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One of Aaron Smith’s proudest professional achievements also brought on mixed feelings. As asset lead, he was heavily involved with the divestiture of Newfield Exploration’s onshore Gulf Coast assets. “I began my career working those assets with some of Newfield’s finest people,” he says. “While it was difficult parting with a business unit that was a core part of Newfield Exploration for so long, I was proud to play a role in successfully monetizing it for the better of the company’s future.”   

Why did you enter the oil and gas industry?
“A summer internship in Dallas with Headington Oil Co. was my first real exposure to the industry, and I quickly came to understand how essential it is to our everyday lives, as well as how surprisingly diverse it can be from an engineering perspective. It was during that internship that I decided to pursue a career in oil and gas.” 

Which career milestone did you reach sooner than expected?
“Prior to my fifth anniversary at Newfield Exploration, where I began my career, I was promoted to Asset Lead, supervising reservoir engineering efforts for our Onshore Gulf Coast Assets. At that time, it was rare to reach the Asset Lead level at such a young age, and while my aspirations were always to progress into a management position, I did not expect to start that path so soon.”  

What qualities do you think are necessary to be a good leader in the oil and gas industry?
“To be a good leader requires an effective combination of many skills that enable motivation and coordination of a team. The ability to recognize and optimally deploy the strengths of that team to efficiently accomplish company goals is essential, as is clear communication of a vision that inspires collaborative work towards common objectives. A healthy balance of empathy and accountability is required, along with an open-minded approach that welcomes different ways of thinking. And a willingness to lead by example, to put in the long hours in the trenches with your team and show them you won’t ask anything of them you are not ready to do yourself.”

What advice would you give other young professionals?
“This is a very small industry. We are all told that as we enter it and begin our careers, but it really shows after a few years when you take note of the frequency with which you randomly cross paths with an acquaintance. Be careful not to burn any bridges, and place emphasis on fostering relationships with your peers.” 

What keeps you motivated and passionate about working in the oil and gas industry?
“There is a lot to love about working this industry, and it’s not hard for me to maintain a high level of motivation. First, I set out to spend my career in an industry that positively impacts society.  Despite prudent efforts to explore alternative sources of energy, I believe we will still see a persistent demand for oil and gas, and optimal development of our resources is paramount. While we as an industry recognize this and have shown a willingness to collaborate for a greater collective understanding, our business is extremely competitive. I love that competitive aspect and enjoy stacking up the results of our team against our peers, especially when we compare favorably.” 

What do you think young industry members as a group have to offer that is unique to them?
“I believe this class of industry members that are currently approaching 40 is unique in that we present a blend of ‘old-school’ wisdom and work ethic with new schools of thought and implementation of recent technological innovation.”

Take a look at the rest of the Forty Under 40 2023 winners

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