With a number of mentors from both Earthstone Energy and Southwestern Energy, Geoff Vernon has built a leadership style reflective of those who influenced and guided him.
As a leader within his company, he strives to make the workplace productive and enjoyable for everyone, as well as get to know his team on a personal level. According to Vernon, this strategy has helped with many of the company’s transactions.
Why did you enter the oil and gas industry?
“I was born in Portland, Ore., and spent most of my years prior to high school in Kansas City, so I had very little knowledge of the industry growing up. I went to high school in Clovis, N.M., and our rival was Hobbs, so traveling there for sports was my first exposure to the oil field. I studied chemical engineering in college and thought I would probably end up working at a chemical plant or a refinery, but I also interviewed for some upstream roles. I graduated into a hot job market and was lucky enough to receive offers for both upstream and downstream roles, and I decided that I would go upstream because it paid more and the job location was better.”
Describe a memorable professional experience.
“When Steve Mueller was CEO of Southwestern, he established a leadership training series called the ‘CEO 13.’ He hosted a small group of us monthly for lunch over the course of a year, where we covered everything from option value to birthday cake. The lessons and conversations were extremely valuable to me as a young engineer with leadership aspirations; I still have my notes from those classes to this day.”
What qualities do you think are necessary for a good leader in the oil and gas industry?
“Flexibility is the vital leadership quality in oil and gas. Given how fast key inputs can change (commodity prices, costs, drilling results, A&D landscape, etc.), it is important to stay nimble and be willing to pivot strategies. This requires a broad knowledge of the business so that you communicate key priorities to your teams and ensure that they understand how the work they are doing impacts the bottom line of the company.”
Who are your mentors?
“In the E&P industry, I’ve learned the most from Robert Anderson and Mark Lumpkin at Earthstone and Jeff Sherrick, Joanne Hresko and David Dell’Osso from my Southwestern days. The most valuable advice has been to get out of my comfort zone and take calculated risks. As an engineer by background, I can have the tendency to overanalyze and resist change, but sometimes changes lead to great outcomes.”
What transformations do you think the industry must undertake for it to thrive in the future?
“Our generation has grown up in the internet and iPhone era. I think we have a greater willingness to utilize new tools and technology and adapt quickly to change. I think these skills and traits will be crucial going forward. We must embrace technology and modern solutions that enable us to be as efficient as possible and to do more with less. We must put our best foot forward on ESG while at the same time realizing that we can’t be all things to all people. There is no shame in producing oil and gas, and we should be proud of the energy we provide.”
What advice would you give other young professionals in the industry?
“Make sure that you never stop learning new things. Ask tons of questions and broaden your knowledge base by being curious about other disciplines. One way to do that is by networking, which I think is very important. You can learn so much from people at other companies and in other roles.”
- This year will be the eighth annual “CFBWKND” trip that I take with friends from grad school. Most of us live far apart but make a point to come together every year for a weekend of golf and destination college football games.
- My mom’s side of the family are dairy farmers. I grew up visiting and working on the dairy farm during the summers.
- I played guitar in a band in undergrad. Only claim to fame is that we once had Josh Abbott open up for us.