By: Emily McDuff, 2Y Energy Co-Chair
Visiting Solugen in Houston
Texas – land of rodeo, Buc-ee’s, Tex Mex, giant trucks and even bigger highways, and… energy! For the first time since before the COVID-19 pandemic (the group’s last trek was to San Francisco in 2019), Booth Energy Group hit the road and flew south to visit the energy capital of the U.S., Houston, and attend ClimateCAP conference at UT-Austin McCombs, alongside 300 other MBA students from top programs across the country. Though we were in the heart of big oil and gas, the overarching theme repeated throughout the trek – at all five company visits and by the various ClimateCAP speakers – was transition toward decarbonized energy. It was thrilling to see on the ground how much buzz there is around the industry right now – particularly with the recent passage of the Inflation Reduction Act – and we all returned to Chicago energized to work in energy post-Booth.
1Y co-chair Kelsey Sawyer rocking energy zap nails for the trek!
At 5:50 a.m. on Thursday, February 23rd, 20 of us headed to O’Hare, kicking off two jam-packed days of zipping from one company visit to the next, networking with professionals and students passionate about energy, and getting the full Texan experience. Our first stop was to Chevron at their downtown Houston headquarters (interestingly, a former ENRON building), to hear about their trading business, Finance & Commercial MBA rotational program, and decarbonization strategy from their Director of New Energies. We then drove west to the energy corridor to visit Shell and speak about low-carbon solutions with their Head of Energy Transition and renewable energy development with the Development Director of Shell’s solar subsidiary, Savion. Day 1 ended with a happy hour at Kirby Ice House with Houston Booth alumni, followed by Tex Mex dinner at El Tiempo.
Pit-stop at Buc-ee’s!
We rounded out the company visits on Day 2, visiting ENGIE to chat about energy supply and trading over breakfast, and then McKinsey Energy Insights to hear about energy industry trends and data-driven consulting, and finally Solugen to learn about their low-cost, zero-carbon plastics manufacturing plants. The group then caravanned from Houston to Austin, breaking up the 3.5-hour road trip with a stop at Buc-ee’s for BBQ sandwiches, Texan knick-knacks, and sparkling-clean restrooms (truly a wonder to behold). The grand finale of our trek was attending ClimateCAP – the now-annual leading conference for MBA students on climate, hosted this year by UT-Austin McCombs. Former Unilever CEO Paul Polman, Recyclebank and Closed Loop Partners founder Ron Gonen, and NextEra Energy Resources President & CEO Rebecca Kujawa inspired us with their keynote addresses Friday night on industry trends and career advice. We enjoyed refreshments with fellow MBAs from across the country at a NextEra-sponsored happy hour afterward, and we capped off the conference Saturday with panels and breakout sessions on a variety of energy-related topics, ranging from hard-to-decarbonize sectors to energy finance. McCombs did an outstanding job putting on the conference from creating a welcoming environment for cross-school networking, incorporating sustainable choices from composting to reusable dishware to local food sourcing, and more.They did a great job bringing in top-notch speakers, and hosting everyone at the crossroads of the energy transition, Texas – a state with deep roots in fossil fuels yet also the most solar energy in the U.S. After a whirlwind enriching trek, our Booth Energy Group crew bid adieu to Texas and flew back to Chicago – just in time for Booth Winter Formal! Energy Texas Trek was one of the top highlights of my Booth experience, and a pleasure to organize with fellow Energy co-chairs Scott Glassman, Rak Lim, and Zoey Wang.
Attending ClimateCAP at UT-Austin McCombs
Special thank you to the Booth faculty and alumni who made our trek not only possible, but a smashing success!
· Career Services: Tracy Saras, Stephanie O’Connor (who joined us for the company visits)
· Rustandy Center: Wai-Sinn Chan (who joined us for ClimateCAP)
· Chevron: Michael McQuade – Booth ‘20
· Shell: Andy Chung – Booth ‘21 (who also organized the Houston Booth alumni happy hour)