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Austin Thayer

Austin ThayerK-State graduation year: May 2004 
Degree: Bachelors in Business Administration, Finance and minor in Economics
Current employer: ConocoPhillips Company  
Position: Manager of Resource Development and Strategic Planning – San Juan Business Unit



Describe the process of choosing your major.

I knew I had an affinity for numbers and the inner workings of financial markets.  I realized early on that finance and economics were what moved mountains.

What activities/organizations were you involved in while in college?
  • Student Finance Association
  • Phi Gamma Delta Fraternity
  • KSU Cycling Club
  • Alpha Kappa Psi Business Fraternity
Did you complete an internship or have related work experience prior to receiving your job?

I had one internship with an intellectual property firm while at school.  Looking back, I’m glad I didn’t overwork during my summers, but it probably would have helped get my foot in the door.

Describe the process of finding your first job.

My company (ConocoPhillips) recognizes K-State for its quality Finance and Accounting graduates.  Thus, ConocoPhillips has a pretty big presence at K-State, so the connection was easy.  I met some of the representatives at a career fair and interviews came shortly thereafter.

Briefly describe a typical day at your job.

My current role is the Strategy and Portfolio Manager for ConocoPhillips’s San Juan Business Unit in New Mexico.  I manage a team of engineers and economists that acquires and divests of oil and gas leases and producing wells, plans the drilling program, and drives the strategic direction of the business.  The team interacts with the land department who work on legal side of the leases, Operations the teams who help operate wells, Subsurface teams who analyze and characterize rock potential, and management who want to know all the details.  Working with so many cross-functional teams is very engaging and exciting.  

What do you enjoy most about your job?

The most rewarding aspect of my job is the ability to work with a great team of highly educated professionals, solving what are oftentimes huge problems.  I really enjoy working with people to improve the business.

What are the most challenging aspects of your job?

The ability to influence others is crucial.  Working with smart people means working with many strong opinions. Finding a common language that ultimately influences your counterpart is the key to success.

What advice would you give someone interested in your field?

Be passionate about your chosen field of study.  Whether it is Finance or something else, to really be successful you have to love what you are doing.  If you choose a path that doesn’t truly interest you, your motivation will never be high enough to carry you to success.

What were the stepping stones that led to your current career?

My dad and I would always talk about securities and how banking worked.  It’s a complex subject, but once you start peeling back the onion layers, you realize that financial markets are what make the world turn.  The most critical stepping stone, however, is my education at K-State.  An education is absolutely invaluable.

Has your career path taken any unconventional turns that you never would have expected?

I never thought I would work in places like Texas, Oklahoma, Alaska, and New Mexico.  Now that I have, I couldn’t see my life any other way.  Upon graduating, you don’t know where the world will take you, so you must be flexible.

How have any changes in your life situation affected your career path?

Multiple moves with the company have made me a better person.  Growing up, I never necessarily wanted to move around.  Having done so with the company has been a blast.  Keep an open mind about living in different locations.  After all, you don’t know what fun it could be or what doors it will open until you live it.

Was there a specific class you remember that sparked your interest in your career direction?

Several classes had a large impact on me.  Among them include: Security & Portfolio Analysis, and Professional Financial Planning.  However, it’s not the subject that necessarily resonated with me, but rather the professors.  Professors that stood out to me were Eric Higgins, Scott Hendrix, and John Graham.  Conversations with those three gave me with a lot of passion for the industry.