Stephen Callender describes himself as a risk taker, but he got more adventure than he bargained for when he joined the energy industry. He transitioned to oil and gas investment banking in October 2014, when crude was priced about $90 per barrel. Just four months later, its value plunged to $50.
“It was a tough time, and I second-guessed my decision, but it taught me to have conviction about the choices I make,” Callender says. “I think the industry will continue to present new challenges and become even more competitive. Companies will need to be creative and aggressive to attract capital and operate successfully longer term.”
Early riser: Callender began his career in 2013 as an investment banking analyst at Performance Trust Capital Partners. After about a year of working for the Chicago-based company, his career took a twist when he accepted a new position as an investment banking analyst at FBR & Co.’s energy and natural resources group.
He joined Cogent Midstream as a corporate finance associate and became its vice president of finance in August 2018. Becoming an executive at age 28 was a huge accomplishment for the Texas A&M graduate.
“I’m leading a team that is making meaningful decisions to an organization,” he says. “It has been a very interesting transition from a credit fund to an operating midstream company, but experiences in my past have positioned me to view issues from a unique perspective.”
In the near term, Callender says he hopes to help Cogent continue to grow aggressively in the Southern Midland Basin while driving value for investors.
Outside the box: Callender is known within the office as an outside-the-box thinker who saves the company money through creative problem solving. It’s all impressive for someone who joined the midstream sector just a year ago.
Callender attributes his quick success to an entrepreneurial spirit and can-do attitude. “If you don’t do something, there’s no one else to do it for you,” he says. “I think the mentality of the finance department at Cogent is no task is off limits or out of our wheelhouse. If there’s an opportunity to make a process or project better, we do our best to take that opportunity.”
“If there’s something you see that you think you can make better or that’s going to add value, you can’t be afraid to say it.”
What’s in a name: For Callender, age is just a number and job titles are mere descriptors. He encourages other young professionals to go beyond their official responsibilities and put themselves in a position to showcase their talents and capabilities.
“Don’t let yourself be put in a box based on your title,” he says. “You can’t limit what you do at work by your age or your job title. If there’s something you see that you think you can make better or that’s going to add value, you can’t be afraid to say it.”
Adventure seeker: Whether it’s in his personal or public life, Callender has developed a reputation as a risk taker. During a trading internship at the start of his career, the floor put together a $1,000 pot and presented Callender with a challenge. If he could eat a 16-piece Popeyes chicken bucket with a pint of mashed potatoes within an hour, the money was his.
“Collected that check,” he recalls.
He’s also quick to embrace obstacles at Cogent. “I think that’s a big reason I ended up with the company,” he says. “I can’t see myself going to any big company and being there for 30 years. The stability would probably be nice, but I’m definitely more adventure-seeking, and I like to challenge myself.
“One of the things I have found interesting about a company this small is you don’t have the opportunity to hide behind your numbers. If you’re not doing your job, people are going to notice.”