Exploration & Production Planning Manager, Hess Corporation, Houston, TX
Grad school: MS ’05, Engineering Technology Management, Division of Economics and Business, Colorado School of Mines
Undergrad: BS in Engineering, University of Ibadan
Why did you choose Mines, and more specifically, the ETM program?
I was interested in business, but I didn’t want a traditional MBA, so I did my research and found Mines’ ETM program. I wanted business knowledge to complement my engineering degree, and the ETM program was a perfect fit. I also asked my friends in the oil and gas industry, and they confirmed that Mines is an excellent school.
Tell me about your experience at Mines. What stands out in your mind?
Mines is a school where you don’t play around. You have to be focused on your academics. It’s a tough school but you learn a lot. People go to school for different experiences, and at Mines, you have all those experiences, plus the academics are top notch.
The quality of professors is outstanding. They don’t just teach you the book, they teach you things that are useful in the real world. Many of the classes we took used case studies from the real world, which prepares you for what you actually do. I remember some of them came from the business world and taught us based on their experiences. Professors Eggert, Walls, Heeley, all of them, they were the best. In the work I do, I use a lot of the principles I learned in ETM, things you would continue to apply in real life.
I’ve talked to friends who got a regular MBA and I wouldn’t change a thing, I’m really glad I went the Mines route. It’s a top-notch school.
Tell me about your job at Hess.
At Hess, I’m the planning manager for exploration, and I lead the planning and organization for the company. I work with senior management, the CEO, and the executive leadership team to help them with strategy, planning, budgeting, and coordinating leadership interactions.
We have a variety of business teams (exploration, planning, development) and we have a presence in many different countries, so how that information comes together and goes to/from the executive leadership team, is disseminated through planning and organization.
What type of projects do you work on?
Right now, we’re going through budget and plan process. Oil prices have crashed in the last two years – we went from $100/barrel to $45/barrel. Every oil company is having to do things differently. We have less money, so the question is, “How do we allocate our limited resources to the most value- added projects around the world? How do we stay afloat during this period of downturn?”
We’re optimizing our portfolio, trying to figure out the best time to start or end projects to preserve cash, so that’s one of the things I’m working on. We take input from businesses and talk about what projects they want to execute, we optimize it, present to senior management, look for the best scenario of strategy, then we communicate back to the business and allocate capital. In the past, when oil was at $100, we could do almost any project, as long as it was profitable. Now, we’re having to turn down even profitable projects because of cash constraints. So it’s a process, we’ve gotten very sophisticated. We call that our portfolio optimization project.
Here at Hess, we also have many, many Colorado School of Mines alumni.
How do you like Houston?
Houston is great, but it’s not Colorado. I miss Colorado. However, the food is great and the people are wonderful here in Houston.
How did your ETM training prepare you for your position at Hess?
Economics, strategy, finance, we did all of that in ETM, so that helped prepare me. But it’s not just what you learn in class, it’s the presentations and projects. Every single class I took at Mines, we had to write a report, we had to work in teams, we had to present, and that’s what you do in real life. Especially in planning, you’re either presenting to senior management or you’re presenting to businesses, there’s a lot of interaction. We did that in every subject in the ETM program, so it really helped prepare me for this role at Hess.
The ETM program also helped to instill work ethic. In this industry, everyone is focused on delivery. The planning and organization of any oil and gas company is not a 9 to 5 job. You work long hours. It can be taxing because there’s a lot to do. At Mines, I remember many nights where we studied late just to get ready for exams. That work ethic carried through; Mines prepared me for real life.
Do you have any advice for current and prospective ETM students?
Persevere. Go through the grind, the rigor, and you’ll come out stronger in the end. Life is not going to be any easier as you grow older. Go to Mines, do the hard work, it will pay off in the end.