Academic journal article Research-Technology Management

Taking the Broad View: John McDonald: Before Assuming the Job of Corporate Vice President and Chief Technology Officer at Chevron in 2008, John McDonald Followed a Career Path That Began in Science and Technology and Took Him around the World

Academic journal article Research-Technology Management

Taking the Broad View: John McDonald: Before Assuming the Job of Corporate Vice President and Chief Technology Officer at Chevron in 2008, John McDonald Followed a Career Path That Began in Science and Technology and Took Him around the World

Article excerpt

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

I began to work in the oil industry, in geophysics, back in 1975. The thing that appealed to me most about the energy business was that it was a global business and I would get to see the world.

My first assignment, right out of school, was on a seismic research vessel off the east coast of Newfoundland in the Labrador Sea. As we rode out gale-force winds and 25-foot seas, I thought, "Wow, this is pretty adventuresome. I'm doing exactly what I want to do. Especially if we make it back to shore." In the course of my career, I've now worked all through Africa, in the jungles of South America, in New Orleans, and in Rio de Janeiro--places that were on the frontier of exploration for new energy sources at the time. And I also lived in London, where I worked in the North Sea, and in Scotland.

The journey of a career is more than geographical, though, and I'm still on that journey. I started with a science background, and then I learned how you run businesses. I learned how you make a profit and how technology can benefit the business and create competitive advantage.

Technology has always been important in my career because the world is always changing. Water depths for deepwater wells were 300 or 400 feet when I started my career, and now they're drilling in water 10,000 feet deep. We've been able to take recovery rates in some fields from 10 percent to 70 percent. Our research has helped take resources that were unconventional 30 years ago and turn those into conventional resources.

Part of the role I have as CTO is making sure that we're agile, looking ahead for disruptive technologies while delivering results today and that we've got technology solutions ready in time to intersect with a business need. A lot of what we build today will be around decades from now. People ask me, "What will the energy world of tomorrow look like?" I say, "It's what we're building today and what we're researching today, but more of it. …

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