Donald G. Burdick is CEO of Olifant Energy II, an independent oil and gas production company located in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
In this week’s “My Career in Energy,” we learn how Donald got his start in the energy industry, what he does in his downtime, and he shares his thoughts on where he thinks the industry will be in a decade.
What was your first job?
If I think back as far as I can remember, it would be selling Christmas cards door-to-door as a 7-year-old — inspired by business ads in the back of comic books. But the first “corporate paycheck” came from working at Chick-Fil-A.
What was your first job in energy?
I was hired by Marathon Oil as an associate geologist through their college recruiting effort. Started work in the Fall of 1984, just as the door was closing for new hires — a foreshadowing of the numerous hire/fire cycles to come.
What would you be doing if you weren’t in this career?
I entered my freshman year of college planning on a career in marine biology. Almost skipped college altogether to pursue a career as a professional photographer. My great idea was to develop “Scene TV,” which seems to now be a thing on YouTube … I’m glad someone did it! And I still may end up as a jazz piano player in a smoky nightclub!
How do you relax?
Lately, it is by going outside and digging in the dirt. Gardening and landscaping is a great way to remove stress and be creative.
What was your favorite school subject and why?
Geology, hands down. Once I discovered you could learn all about the earth and get credits for camping in the mountains or diving in the ocean, I knew this was the degree for me.
What advice would you give someone entering the energy industry today?
Develop entrepreneurial thinking in everything you do. Be brutally honest with yourself on your strengths and weaknesses. Seek business relationships with people of good character and talent. Choose opportunities that help you grow, especially if they seem a little scary.
What do you think the energy industry will look like in 10 years?
Assuming the past is prologue, then wild volatility will still be a component of the energy industry in 10 years. Survivors will have learned the art of reinvention and flexibility, along with ways to find calm in the constant storms.
What book has helped you most at work?
True story. I had just been laid off at Samson Resources and was trying to find my next job. Through some good fortune, I found myself with two new employment options and was trying to determine the best path forward. While waiting on some copies at a hometown Kinko’s, I saw some business books in the paperback rack. One that caught my eye was “You Can Negotiate Anything” by Herb Cohen. I bought the book, read it for about five minutes and realized the title told me all I really needed to know. I not only used that philosophy to improve the circumstances of my next job, but have remembered that simple admonition for the rest of my career.
If you could travel back in time 10 years, would you do anything differently?
What great timing for this question! It was 10 years ago when I first sat down with a representative from a private equity firm and started asking the most basic questions. I did not fully understand the concept of A-B-C shares, or “waterfalls,” or how the PE business model really worked. After about a year and a half of study and contemplation, I took my first plunge into a PE-backed startup. While I still felt somewhat nervous about trying to build a new business from scratch, I have no regrets about pushing out of my comfort zone to try something new. And am still doing that today!
What excites you about your job?
Working to solve unexpected challenges with people I trust and respect!
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