Mike Wirth (ChemEngr '82) was promoted to executive vice president of Chevron's global downstream business in March, a position carrying responsibility for the company's worldwide refining, marketing, lubricants, and supply and trading businesses. He previously served as president of global supply and trading.
Chevron, ranked 4th on the Fortune 500 list, is active in every aspect of the oil and natural gas industry, from exploration and production, to refining and marketing, and chemicals and power generation. It operates in 180 countries throughout the world, with a global workforce of 53,000 employees.
A native of Golden, Wirth joined Chevron as a design engineer after graduating from CU-Boulder in 1982. He advanced through a number of engineering operations and planning positions in the U.S. downstream division, including general manager of retail marketing.
He went to Singapore in 2000 as president of marketing for Caltex Corp, a Chevron subsidiary, where he was responsible for the company's system-wide retail, wholesale, and aviation fuels marketing in Asia and Africa. In 2001, upon the merger of Chevron and Texaco, he was named president of marketing for the Asia/Middle East/Africa refining and marketing business.
"I loved living and working internationally," says Wirth, who now makes his home in the San Francisco Bay Area. "It gave me the opportunity to grow both professionally and personally, and my family also grew as a part of that experience. In many ways it is quite humbling to find out how narrow a view of things one can develop living only in the U.S., and it's invigorating to broaden your perspective."
In college, Wirth says he first pursued an interest in medicine, but started working in the energy industry through a summer internship.
"I became fascinated by the practical application of engineering concepts in the real world, and also by the intersection of technology, economics, and politics," he says, adding that he has been able to make several career changes, from engineering to strategic planning, real estate, refining, government and public affairs, marketing, and trading, without ever having to change employers.
Wirth attributes his success at Chevron to a "combination of solid education, hard work, flexibility and willingness to change, ability to collaborate with others, orientation toward lifelong learning—and also some right-place, right-time luck."
Today, he says, "Our challenge is to respond to a new global equation for energy. That new equation is driven by the convergence of several factors, including growing demand for oil, constrained supply, and an increasingly complex geopolitical landscape. Meeting the world's need for energy has never been more technologically challenging. From my perspective, it's also never been more exciting."