As senior vice president–operations and corporate development for Noble, Karras is currently focused on deploying the remaining capital for the Noble-Apollo joint venture and exiting at an attractive metric for its investors. Looking ahead, he is prepared for “a consolidation of the minerals and royalties space into several sizable multibillion-dollar aggregators. My goal is to make sure that Noble Royalties is one of those behemoths,” he said.
Several moves ahead
“I don’t think many people enter their careers thinking that they will be senior executives in their early thirties. I know I sure didn’t. I grew up playing chess, and I think the mindset of always looking several moves ahead helped me get to where I am today.
“By taking the first six years of my career and working in a different petroleum engineering discipline in a new, often remote, location every year; I was still basically an entry-level engineer by the time most of my peers were already in more senior roles, but I had gained a perspective that very few others have.”
The first big win
“There's something about that first big win, the one that truly moves the needle for your company, that you always remember. Mine came about eight years into my career when I was working in the Business Development group for Pioneer Natural Resources Co.
“Devon Energy Corp. was divesting their Midland Basin assets composed of about 28,000 acres across the basin’s major producing counties and flowing over 1,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day. My boss and mentor had just left the company, which left me as the only engineer in the group and the technical lead on the project. The biggest deal of my career had just landed in my lap, and my safety net was gone. Employing the evaluation put together by my team, Pioneer closed on the assets for $435 million and immediately moved rigs onto the acreage.”
A lesson in leadership
“Early on in my career, I was given the responsibility of being the onsite engineer for a complex workover in the Book Cliffs of Utah. The location was remote enough that there was no way for me to call for advice, so I was on my own. I was 23 years old, and most of the crew I was ‘in charge of’ had been working the oil patch since before I was born and were not overly thrilled about it.
“This experience stands out as the first memorable time that I had to consider what kind of leader I wanted to be. I chose to take the time to come up with solutions together rather than dictating orders; I stayed active and engaged on the rig floor through most of both crew’s shifts and acting as additional physical labor when necessary. When the project ended and the well was back online, the crew and I had gained mutual respect, and I had grown substantially as an engineer and a manager from the experience. I will be forever grateful for being allowed to succeed or fail on my own on a meaningful project so early in my career.”
“As much as the science, technology, geopolitics and excitement of bringing in a well or closing a deal make me enjoy this industry, at the end of the day, it’s the people, from the rig hand who taught me how to cook and eat crawfish in Louisiana to the engineer in Alaska who introduced me to deep sea fishing and made me a part of his family on the holidays when I was far from home to an industry legend taking me under his wing. I have met and built relationships with some of the most interesting, intelligent, hard-working and generous people in my life. They are what keeps me passionate and motivated about this industry.”
“I grew up playing chess, and I think the mindset of always looking several moves ahead helped me get to where I am today.”