to two-year program exposes all of its employees to the various aspects of Platts’ business that encompass all parts of Platts’ business operations. Additionally, the opportunities to travel within the program and upon promotions were immense with 19 world-wide offices that comprise Platts’ global presence.

Jack Winters, a recent Loyola statistics graduate and current energy analyst with Platts, explained the Bench Program and all the opportunities that it presented him in his short duration with the company after recently being brought onboard. Platts appears to test the waters of each employee’s expertise and skillset and effectively place them in a part of the business where they can thrive and be a positive contributor to the business as a whole. That is the type of organization I wish to work for because it shows that they genuinely care about the employee’s well-being and seek the best out of each individual.

I was fascinated by Yu’s approach to explaining the ways in which Platts extracts knowledge from large data sets. Yu, a Mines grad who majored in applied mathematics, explained that Platts uses a bottom-up approach to data analysis which starts with the collection of data, scrubbing data, synthesizing data, and gaining insight from the conclusions the data points toward. However, he was critical that data is not all-encompassing and applying eye-tests and intuition is crucial because there are things that big data miss out upon. Such things are revealed in social implications that cannot easily be quantified. Yu was serious that the need for individuals who can effectively scrub data and manipulate data are in high demand and are very difficult to find.

This presents itself as an opportunity with my remaining education at Mines that learning these skills can help set myself up for success in the professional realm. This was a common theme with every visit we had: the manipulation of big data to gain insight into complicated subjects is in high demand and being at a school like Mines creates many opportunities to gain expertise in these areas. In my career, I want to help utilize big data to help people have more financial security and ensure that the financial sector is operating in an ethical and supporting manner to the people for whom it serves. These values I found in Platts.

Lastly, I was very impressed by Suzanne Minter who effectively communicates to clients all over the world the vision, initiatives, and actions of Platts. She was a very effective communicator and I learned a lot about how to read an audience and how to relate to the person with whom you are speaking. I am striving to be as an effective communicator as Minter in order to have a broader positive influence beyond a technical realm of understanding.

In conclusion, I was very impressed by the effort S&P Global Platts put forth to welcome us and teach on their various aspects of operations. The people were smart, articulate, and easily understandable while explaining complicated aspects of the business. Platts is the type of company I would wish to work for and has the types of people I can learn a lot from as mentors.

Xcel Energy by Levi Cecil

Our afternoon spent at Xcel Energy was very informative in terms of learning about different career opportunities at the company.

The first part of the visit was spent on the trade floor learning about the regulations involved with delivering energy, how Xcel Energy stays within those regulations, and how they deliver the energy that their customers demand on a consistent basis. They use a series of models to try and predict the demand for electricity, with updates continually coming throughout the day as new information is discovered.

The most interesting aspect of the different models was how reliant they are on weather data, as weather is a key determinant of how much energy people will use on a given day. The weather also plays a key role in how much energy is produced through renewable resources like wind and solar, which is important in planning which energy will be used to meet the daily demands. As the amount of wind and sunlight decreases, the amount of energy produced by coal or natural gas increases, and vice versa.

The amount of energy produced by natural gas and coal also changes as the prices of the two resources change. The price of natural gas has been dropping steadily over the last few years, which has led to an increase in the number of plants using the resource in place of coal.

The trading floor is used to make sure that Xcel Energy can meet the demands of consumers when the energy they produce is not readily available. They can purchase energy on the stock market to deliver to their customers, or they can sell energy if they are producing too much at a given time. Optimization is a large part of their operation because it allows them to figure out a combination of renewables, coal, natural gas, and spot market purchases that meets the energy demands for their customers at the lowest cost to them.

Once we left the trading floor, we got to meet with about 10 employees of Xcel to hear their background and the role that they play at the company. The group was comprised of a combination of full-time employees and interns, all with unique roles and backgrounds. Many of their roles seemed to be focused on data analytics and forecasting with regards to future demand for electricity.

The biggest takeaway that I got in visiting with the employees was to constantly be learning. Always try to expand your knowledge base, whether that be actively learning new skills like data management and coding, or expanding your network of contacts through events and organizations.

Ford Brown was the leader of the team we met with, and he had a wealth of knowledge and life experiences that he was able to share with us. I really enjoyed the opportunity to hear more about the components of the energy market, as well as how Xcel fits into that market. We were able to acquire a lot of useful information, and I think we all appreciated the opportunity to get to visit Xcel Energy.

Lockheed Martin by Bellal Zulali

Field Session at Lockheed MartinDuring our summer field session, we visited Lockheed Martin Deer Creek in Littleton. Lockheed Martin is security, defense, and space exploration company with a campus hidden in some mountains along C-470. Before we made the trip to Lockheed, we knew it was a very secure facility, so we fit everyone in our field session group into two cars, which was no hard feat with six people.

Once we arrived, we met Aaron Anderson from capital management who served as our tour guide and provided what he called “unsolicited financial advice,” which we all happily accepted. We returned to our cars with Anderson escorting us to a separate, larger building.

Here we were met with a gigantic physical replica of NASA’s Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle, the long duration spacecraft that will transport humans to the moon, then eventually to Mars and back. Lockheed Martin is the prime contractor for building Orion, and remains on track for the unmanned test flight, “Exploration Mission-1” in 2019.

Afterwards, we set out to visit the new $350 million Gateway Center that is currently under construction until 2020. The Gateway Center will be a 266,000 square foot building made primarily for assembling space satellites more conveniently and efficiently. We were overlooking the noisy construction from a hill with hardhats and bright green VIP vests. Aaron explained that the site will contain a much larger working space for engineers as well as a variety of innovative space travel training sites. The most expensive addition will be the simulated vacuum room, which will allow thorough experimentation in a space-like environment.

We concluded our visit to Lockheed by sitting in a meeting room with Aaron, Shawn, Lindsay, and Alex. Shawn and Alex are both Mines graduates who recently began working at Lockheed. It was refreshing to be able to speak to alumni that could provide valuable advice about skills and habits we should pick up before entering the workforce. They emphasized working hard and standing out during internships as well as communicating with peers to develop professional connections.

Initially, I was not certain about the role of economists and financial analysts at a company like Lockheed, however Aaron provided excellent explanations about various economic positions at the company. Overall, visiting Lockheed Martin was an astounding experience, and I hope to be able to work at a company with a similar environment in the future.