After beginning his career as a petroleum engineer, John Argo quickly has climbed to general manager of resource engineering at Oklahoma City-based HighMount Exploration and Production LLC.
While the engineering background prepared him for finding the best way to recover oil and natural gas from rock deep underground, Argo’s current position requires a broader business understanding.
“Economics is part of every decision we make,” he said.
Argo has thought about going back to school before, but a traditional business program doesn’t fit with his family.
The father of three young children already spends well more than 40 hours a week in the office and isn’t excited about spending several additional hours each week in the classroom.
Then he learned about the new Executive Master of Business Administration in Energy program at the University of Oklahoma’s Price College of Business. A member of the program’s inaugural cohort, Argo is completing most of the 15-month program online, plus three intense weeks of class.
“This program has allowed me to maintain my current position and workload,” he said.
“It’s been tough, but I wanted it to be hard work.”
Two of the week-long programs are in Norman, and the other is at BP plc’s headquarters in London.
Argo said he appreciates the program provides both the flexibility of online classes with getting to know instructors and classmates through the three in-person weeks and ongoing networking opportunities.
“They did an amazing job getting the cohort together,” Argo said.
Argo said he is especially excited about the opportunity to travel to London this summer.
“This is a global industry,” he said. “I think that them having at least one week where we are in an international environment is going to be very advantageous.”
Program Director Dipankar Ghosh said the international study portion is a critical component of the program.
“Energy is truly a global commodity,” said Ghosh, executive director of the Price College’s Energy Institute. “It is important for our students to be exposed to that concept in a place outside the U.S. and hear from people who are globally more aware or more knowledgeable, having a focus that is global rather than just U.S. centric.”
Ghosh and others at the Price College developed the executive MBA in energy program after talking with executives at companies throughout the state and country about their concerns of how to prepare young leaders like Argo to take executive-level positions.
“For a long time, this industry did not hire,” Ghosh said of the oil bust from the late 1980s until the late 1990s and early 2000s.
“Many people in their late 30s and early 40s are going up the organizational ladder, but often they don’t have the business background or management background to run the organization. There is a gap of 10 to 12 years because of people who are retiring.”
The energy industry also has changed dramatically over the past decade, requiring a broader understanding of business and technology.
“We are essentially preparing qualified people to take on the reins of leadership at a company,” Ghosh said. “We want to create future leaders in the industry. They not only must have the necessary background in energy, but they also need to understand the business side of it and engage with industry leaders to assess and determine the issues facing the industry, not only locally but globally.”
Participants in the program must have at least eight years of management experience in the energy industry, but the school has worked to put together classes of students from different backgrounds.
“In the class, everyone has an energy background, but not necessary from the same perspective. You may have landmen and geologists and people who do private equity. When you pose a question to them, you hear multiple perspectives and learn from all of them.”
The program costs a flat rate of $77,400, including tuition, materials and food and housing during the three weeks of in-person housing.
This is a global industry. I think that them having at least one week where we are in an international environment is going to be very advantageous.”