On March 30, the PESA Emerging Leaders Committee hosted its bi-monthly leadership forum with PESA Board of Directors Member Chris Cragg, Executive Vice President – Operations, Oil States International, Inc. Member company high performers engaged in an open dialogue with Cragg as he shared insights on his personal experiences involving changing disciplines as he advanced through his career.
Although Cragg has been in the oil and gas industry for many years, the onset of his career was atypical. With a degree in accounting and economics, Cragg first got introduced to oil & gas working for a public accounting firm. After several years in that role, Cragg took a new opportunity, changing pace by joining an oil and gas manufacturing company. Pivoting again, Cragg went to an E&P company where he possessed a chief accounting role. Eventually he joined a private oil and gas distributor and service company as CFO and then, even more challenging, President.
Some of the roles Cragg had taken in his career were not always a good fit, but he saw them as learning opportunities. He highlighted that having the confidence to make changes is valuable, even if you may not know if the position will be long or short term. “You won’t always know the direction your path is going to take you. If you are willing to develop your skills, being dedicated to life-long learning, you will have the confidence to embrace new disciplines,” he said. When asked how he approached changing disciplines, he replied, “Being patient and not always taking the first offer. You need to proceed thoughtfully and carefully.”
Eventually Cragg found himself positioned with an opportunity to lead as Executive Vice President, Operations at Oil States International. Cragg candidly shared that although he was ready and willing to go in a different direction, he did not necessarily possess all the necessary skills or answers. Stepping outside of his comfort zone and faced with new challenges, he recognized what he needed to do in order to be successful in his new role. “I knew I needed to trust people to do their jobs, spend time with the people who knew the business and always ask questions.” He also emphasized that learning what people do and finding a good support system is critical to success, whether it’s a team, peer or mentor.
One theme Cragg repeatedly emphasized to the emerging leaders in the room was the importance of being open to learning throughout your entire career. “I studied, learned the products, spent time with the right people, and took the time to learn the business,” he said. Continuously developing skills and learning how to communicate well with people has served Cragg well and prepared him for transitions throughout his career. When asked how, as a leader, one might inspire or motivate people to educate themselves, Cragg offered this advice: “Hand out articles, suggest relevant books, and don’t hesitate to give homework.”
In closing, Cragg reiterated that taking chances and having the confidence to embrace new disciplines truly can prepare and propel you into a leadership role.
“All people want a leader. Don’t be afraid to be that leader,” he said.