Joe J. Colletti
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Business Development Manager—Acquisitions & Divestments, ExxonMobil Upstream Business Development Company, Houston
41 FortyUnder40 feat. Colletti, Joe

Though he currently oversees business development opportunities in the U.S. for one of the world’s largest public oil and gas companies, Joe J. Colletti appreciates an integrated holistic approach. His ability to simultaneously keep sight of the big picture and coordinate what he calls the “piece parts” of a deal evaluation is a cornerstone of his success and the product of a highly diversified career and solutions-oriented leadership style.

Regardless of whether he considers his early experiences as a nuclear systems engineer with Southern Company, a senior project engineer for Exxon Mobil Corporation’s offshore Angola operations or more recent roles, Colletti always thinks in terms of possibility. He is the last to insist that “it just won’t work” and the first to ask, “How could we make this work?” He appreciates approaching opportunities with a different way of thinking. 

There and back again: Colletti consistently defies binaries. The divide between large and small, public and private, commercial and technical—you name it, he has shown that everything that rises in the industry must converge. 

The clearest proof of this? His path from ExxonMobil to Zarvona Energy and back again. 

In 2013, Colletti transitioned from his 6-year engineering tenure with ExxonMobil to become the operations manager for the private E&P Zarvona. Though it was certainly a step change, moving from an enormous, established corporation to a small, growing company, Colletti says “he could not turn down such a unique opportunity [offer from Zarvona].” 

After three years at Zarvona, Colletti was promoted to vice president of business & project development. In this role, he oversaw “business development, land, geology, and projects” in the Permian, East Texas and Midcontinent. He was only 32 years old, but his youth didn’t prevent him from helping grow Zarvona into one of the most notable private operators in the U.S. with more than 10,000 barrels of oil equivalent in daily production.

“You have to think differently about approaching opportunities and focus on creative solutions to be successful.”

Pillars of a portfolio: Colletti joined Zarvona at the perfect time; like those he sees today in other growing private-equity backed management teams, Colletti was “out of engineering, out of business school, into that five to 10-year timeframe when you’ve learned just enough to build confidence and be open to taking risks, you just have tons of energy and momentum.” The small company environment taught him to be resourceful and “to understand the importance of every aspect of the industry.” 

But now, “at a place with world class resources, whether it’s expertise, scale, nimbleness, or value chain integration capability,” he applies his experience and skills, especially his resourcefulness, to broader and more global opportunities, of which ExxonMobil has no shortage. 

Colletti “really enjoys unconventionals in the U.S. and would argue that it’s the best opportunity space to be in,” but he says that “if you take a step back, you see that it is just one part of a diverse, high-quality portfolio and an element of strategy that maximizes shareholder value.” And so, in the long term, he would like to oversee ExxonMobil’s “acquisitions and divestments across all global business lines, whether it’s unconventional, deepwater, LNG, or anything else.” 

That possibility greatly motivates him, though he recognizes it is challenging. He notes, “As our Chairman says, ExxonMobil has the best portfolio since the Exxon and Mobil merger. That provides competitive advantage, but it is also a challenge because every opportunity has to compete against a very strong portfolio.”