What does a car man and an oil and gas man have in common? For W. Christopher Caudill, it’s innovation and a fail-forward attitude. Caudill’s early career exemplifies Henry Ford’s infamous quote, “failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.” Leveraging his professional experience, supportive network and willingness to make bold decisions, Caudill has never stopped learning or dreaming throughout his 15-year career in the oil and gas industry.
Why did you enter the oil and gas industry?
“I worked for a global lobbying and consulting firm, Worldwide Strategic Partners, whose clients included the government of Pakistan, Socar, Itera and others. There was a strong global energy aspect to the firm’s practice. While a project manager and associate in that firm, I came across a small oil field in West Texas that was available for purchase. I was 24 and had no idea what I was doing, but it sparked a passion for the industry. Shortly after, I moved to Houston and applied to every land shop in town. I was hired with Hollis Energy and from there went to Sabco Oil as an in-house landman.”
Describe a memorable professional experience.
“My career path is quite different from the norm and, as a result, I experienced some amazing wins and also tremendous setbacks. As an LNG executive, I had regular meetings with Jim Bob Moffett (CEO of Freeport McMoran), Joe Reid (my mentor), heads of state and other CEOs. There is no better way to learn the art of negotiation than from those guys. I’m fortunate to have had some truly amazing mentors. Hard lessons, yes, but the best ones are. It is those early days that have shaped my outlook and led me to Infinity. Success is rarely, if ever, a straight line.”
What has been your most challenging project to date, and how did you accomplish your goal?
“Professionally, Infinity is proving to be the most difficult but also the most rewarding. We started the company in 2019. Then COVID happened. Like most of the world, all of New Mexico was closed within weeks of opening our first facility. I remember having to call shareholders personally to preemptively apologize for what I thought (at that uncertain moment in time) would be a total loss. In time, with grit and determination, we steadily grew. We now have several major contracts, infrastructure on the ground and patented technology. Sometimes it is the adrenaline of being so close to the edge that propels you forward. Resilience is my greatest asset.”
What advice would you give other young professionals in the industry?
“Don’t be afraid to fail. Spend time on the things you’re passionate about. Your career doesn’t have to be a straight line, be OK with that. Never stop learning and understand the business of taking risks. Work to learn and understand the history of the energy business, especially the past two decades. Find your people. Build a team that will challenge you and invest your time in mentoring others. Success is a team sport.”
What keeps you passionate about working in the oil and gas industry?
“There’s just something romantic about the oil and gas business. Even though it’s under such scrutiny globally, our industry has created the modern world and is a leader in innovation. We’re in the midst of a massive energy transition; Infinity is a key player in that evolution. This business, this team, Infinity’s technology has renewed my love for the business. The benefits of our work are global and far reaching. That is what I’m passionate about, bringing real transformative change to this industry and beyond.”
What transformations do you think the industry must undertake for it to thrive in the future?
“After a decade of growth-focused organizations, we have returned to our roots based on cash flow. Groupthink was industrywide during the shale boom. Infinity, however, was built on recognizing that fallacy. Independent thinking and new ideas are not only welcomed, they’re celebrated in our office. Necessity breeds innovation and efficiency. I hope the industry can support the adoption of the change that is coming, dare I say already here, faster.”
- I was a college and professional baseball player.
- Having worked for two presidential administrations and an international lobbying firm, I’ve probably met more world leaders than most.
- I live for the outdoors. Whether it’s hunting or fishing, outside is my happy place.