M. Aaron Chang
33

Vice President – Oil and Gas Marketing, Continental Resources Inc., Oklahoma City
8 FortyUnder40 Chang, Aaron

Aaron Chang planned to go to medical school but wanted a strong foundational undergraduate degree, so he pursued a B.S. in chemical engineering. However, an internship during his sophomore year as a field engineer based out of a sour gas plant in rural Oklahoma changed his medical school plans, turning him toward oil and gas. “The passion that people had for this industry and the sense of pride and patriotism really made me feel like I was a part of a community—something bigger than yourself.”

At Continental Resources Inc., Chang has found a common vision and set of goals that inspires him to grow and develop as a leader. Recently promoted to vice president – oil and gas marketing, he is “focused on successfully transitioning into my new role. There are a lot more stakeholders and functions that now directly work with me, and making sure that our team is aligned, engaged and feels ownership in a common vision and strategy is critical.”

Preparation meets opportunity

“[A career milestone] would definitely be my latest promotion as vice president over the marketing department at Continental Resources. I really had a lot of strong advocates within the company, and it was largely a function of timing.

“My mentor always told me, success happens when preparation meets opportunity. And when oil prices began falling in March of this year, our executive team tasked me with a couple of high profile opportunities. I think I was able to gain a lot of trust and confidence from our leadership group based on my ability to lead and develop across multiple disciplines and drive results.”

Leadership development

“My mentor is Ramiro Rangel. He and I have had countless one-on-one discussions; some focused on development, and others dedicated to improvement opportunities.

“At the highest level, I think his guidance and advice all centered around leadership development. He changed my perspective on leadership and really put into words what I had observed my whole life. We’ve all worked for people that we knew were strong leaders and others that weren’t so great. But he talked about leadership like it was a science—something that can come natural to many but can be learned by all. Two words he always preached to me were ‘intentionality’ and ‘awareness.’”

A challenging project

“A recent one that comes to mind was helping to develop a tool in the March/April timeframe to help optimize cash flow vs. NAV at the well level.

“This was a very collaborative effort across multiple disciplines that we were asked to develop at the same time that COVID-19 became a major concern in the U.S., really making that multidiscipline, team collaboration challenging with some people working from remote locations and social distancing with the ones that were in person. This was a majorly impactful project to preserving and maximizing value and cash to Continental and was done in relatively short-time in what was a very challenging environment.”

Staying motivated

“The people in this industry are second to none. Anyone in the oil and gas business understands how small it feels—seems like you are always just a few degrees separated from people you may have never met. The strong sense of pride, patriotism and community in this industry really binds us all together. People really care for one another—and this industry always seems to show up in times of crisis. We are American oil and gas, and that common thread unites us.”

Advice to young professionals

“I would challenge everyone to identify where in their lives they are a leader. We all have opportunities to influence others. Think about leadership like you do anything else you want to get better at, and begin to study and practice. The world is desperate for good leaders; why can’t it be you?”

“Those that are willing to adapt and challenge conventional thinking will be the ones that continue to thrive in energy.”