Ethan Shoemaker

Investment Partner & Head of Infrastructure Credit, OIC (Orion Infrastructure Capital), Houston
Shoemaker, Ethan

Ethan Shoemaker’s coffee mug reads, “No one cares. Work harder.” It was a gift from his wife. “It was funny but it also has helped reframe things amidst all the ups and downs of starting our business over the last eight years,” he says. 

Why did you enter the oil and gas industry?
“Mix of luck, familiarity (my father has been in the natural gas industry for ~40 years) and interest (I wrote my thesis in college on Oil in Africa).  When I had to select my first internship rotation at Goldman Sachs, I knew nothing about equities or fixed income, so I chose the commodities division (J. Aron & Co.) and the rest is history.”

Of which of your professional achievements are you most proud?
“Leaving a ‘good’ job at Goldman to start OIC as the first employee. We had a very small team, limited track record, and no capital and have grown the platform to 33 investments, 40 people and ~$4 billion in [assets under management] in six years. It’s been a very challenging but very fun and rewarding ride so far.”

Starting with such a small company must’ve had some unique experiences. Can you share one of those with us?
“We spent a year looking for options to best open up a Houston office (our first outside of New York) and who would lead it. None of the choices felt ideal—hiring a new senior person in a small and growing firm felt like a big risk with potential to disrupt the culture, camaraderie and connectivity we were building. I volunteered to do it and one week later I was on a plane down to Houston to ‘figure it out’ and my family joined soon after my daughter was born. Five years later, we have ~15 people in the Houston office and it’s been a huge part of OIC’s success. Our family is also really happy in Texas.”

What has been your most challenging project to date?
“All deals have their challenges and I agree with two quotes about investing: ‘Most great investments begin in discomfort’ and ‘anyone who thinks this is easy is stupid.’ Deals are constantly undergoing challenges—people challenges, market challenges, financial challenges, competitive challenges, regulatory challenges, and we try to be supportive and flexible so the companies we partner with have the space and the resources to be successful.”

What qualities do you think are necessary to be a good leader in the oil and gas industry?
“1. Courage; 2. Humility; 3. Sense of Humor; 4. Grit; 5. Empathy.”

How have you exercised leadership to help shape your company?
“Working with my partners and teammates to build an investment culture that prioritizes self-improvement and growth, willingness to take risk and look wrong/stupid, delivering returns for our LPs.”

What or whom do you credit for helping you develop leadership abilities during your career?

“My colleagues and our team at OIC … and Ted Lasso.”

What advice would you give other young professionals?

“1) Some of the biggest professional opportunities came when least expected and where I tried to do exceptional work on something that seemed pointless at the time. It’s happened enough times during market downturns or other challenging periods to where I no longer worry as much about a long-term plan and just try to keep working hard and have fun. 2) Bet on yourself.  3) Find the right partner/wife/significant other. 4) Read a lot.”

What are your long- and short-term career goals?

Help build and lead the best energy and infrastructure investment firm in the world.

Three More Things
  1. I have a twin brother that was also until recently in the oil and gas industry in Houston (as a corporate lawyer).
  2. I’m on a mission to work through all of the best taco places in Houston.
  3. I have multiple hometowns: Houston, Connecticut, Kansas City and New York.