Odum Stresses the Need for Educating Energy Professionals During Special Distinguished Leaders Series
Students from the C. T. Bauer College of Business at the University of Houston interested in energy seized an exciting opportunity in February as Shell Oil President Marvin Odum (MBA ’95) visited the college and spoke on the future of the industry.
Odum, also upstream director for Royal Dutch Shell’s subsidiary companies in the Americas, was the featured guest in a special Distinguished Leaders Series, with Bauer Executive Professor of Finance Christopher Ross acting as moderator.
A reception before the event allowed students to meet Odum and ask questions about his career and Shell. Dean Latha Ramchand took note of his willingness to engage with students, characteristic of the high level of alumni involvement at Bauer College.
“He’s gone on to be one of our most successful alums,” Ramchand said. “He’s here to talk to you, but right before this meeting, he insisted on talking to a few students, a great conversation. A one-on-one with students, where else would you get such engagement?”
She added: “In many ways, I think the story of this decade is the story of energy, and we are just fortunate that we live in a city where that story is being told. At Bauer, we are doubly fortunate that folks like Marvin Odum — our alumni — are creating that story.”
The session’s topics included the world’s growing energy demand and environmental concerns. Odum started by answering a question about the industry’s future decades from now and described his job’s key component as thinking about the future and where the energy industry is going. This is one of the most exciting times to join the industry, he said, with the growing population as the biggest factor in the future of energy.
“I like to put [energy’s future] in terms of population. If you think about living today in a world of 7 billion people, it’s hard to imagine what 7 billion people really is,” Odum said. “Think of a city about the size of San Antonio, somewhere between a million and 1.3 million people, and add a city that size to the world every week for the next 30 years. That’s the kind of energy demand growth we’re going to see across the globe. It’s a tremendous challenge.”
Sustainability of natural gas was also a popular topic. Odum explained that the world’s supply of natural gas is sustainable for hundreds of years.
“There are at least two avenues of challenge on that sustainability front. One is how finite are the resources and when will we run out,” he said. “We’ve gone from thinking we were in a deficit in natural gas in North America to now, where we’ve identified the resources that we have a 100-year supply and not a lot of argument about that. That’s a dramatic change, with a bit of technology, in a decade.”
Another concern, Odum said, is environmental, with questions surrounding that issue taking up more than 20 percent of his time as president. He pointed to the growing population’s energy consumption as what will drive innovation.
“The real sustainability question is environmental effects. It’s part of that path that I think will ultimately drive to a broader mix of energies in the system,” Odum said. “It’s what will help, enable and cause a company like Shell to invest in other types of energy, but also new companies to be developed in that space.”
Houston’s diversity and Shell’s global reach was also a focus of the discussion. Diversity in the workplace is an important part of Shell’s company culture, Odum said.
“Being able to work in an environment like that fundamentally makes diversity important to us,” he added. “If we can’t access the total human capacity that exists in a place like Houston or in the U.S. or North America as you go on out — meaning every age, every background, men, women every color — we need access to that entire group of human resource and to try to get them interested in these types of careers.”
By Ann Lynd
Special Distinguished Leaders Series: “Energy: Its Future & the Impact on Human Capital”
During a Special Distinguished Leaders Series event on Feb. 19, the C. T. Bauer College of Business at the University of Houston hosted alumnus Marvin Odum (MBA ’95), president of Shell Oil Company and Upstream director for Royal Dutch Shell’s subsidiary companies in the Americas, as he presented “Energy: Its Future & the Impact on Human Capital.”