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GEM’s Gems October 2015: Willem Vlotman

October 15, 2015
Willem Vlotman

Willem Vlotman

I am currently an Advisor for ExxonMobil’s new Business Development team in Europe. As part of my day-to-day activities I tend to parachute into projects as a subject matter expert, workhorse and focal point bringing together diverse experts to construct new business development opportunities for senior level consideration. Often we will be looking at the pursuit and capture of oil and gas resources through license tenders, negotiations and farm-ins and constructing preliminary plans to assess technical and commercial risks and uncertainties. It is an exciting role, which has let me travel to Austria, Romania, USA and Azerbaijan to engage with counterparties and stakeholders. My favorite part of the role is the opportunity it gives me to interact across what is a huge organization and learn from each and every individual. I often spend my days talking to geologists about the subsurface risks in a particular country then moving on to discuss country fiscal stability with tax lawyers and public affairs experts, then engaging development engineers to discuss optimal pipeline landing points and costs before finally sitting down at my desk and piecing it all together into a proposal.

I’m a bit of a global nomad having grown up across the world, happily following (being dragged) around by my parents to countries such as Egypt, Pakistan, Nepal, Australia and The Netherlands. After graduating high school from Cairo American College in Egypt I decided to pursue a bachelors and masters in Chemical Engineering from the University of Manchester in England. Towards the end of my time in Manchester I was accepted for an intern position within ExxonMobil’s Gas & Power Marketing group in London and happily accepted a graduate position there after finishing my Masters. I have spent 8 years working with ExxonMobil in London with a brief two-year hiatus during which I was seconded to Shell in Aberdeen, Scotland. My career has taken me down many diverse and challenging paths managing natural gas transportation portfolios in The Netherlands, working shifts controlling the flows of gas in Norway, advising joint venture board members on acquisitions and negotiations, leading a shift team producing gas in the UK’s Southern North Sea and most recently chasing new business opportunities around the world.

I graduated from university, the first time, almost a decade ago and the GEM program has really shown me just how much can be accomplished in education in eight years. The technology and advanced teaching tools in the GEM program are sublime and make being a student half the world away in a different time zone a breeze. Future students really shouldn’t be daunted by the distance. I was when I first started and what I discovered were lecturers who understood the challenges and worked around them and students who embraced time difference. Nobody ever acted as a barrier to accomplishing this degree. The degree is also flexible. I started with Cohort 11 and took a six-month break to pursue some personal goals before re-joining with Cohort 12.  However, I can’t completely sugarcoat my experience. The GEM program requires a lot of time and effort, especially when managing a full time job with travel. Ironically being in this degree made me more productive at work because I had to plan my time better, and jump on the opportunity to get work done as soon as possible to avoid building a mountain of work too big to climb.

I chose the GEM program for several reasons. In one all-encompassing sentence I can say it was because it provided the opportunity to learn material relevant to the energy industry in an environment filled with individuals who are equally or more knowledgeable and experienced as me in energy related fields. I looked at MBA programs; but I was sold on how specific the GEM program was. Several “Energy MBA” programs offered their standard MBA with two to three energy electives, but not GEM. I was drawn to the idea that I could talk about human resource management, or financing, or operations management all in the context of the energy industry with fellow energy industry professionals.

The GEM program has been fundamental in helping me revive my career when I didn’t even know it was needed. I originally joined the GEM program with the view to educate myself on the American and renewable energy businesses and expand my breadth of experience. However, as time progressed I discovered that the GEM program was able to help me fill in many of the commercial gaps in my education that appeared when I jumped from being an engineer to a commercial expert. It provided me with the confidence to discuss topics at work, that I only had vague notions about previously, and I used GEM to help me provide that extra boost on work projects. For example, when we started facing fiscal system issues on one of the projects I was working on, I was able to write a university paper on a similar topic, which not only helped me develop conversational language but resulted with me representing ExxonMobil in a country’s parliament when talking to the ministry of finance. Since then I credit the GEM experience with helping me seamlessly integrate into my new business development role and enabling me to be selected as one of two European representatives on ExxonMobil’s Global economic experts network.

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