Michael Wahl
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Senior Vice President and COO, Olympus Energy, Canonsburg, Pa.
37 FortyUnder40 Wahl, Mike

Michael Wahl came into the industry at the start of the shale gas revolution, alongside initial Marcellus development.

“This was a game changer for the country in general but also for the Pittsburgh region particularly, bringing a new growth industry with significant job creation,” he said. “Seeing the huge potential that was building in the industry at the time was a big draw for me. I wanted to be part of the dynamic innovation that was occurring.”

Wahl joined the strategic planning group at Anadarko shortly after finishing his MBA at Carnegie Mellon’s Tepper School of Business. He said Anadarko educated him about the business of this industry, particularly beyond the Appalachian Basin.

“Being in that role opened by eyes to see the broader global impact of what we do and exposed me to a culture of new and exciting ideas on how we can always strive to do it better,” he said.

Wahl credits that experience as preparing him for his next step in his career and leading to his role as senior vice president and COO at Olympus Energy. Joining Olympus was the first time in his career he had the challenge of stepping into a brand new development opportunity. Wahl said he was able “to help build an asset base, a company and a culture that was truly different.”

Motivation

“What really motivates me is stepping back and thinking about the bigger picture of energy supply in this country—how far we’ve come and the opportunity that’s still in front of us. I can think of very few recent examples of disruption that have been more meaningful than the onset of shale development. It’s exciting to work every day on projects that are fundamentally changing the conversation of energy supply in the United States.”

Professional achievement

“I’m very proud to be part of the team currently at Olympus Energy. We are a small but tight-knit team that truly focuses on doing things the right way—for our investors, for our landowners, for the region and for each other. We set out from the start to create a different kind of E&P company, and one of the most exciting things I’ve had the fortune to be part of in my career is seeing that vision come to life in the strength of the team and the culture that has grown at Olympus.”

Leadership skills

“I think open-mindedness is one of the most critical aspects for leadership. Our industry is in a constant dynamic state, and we need to make sure we’re listening to a diverse and broad set of voices so that we can adapt and evolve. We can’t afford to shut out voices that might offer a different opinion. The best leaders I’ve seen in this industry have the ability to not only hear those voices but to actually listen to them.”

Memorable experience

“During my time at EQT, I had the opportunity along with some of my colleagues to help out on a project with Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Science Center. The aim was to design a program that provided education into what shale gas development is (and just as importantly, what it isn’t). I think these types of outreach initiatives are extremely important to engage the public and truly have a dialogue to let people know what development looks like and what it ultimately means to the region. It won’t always be in an official setting with a big audience. The one-on-one conversations are just as important and absolutely need to happen. Building that trust is what allows for solid partnerships between our industry and our most important stakeholders, the public.”

Advice to young professionals

“Don’t be afraid to speak up, ask questions and challenge convention. From my experience, the best ideas are not usually strokes of individual genius, but collective brainstorming toward a better solution. Be a part of the discussion, and you’ll be a part of the opportunity that comes out of it.”

Industry outlook

“We need to think more broadly about our impact and how we interact with our stakeholders. I look at the recent ESG movement, and I know we at Olympus believe that efforts on that front are critically important. The responsibility for maintaining our social license to operate is on us, and the only way to keep it is to make sure we do the work of educating, communicating and acting as a good steward.”

“We are part of an industry that is often misunderstood, and it will be up to this young group of leaders to innovate, educate and communicate as we move into an even more dynamic future.”