The new role models

Oil and Gas Investor’s fifth annual showcase of accomplished energy professionals under the age of 40 has undergone change in 2017. It now highlights 40 individuals—its largest continuous grouping ever. These up-and-comers were chosen out of about 200 nominees for their professional excellence, entrepreneurial drive, creative problem-solving and other criteria. This special report introduces you to young people who embrace change, with opportunity and passion as their mottos.

Several of this year’s honorees recounted what it took to build their own companies. For some, the effort involved pushing beyond sluggish finances, stalled deals and high unemployment during the most brutal part of the downturn to create their own companies. For them, it meant walking away from the security of jobs when many were out of work, and heading into the unknown.

For others, it meant carrying the example of well-respected former bosses into this unknown and hoping to do well by them. All have reached milestones and achieved remarkable dreams—many, earlier in their lives than they expected; it’s something they’re still pinching themselves over.

Several honorees have filled niche needs within the industry in financial advisory, data, and property auctions. The passion in their voices comes through as they speak proudly of what they have accomplished and the exciting areas where they are leading their teams next.

At press time, an auction provider has cornered the market for government lease sales—sales are completed in the virtual realm, relieving government agent travel and due diligence. Also at press time, an accounting executive recounted his energetic effort to onboard oil and natural gas funds with new federal regulations, solidifying the firm’s unrivaled ability to provide an extensive suite of services. Another was one of the few hires at a large investment bank during the worst part of the downturn, and still another brought business decisions to life from a sketch on a napkin.

These stories and many more can be found in the pages of this special report. The honorees have let readers peek at a small slice of their personal and professional lives. Each story is different: they have shared with us their families and loved ones; humorous stories from childhood (and beyond) involving lessons learned; their travels and adventures, and details of their academic, charitable and military experiences.

This year, Grant Thornton, Preng & Associates and Nasdaq are our sponsors. Representatives from each organization tell why they value such an endeavor as Forty Under 40.

“We have a great industry,” said Kevin Schroeder, national managing partner for the energy industry at Grant Thornton. Its “tremendous leaders” break new ground and move forward “not just in their businesses, but also in communities, schools and other social areas.”

Schroeder said that at work, these honorees “have the opportunity to create positive disruption.”

“I expect they will promote positive cultural experiences, diversity and different ways to drive success. I believe they bring new skills they have developed in areas of automation, standardization, data, analytics and robotics,” that will benefit the entire oil and gas industry.

All this is happening in what Schroeder says is “the new normal.” But he added that pressures now include the push for environmentally friendly technology and “volatility, price uncertainty, geopolitical risks, social challenges … regulatory, capital and liquidity challenges.”

All three sponsors agreed that this year’s honorees are up to these challenges—and more—given their ability to be disruptive in the market.

Schroeder urged the next generation of energy leaders in oil and gas to study other sectors that are doing well, looking particularly at their ability to be disruptive in technology. He encouraged them to “further embrace technology … not just in exploring for oil and gas and drilling and completing wells, but in the way we develop business strategies, make decisions and obtain and use information.”

Nelson Griggs, president of the Nasdaq Stock Exchange, agreed with these thoughts. “The next generation of leaders starts with disruption in existing fields and discovering solutions to significant problems facing a market,” he said. “They are focused, but approach the challenges with a new perspective and they have the ability to drive change and collaboration across the organization.”

David Preng, president and CEO of Preng & Associates, said the next generation of leaders needs to examine its talents to see what it can offer to guide the oil and gas industry through various changes, “just like we’ve come through technological changes,” including horizontal drilling and fracking. Their guidance will also ensure that U.S. energy is “not only productive, but competitive and leading-edge.”

Making the future happen

Exemplary leadership will be necessary as the younger generation leads U.S. energy production to the next horizon, and this year’s Forty Under 40 honorees represent a small sliver of today’s industry leaders. In addition, they are the vanguard for the generation of would-be industry leaders who will come after them: in other words, even as they emulate older industry participants, they are also the ones who will be looked up to by an even younger cohort.

They will be looked up to by the emerging generation that is coming behind them, Preng said. “As people are looking toward the future, they are the people you have to look to, to help make the future happen.”

Schroeder urged young professionals to “embrace mentoring from those who have led the industry during recent decades,” and recognize the importance of building relationships with them, and with younger people coming up behind them.

“Collaboration and partnering are very important in this industry. You will be amazed at some of the lifetime relationships and friends you make in this industry,” he said.

Griggs echoed the point on both quality of work and the importance of relationships, pointing out, “Your reputation matters and your work is remembered. Developing and maintaining great business relationships are essential to career development and establishing a professional network.”