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GEM’s Gems August 2013 – Owen McMillan

August 15, 2013
Owen

Owen McMillan

August GEM’s Gem, Owen McMillan, says that GEM provided him with the tools he needed to take his professional experience to the next level.

“At the completion of the GEM program, I was working for a mid-sized direct energy fund,” he said. “Shortly thereafter, I was recruited to work at Shell. I like to think that this ‘big picture’ background and way of thinking that the GEM program instilled in me was one reason I was recruited by Shell.”

McMillan, 29, a Petroleum Landman at Shell Exploration & Production Company, credits the GEM program for helping him see the larger context of his role within the upstream business and energy value chain landscapes.

“Sometimes we become so immersed in our roles that we forget to ask about the bigger picture,” McMillan said. “GEM brought forward some of the more topical issues: energy and public policy, the economics of different energy sources, and the role energy will play in the 21st century. When I am performing my day-to-day job functions, I am able to perform an in-depth level of analysis learned from the GEM curriculum.”

He added, “The sovereignty of many countries rests in the hands of the energy industry, and the winners of this new energy renaissance will have a tremendous amount of clout on the world stage. The GEM program has provided me with the tools to be involved in the shaping of this discourse.”

Briefly describe your current role and responsibilities.

I currently support an asset team, where we recently made a multi-billion dollar acquisition into West Texas. Over the last few months, one of my responsibilities has been the integration of the land component of this acquisition into Shell’s day-to-day business. This involves serving as one of the land representatives for a nine rig-drilling program in the Permian that will be the backbone of Shell’s U.S. onshore portfolio. I initiate acreage deals, forecast the land budget, and oversee contractors in the field.

How did the GEM program benefit you and your company? Were you promoted since you began the program?

The GEM program helped me to see the “big picture” in my role in the upstream business and in the energy value chain. Sometimes we become so immersed in our roles that we forget to ask about the bigger picture. GEM brought forward some of the more topical issues: energy and public policy, the economics of different energy sources, and the role energy will play in the 21st century. When I am performing my day-to-day job functions, I am able to perform an in-depth level of analysis learned from the GEM curriculum. The program introduced me to concepts like the life-cycle analysis of a project, which is something I can refer back to when Shell is drilling oil wells in West Texas. I am constantly asking myself, what impact will this well being drilled have on the organization and the external environment – 5, 10, 20 years from now?  GEM taught me to look critically at the energy projects I have been personally involved with and the various stakeholders they involve. GEM provided me with the tools to take my professional experience to the next level. At the completion of the GEM program, I was working for a mid-sized direct energy fund. Shortly thereafter, I was recruited to work at Shell. I like to think that this “big picture” background and way of thinking that the GEM program instilled in me was one reason I was recruited by Shell.

What were some of your favorite things to do during cohort weekends?

While I enjoyed discussing the myriad of energy issues with all of my fellow students, I particularly enjoyed the conversation and storytelling with the other upstream folks in my class. Myself, the other land guys, and geologists would always talk about emerging resource plays, business models, and the performance of the domestic E&P business.  We would apply what we learned in our classes and our experiences with each other to our everyday jobs. As it turns out, I still keep in touch with many of these people, and that has been one of the most valuable takeaways from GEM.

What were some of the things that you never forget to bring to cohort weekends?

Two things:

1) An open mind

2) Caffeine – this was essential for the 10-hour class days.

Please share a story about GEM that will entertain other students.

I was in the field in Stanley, North Dakota. There was a blizzard, it was negative 20 degrees outside, and my motel room was having connectivity problems with the Internet. I remember having to give a group presentation over WebEx. I had been at a farmer’s table signing a lease during the day, and at night, despite being 600 miles from Denver in the middle of a winter storm, I was able to spend my down time receiving a world class degree.

Why did you choose the GEM program at CU Denver?

I was at a point in my career where I yearned for an advanced degree to round out my professional experience.  I considered different MBA programs, but ultimately I chose GEM for two reasons: (1) I wanted a graduate degree tailor-made for energy professionals and (2) Whatever degree I chose needed to be flexible with my work schedule. For the first nine months of the program, I was working as a field landman in western North Dakota. I couldn’t exactly be in class every day. The hybrid learning approach allowed me to obtain this degree without having to be in the traditional classroom setting every day. As we all know, the energy business is not unique to Denver, so how can you have a graduate program that only caters to those living in Denver? The GEM program brought in people from all over the U.S. and the world for that matter, and this unique approach to learning allowed for a broad range of opinions and personalities in the classroom.  Even now, living in Houston, the energy capital of the world, there are very few programs like GEM. It is very hard to find a program that is energy specific and comprehensive taught at such a high level.

Has GEM changed your perspective? If so, how so?

The energy business is a dynamic component to the world economy. In the 18 months I was in the program, the supply of domestic gas increased to a point where the U.S. will now be a net exporter of natural gas. An exporter! This is astounding considering just a few years ago we were talking about building LNG import terminals. Now these same terminals will be used to export LNG. The U.S. is ground zero for an energy renaissance, which has primarily been borne of shales and tight rocks. U.S. oil production had been on the decline since the early1970s and the business was all but extinct in the late 80s and 90s, save for the “majors” that had the pockets to go offshore and international. Then all of a sudden, the “shale gale” changes the world energy discourse. We now live in a time when natural resources will become more valuable than ever before. Control over the world’s resources will be one of the huge themes of the 21st century. There are a myriad of issues that have to be reconciled with – how is energy production and consumption done safely and environmentally friendly? What role will renewables play? Will OPEC’s role diminish in the world petro-economy? The sovereignty of many countries rest in the hands of the energy industry, and the winners of this new energy renaissance will have a tremendous amount of clout on the world stage. The GEM program has provided me with the tools to be involved in the shaping of this discourse.

Is there anything new in your life?

My beautiful wife Christin and I were happily married in Kauai in November of 2012.  Shortly thereafter, I accepted a new position with Shell, and we moved from Denver to Houston … I guess you could say that when it rains, it pours.

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