A team of first-year Berkeley MBA students took first place at the 13th Annual National Energy Finance Competition (NEFC) last month for their work on a gas production business challenge posed by Chevron.
Students Marie Thompson (team lead), Rahul Bajaj, Ethan Doyle, Pablo Jimenez, and David Navarro, all MBA 19, brought home the win for Berkeley Haas.
The competition, held Oct. 19-20 and hosted by the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas, Austin, challenged 16 teams from top MBA programs to address real-world finance issues faced by the energy industry. This year, Chevron asked students to develop a capital expenditure program for an upstream gas production unit in the Marcellus Basin in Appalachia.
To come up with a solution, teams had to develop a long-term market view, assess capital constraints, benchmark operational and financial assumptions, and plan the drilling—all within 72 hours.
“The short turnaround time was certainly a big constraint. It meant that as soon as we got the case we needed to be off and running,” Doyle said. “However, if we had had more time we might not have been as efficient in our decision-making and focused in our approach.”
Strength in the team’s diversity
Industry executives from the country’s top energy companies judged each teams’ financial model and solution, and pitched questions over two rounds of competition. In selecting Haas as the winner, judges cited the team’s understanding of the case, explanations of assumptions and methodology, creativity in solution design, and professionalism during the Q&A.
Thompson said several things set the team apart.
“The first was the diversity of the team,” she said. “We all come from different industries and functions and were able to call on so many different skills and experiences that let us work both quickly and thoughtfully.”
She said the team also approached the case wanting to work hard and learn from each other, which made for a respectful, engaging, and fun atmosphere throughout the entire process.
“This definitely helped us keep our cool through the more stressful parts of the competition,” she said.
A surprise judge
All school names were withheld during the competition, so it wasn’t until the winners were announced that one of the judges introduced himself as the real-life inspiration for the case: Dwight Crabtree, MBA 10, who has been working for Chevron since he graduated.
“It’s always a bit of a surprise to realize that the protagonist of a case is a real person, especially one who remembers what it was like to be directly in your shoes,” Doyle said. “He even competed in the same event during his time as a student. That made the win even more meaningful for us—it felt like our team was doing our small part to uphold the legacy of a much larger community.”