Part Two: From Missionary to Executive Director

On Episode 2 of the Oil and Gas Elevate Podcast, hosts Sean McCoy and Eric Johnson talked to Halliburton Labs Executive Director Scott Gale about the company and its mission. In this article, OGGN contributing writer Stephen Forrester got a chance to talk in more depth with Scott about his incredible life and career journey. In Part II, Scott details how he charted a path from Dow Chemical to Halliburton, nurtured his passion for entrepreneurship, and transitioned from managing Halliburton’s hydraulic fracturing strategy to overseeing the company’s clean energy technology accelerator, Halliburton Labs.

This is a continuation of a former post. For Part 1 of this blog post, click here.After the missionary work, Scott returned to Brigham Young, finished his chemical engineering degree, and went to work an internship at a co-op in West Virginia. By that time, he’d already met his wife, whom he’d married at the end of his sophomore year. The internship, which was for Dow Chemical at an aging Union Carbide plant, brought him to a revelation.

“As a chemical engineer,” he jokes, “you’re really just a glorified plumber. It’s complicated plumbing, but you never really see what you’re making or doing. It was kind of boring.”

A connection to a recruiter at Dow led to an opportunity to do what was basically a bootcamp that rotated promising young graduates through a series of functional disciplines—business, marketing, sales, and so on. You were committed to going anywhere in the Lower 48 and for them to place you in any business unit they wanted. Scott’s placement? You guessed it: in Dow’s newly formed oil and gas business unit, with Schlumberger as his first major account.

Moving to Houston, Texas thereafter, Scott admits that working in oil and gas was never the goal.

“I really just kind of lucked into oil and gas,” he says, “and after starting in midsize manufacturing, being around pulp and paper and all these things, I found my way to Texas, and really fell in love with it.”

Despite Dow’s desire to continue shuffling him into other business units, Scott was quite content with the oil and gas business, so he quit and went to work for a Belgian chemical company that was Halliburton’s largest frac chemical supplier for a couple years before hiring into Halliburton through Multi-Chem in 2014. The job saw Scott managing Halliburton’s global frac strategy. “I joked,” he says with a chuckle, “that I was managing everything that we don’t drive away with after a job: downhole diagnostics, fluid systems, proppant systems, all these things.”

He ended up pursuing an Executive MBA from Rice University as well, graduating in 2019 to add another accomplishment to a rapidly growing list. Oh, and did I mention that the smooth baritone of Scott’s perfect-for-radio voice also led him to found an independent voiceover company?

Now, Scott is the Executive Director of Halliburton Labs, and given his entrepreneurial bent—or as he says, “parachuting into new territory with lots of people interface and building bridges and finding ways to achieve the right outcome”—Scott feels that it’s a perfect fit. He enjoys building something from the ground up, experience bolstered by his studies at Rice as well as a venture mentorship program he supports at MD Anderson. He likes to know why things came about and why decisions are made the way they are.

And so, as the strategy was being developed to launch Halliburton Labs, Scott’s visibility in the local entrepreneurial community caught the eye of the Halliburton diligence team and CEO Jeff Miller, who asked Scott to lead the new venture. The challenge, and the joy, for Scott is the chance to make the magic happen on his own, executing his vision to build something tangible.

“Halliburton Labs didn’t exist,” he notes. “It was a slide deck. So, how do you move forward? Who do you call? How do you drive that? What are the key strategic elements that are going to make this a differentiated, interconnected, unique thing?”

Scott cautions against overreaching when it comes to working with startups, which he wants to ensure doesn’t happen at Halliburton Labs.

What exactly is Halliburton Labs, you might ask? Halliburton Labs is wholly owned subsidiary of Halliburton, located primarily in the Technology Center of the company’s beautiful North Belt campus in Houston. Halliburton Labs seeks to accelerate innovation done by early-stage companies, each one individually vetted to make sure that their mission aligns with what Halliburton Labs is trying to achieve. Dedicated to advancing clean energy technology, this is far more than an empty lab with a few pieces of equipment where companies rent space; it’s jumping into an entire ecosystem.

“Working with us, sure, you get the space and the equipment,” Scott says, “but what we’re really offering is so much more. We provide access to our facilities and campus, the technical expertise of some of the industry’s brightest, most accomplished minds, and a robust, well-connected network of like-minded individuals and companies.”

If you’re a startup working on disruptive, tangible-tech solutions in Halliburton Labs’ targeted challenge areas, Scott would encourage you to visit the site and apply for the program.

Scott offers a bit of wisdom to both clean energy and oil and gas advocates, encouraging collaboration, partnership, and knowledge-sharing.

“We’re on a change trajectory,” he comments, “and sometimes, sure, it’s easy to change for change’s sake without being clear on why or your role. But the future energy mosaic is going to be made up of a bunch of different things. And the challenge is, how do you participate in that? With Halliburton Labs, we’re investing in an environment where early stage companies can come and be successful. We want to have the reputation to be the go-to place for companies advancing cleaner, affordable energy. We want to bring people together.”

For the right companies at the right stage, applying to work with Halliburton Labs is a no-brainer, but Scott admits that neither he nor Halliburton Labs has all the answers; they want to be another voice in the choir, an advocate of change. Scott knows all too well that there are skeptics on both sides of the table: those who believe that the energy transition isn’t happening, and those who don’t believe that oil and gas has an important role to play for decades to come.

“What we’ll see,” Scott offers, “is that all these different energy sources, how all of them are brought to market, and how energy consumption is managed and thought about—they all play an integrated role, and we’re positioning ourselves as agnostic to those things and focused on building an environment where entrepreneurs can be successful.”

At the end of the day, what’s clear is that all energy will be important in continuing to drive change and progress in human civilization. This is about a lot more than capital; it’s about a fundamental desire and mission as human beings to do good in the world. When asked how many technology incubators like Halliburton are necessary to achieve more innovation, Paul Holland of Mach49 said, “Well, how much innovation do you want?” It’s important to achieve scale, which Scott echoes near the end of the conversation.

“Some people ask, how much investment is it going to take, overall? And my comment is, how much change do you want?”

Halliburton Labs is in it for the long game, and Scott is leading the charge.

This article was written by Stephen Forrester.

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