BTU #23: John Pontrello – Aviation to HBS and the Oil & Energy Industry

“A lot of stress goes into the transition and thinking about what’s next. Trust in the system that being a high performer and having a positive attitude and getting things done is going to work out. You’re going to hit a lot stumbling blocks along the way and face a lot of uncertainty, but if you maintain that positive attitude you’re going to be fine.”
 – John Pontrello

John Pontrello graduated from the Naval Academy and served for 9 years as a Naval Aviator in various helicopter squadrons. After getting out of the Navy, he attended Harvard Business School. After receiving his MBA from Harvard, he entered the Oil & Gas industry as part of Cameron – a publicly traded company that is now part of Schlumberger. John started as a Corporate Development Manager and then progressed to a Plant Manager. John then returned to Harvard, where he is currently earning his Master of Public Administration at the Kennedy School of Government.

In this conversation, we cover a lot of topics, including:

  • Choosing to go straight to Business School at Harvard Business School rather than to industry
  • Advice on using the GI Bill
  • How John decided to enter the Oil & Energy Industry with Cameron
  • An overview of the Corporate Development Manager
  • An overview of a Plant Manager
  • What career progression looks like in the Oil & Energy industry
  • What it’s been like at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government
  • And much, much more…

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QUESTION OF THE DAY: How can I make these episodes more valuable to active duty military personnel considering transitioning to the civilian world? Please let me know in the comments.

Scroll below for links and show notes…

Selected Links from the Episode

Show Notes

  • 1:19 – John’s background
  • 2:06 – John’s decision to leave the Navy
  • 2:58 – Choosing to not join the Reserves
  • 3:32 – The most surprising aspect of John’s transition to civilian life
  • 4:16 – Choosing to go straight to Business School at Harvard Business School rather than to industry
  • 4:57 – Advice on applying to Business School and Harvard Business School in particular
  • 9:03 – What John liked most and least about his time at Harvard Business School
  • 10:30 – Advice on how a veteran might cover their weakness in advance (or as an alternative to business school)
  • 12:13 – Advice on using the GI Bill
  • 13:20 – How John decided to enter the Oil & Energy Industry with Cameron
  • 15:44 – An overview of the Corporate Development Manager
  • 19:25 – In what ways John felt behind his civilian counterparts, and in what ways he felt ahead.
  • 21:50 – An overview of a Plant Manager
  • 24:50 – What career progression looks like in the Oil & Energy industry
  • 30:00 – What are signs that you may enjoy a career in the Oil & Energy industry… and signs that you may not like it
  • 31:30 – What it’s been like at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government
  • 33:30 – Final words of wisdom