Road to CEO

Decision making is a vital prelude to any business transaction or strategy execution.

My two years at Booth have provided me tremendous resources to learn not just from the best faculty but also from the best leaders in industry. And who better to learn from when it comes to decision making than from the people who deal with it every instance of every day –- the CEO alums of Booth.

As a part of the Road to CEO speaker series, I got the opportunity to interact with one of the most powerful people from the energy sector, John S. Watson, CEO of Chevron. Make or break decisions involving billions of dollars, managing relations with political heavyweights, and in spite of all that, staying level-headed in an industry that is literally ‘volatile’ at all times, were just a few of the topics covered.

A 1980 Booth grad, John Watson spent over 37 years in the oil industry, overtime rising in ranks within Chevron where he joined as an analyst. I thought it was impressive that looking back, he is able to identify the impact that Booth had on his career. According to him, the Booth classes that were the most influential in his career have been surprisingly not his finance or strategy courses, but rather those that dealt with the behavioral sciences. It was through these classes that he realized the importance of understanding human behavior to make effective decisions.

Being in the same room with a CEO gave me insights to decision-making processes that impact both the smallest business decisions and those that affect whole industries. One of the major lessons I learned from this interaction is that: one of the biggest hurdles of good decision making is time. Time spent on feedback can cause a delay that removes you form your initial state during the decision-making process. It is hence important to have more frequent lookbacks and introspections to breakdown the process and identify what worked and what didn’t. Lookbacks are key to developing better decisions in future.

Aside from the insights on decision making, before the session came to an end, the oil & gas heavyweight gave us a few pearls of wisdom to reflect upon as we leave the safe harbors of business school and step back into the real world:

  1. Always make yourself useful and mentorable wherever you choose to work. Look for people who are willing to teach you and help you advance in your career.
  2. Get good at asking questions early in your career and try and learn as quickly as possible.
  3. There will always be an unconscious bias in your favor wherever you go given the brand of the school to carry with you. Accept that with humility and use the opportunities you are provided with to the best of your abilities.
  4. Enjoy what you do. It should be more than just your means for a decent living. Your work is going to take up a great portion of your life and it’s important that you enjoy that for life to be meaningful.

I enjoyed this interaction as I have many of the opportunities Booth has afforded me. I look forward to the time when I will be in a position to give back to students through similar interactions.

Anu Johns is a second-year student at Booth and a first-time guest blogger for The Booth Experience.

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