Episode 1

This episode is a conversation with Bill Arnold and Aaron Davis. Bill was Shell’s Washington Director of International Government relations as well as being appointed by the White House as Senior Vice President of the Export Import Bank of the United States. Aaron Davis is an engineer and manager at Oxy who was one of Bill’s first students at Rice University’s Jones School of Business. During the episode we touch on Bill’s experiences with leaders around the globe, including George Bush, former KGB heads and Saddam Hussein. We dissect Networking which is something that I consider Aaron and Bill to be world class at, and of course they debate the pros and cons of doing an MBA. We also reference a lot of people, books and resources that I’ve listed below.

I’d love your feedback (good, bad or indifferent) and I’d love to know who you’d like to hear on the show. You can contact me by leaving a review of the show on itunes or simply leaving a comment on this post – I read them all.

Thanks for listening and thanks for being part of the conversation.

Show Notes

The first class: Geopolitics in Energy. Bringing in the decision makers
Bill’s background – where did it all begin: The tipping point – President Ford on the Board
Being Jeb Bush’s boss/Venezuala with Exxon as client
Making the transition from Banking to Oil and Gas
entry into Shell through the back door – Pectin International CFO – 10 countries including China, Cameron
Engineers underestimating the importance of finance and geopolitics – following the collapse of the soviet union
Strange world leaders – Aliev (Head of the KGB), Turkman-bashi etc
Best world leaders
The Bush family
Negotiating with Iraqi Revolutionary command council and meeting Saddam Hussein during the Iran Iraq war.
Bill’s Biggest strength: Building long term relationships that are mutually benefiical
How to deal with being out of your depth – go fishing!
Deciding what challenges to take on and what to let go.
What Bill is most proud of? Helping Shell revamp it’s approach to engaging the US Government
Aaron’s view on working for small vs big companies – what are the pros and cons of each.
Working in the middle east as an expat
Managing two careers – husband and wife both professionals in the industry
What Aaron got out of working in the Middle East.
Feeling out of your depth in a new role.
Networking advice for early career professionals
Forming mutually beneficial relationships and covering the downside – becoming the president of PetroBras
Why did Aaron do an MBA?
Bill on how the MBA has evolved and learning from history and past crashes.
What advice Aaron would you give to someone considering an MBA?
How much experience you should have before doing an MBA?
Volunteering in Central America and dealing with military governments.
What Bill’s classes are like – bringing in the leaders of the industry to speak candidly about their careers.
Aaron on the wrong reasons to do an MBA.
Alternatives to doing an MBA
What are the common traits that Bill’s most successful students share
Who does Aaron consider successful – the former CEO of Anadarko (Jim Hacket)
Bill on being successful: Donald O’Neil, a former Shell colleague, who introduced role playing exercises to Shell to help staff put themselves in other peoples shoes.
If they had 6 months to focus on one thing, who would they study under and why?
Bill on Teddy Roosevelt
Bill’s favourite movies


Black Swan by Nassim Taleb
Benjamin Franklin by Walter Isaacson
Who moved my Cheese by Spencer Johnson
William Manchester series on Winston Churchill
The Last Lion by William Manchester
My favorite book on Winston Churchill by Roy Jenkins


Rice University, Jones School of Business


Dead poets society
Sent of a Woman


Jeb Bush
George H.W. Bush
George P. Bush
Saddam Hussein
Eduard Shevardnadze
Teddy Roosevelt
Lewis and Clark
Jim Hacket
Winston Chirchill

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