Five years after he became the first recipient of the Oklahoma Business Roundtable $5,000 scholarship while competing in the Donald W. Reynolds Governor’s Cup, Oklahoma City’s Eddie Coates still sees the impact of competition in his role as Manager of Market Development for Chesapeake Energy Corp.
“I can draw directly on the lessons learned during the competition for my business development oriented job at Chesapeake,” Coates said. “The Governor’s Cup was the highlight of my time as an entrepreneurship major at OU.”
As a senior International Business and Entrepreneurship double major at the University of Oklahoma, Coates competed in the GovCup on a team called Fusion Recruits, LLC, which proposed to create a website for high school athletes to connect with college coaches.
Along the way he was awarded the inaugural OBR scholarship, which is now known as the Paulsen award. The scholarship paid for his last semester at OU.
Coates recently shared his thoughts on the GovCup experience and OBR scholarship. Here are excerpts from that conversation:
Q: How did the Governor’s Cup, the OBR experience and all the networking it brought impact your career as you joined the business community after college?
A: As I was entering the business community and job market in the Fall of 2008, several of the individuals I met through the OBR experience and i2E helped connect me to businesses and individuals for interviews. Today, I continue to connect from time to time with members of the OBR as well as those that were involved in the Governor’s Cup. I thought the networking opportunities provided by i2E during the business plan competition were particularly excellent as the business leaders and judges attending sincerely desired to connect with and assist the student participants however possible.
Q: How important was the OBR scholarship to you as you completed your education?
A: The timing of the Business Roundtable Scholarship was excellent as my scholarship at OU concluded at the end of my eighth semester. Because of the generosity of the OBR, I was able to complete college without the weight of student debt, which I likely would have needed to take on if not for the OBR scholarship.
Q: What do you recall from the experience of speaking to the OBR membership at its annual meeting?
A: As a proud Oklahoman, I decided to address the OBR members on the importance of retaining the young talent Oklahoma’s colleges and universities produce each year and how the state’s business leaders might be able to assist in creating an environment that encouraged entrepreneurship, creativity and vibrancy within Oklahoma’s cities. While my time with the microphone was relatively short, I was overwhelmed by how engaged the OBR members were in the message I was trying to impart. To be honest, I didn’t expect the state’s most respected business leaders to be as interested as they were in what I had to say. Afterwards, I had multiple members tell me how much they appreciated my short talk while other members offered additional ideas on how the state can continue to retain its young talent. Now that I’ve been in the workforce for a few years, I’ve come to realize that what I was experiencing at the OBR annual meeting was uniquely Oklahoma. From a business standpoint, this is a state where even a college student with an entrepreneurial spirit can realistically engage the foremost local business minds.
Q: Talk about your work today with Chesapeake.
I’ve been with the Market Development group at Chesapeake since the Spring of 2011. Our team is unique within Chesapeake in that we focus on growing the demand for natural gas outside of traditional sectors such as power generation, residential use, and industrial manufacturing. More specifically, our team focuses on increasing the use of natural gas in the transportation sector, where natural gas currently accounts for less than 1% of energy consumption. This sector holds tremendous potential and importance for Chesapeake as the U.S. transportation sector represents greater energy consumption on a daily BTU basis than the entirety of current U.S. natural gas consumption. My primary role as Manager of Market Development is to serve as a project and relationship manager for strategic initiatives and partnerships. To date, those projects have been as diverse as helping U.S. Foodservice develop a CNG pilot program to structuring a station development partnership with Love’s Travel Stops to working with major technology companies like GE and Whirlpool to develop natural gas home refueling solutions.