Energy IT Veteran Gives Time, Donates Software to New Energy Course
This semester marks the second year that Data Management Solutions owner Frank Peña has given University of Houston C. T. Bauer College of Business students the chance to experience firsthand what it is like to manage the computer end of energy trading.
The course is Energy Trading Systems, a class that combines lecture and hands-on lab to teach principles of energy trading and risk management (ETRM) solutions. Peña donates both his time teaching the lab component and his company’s software, GasPro, a program used by major energy companies, including the largest natural gas producer in the world.
“The class has grown from the first section having 16 students to now over 70,” Peña said. “A lot of these kids are out interviewing now, and feedback from the industry tells us that ears are perking up.”
Peña says the experience that the students get in the course is highly marketable in an industry like natural gas where most knowledge is gained on the job.
“Typically, a first-year employee starts from scratch. They might know a lot about information systems in general, but it could take up to a year of training before they are prepared to have an intelligent conversation about what you actually do.”
The dilemma, as Peña puts it, is that a new employee is more of a burden than an asset for those first six months to a year.
“When a student understands the energy business, they are already talking my language. From day one, they are ready to go from the jump. What a dream, right? To have bright, young college graduates who already understand what you do?”
The idea for the class was conceived last year with Ed Bell, principal at Artios-Bell Consulting, a consultant to the energy and utilities industries (Read story).
Along with the software licenses, Peña brings 30 years of experience to the table in designing and managing ETRM systems. When he thinks about the impact a class like this has on student’s future, he says he doesn’t think twice about giving up his Saturdays to teach the class.
“The class is preparing students in ways that were unimaginable in my time,” he said. “For years, companies managed billions of dollars of energy transactions in Microsoft Excel.”
It’s what prompted Peña to create Data Management Solutions. The products are comparable to what you might find with QuickBooks – an off-the-shelf solution for ETRM that meets industry standards.
“The IT component of energy trading is evolving, and knowing how to create sophisticated systems from ground up that are both reliable and compliant with ever-changing regulations is a real career opportunity,” Peña said.
He continued, “All of my success can be attributed to walking in the shadow of others who have mentored and trained me in the trade. I enjoy being with the students, and I owe it to those who shared with me over the years.”
By Lori Reichardt