Jane Woodward was impacted by the contraction in the oil industry in the mid-1980s, but for her the impact was actually positive.
"I went to work for Arco Exploration right out of graduate school and was sent to Denver where I worked from 1982 until 1985," she said. "We read about Arco closing the Denver office in the Wall Street Journal in April 1985. Everyone in the office was offered early retirement, a severance package, or a transfer. If you turned down a transfer you got a severance package" she recalled.
"For me the change came at a very opportune time. I had applied to Stanford Business School -- I actually wrote my application on a wellsite on the Crow Indian Reservation -- in early 1985, and when the announcement came I had already decided to go back to school.
"The severance package I received from Arco helped ease the transition back to school -- I call it my Arco fellowship to Stanford Business School," she laughed. "I viewed working in the petroleum industry as a place to continue my education, but after three and a half years I was ready to go back to school."
That decision wasn't in response to the problems the petroleum business was facing at that time.
"I have always been interested in business -- my father was a Harvard MBA," she said. " But at the same time I had a real wonder for the natural world. So, I knew from an early age that I wanted to incorporate how the financial markets work around earth resources."
But Woodward added that once she left the industry and went back to business school she wasn't sure she wanted to return to the oil and gas industry after she completed her studies.
"I do think part of my uncertainty came from the events of the last six to nine months I was with Arco. I was very young and witnessing how reorganizations were affecting people's lives was dramatic. I grew up in the same town where I live today and my father held the same job for 20 years. It was a shock to me to realize the toll it can take on families to have to move around through transfers or layoffs."
Still, even when Woodward returned to Stanford to pursue her MBA, all roads kept leading back to the oil business.
"I wanted to be open minded when I went back to school," she said. "I had edited a guidebook for the Rocky Mountain Association of Geologists when I was at Arco and that got me interested in technical publishing. I interviewed pretty seriously with a large publishing company and almost went down that path."
However, serendipity struck once again. A large management consulting firm based in London was looking for someone to help manage their account with Agip, the Italian state oil company.
"They didn't have anybody on staff with oil and gas experience, so when they saw my resume they offered me a summer position while I was in school. My oil and gas background paid off and created an opportunity I would never have known to seek out."
However, family circumstances intervened and demanded that she look toward career opportunities that allowed her more freedom -- and today she is a professor at Stanford and runs a successful company that buys mineral and royalty interests in large gas fields in the onshore 48 states.
"In graduate school I was a teaching assistant to an amazing professor who taught a course called 'Survey of the Energy Industry.' A few years after he retired I had the opportunity to step in and take over the class he taught."
The course is now called "Energy Resources," and Woodward tries "to give students a broad overview of the energy world. We visit an oil field, a nuclear power plant, a wind farm and the Geysers -- the world's largest geothermal plant.
"I love it. Teaching allows me to keep very much alive my broad interest in energy and I try to incorporate the business of energy in the class as well. It's fun for me to be an evangelist and a facilitator to help open doors for students. It's a nice balance for being a capitalist the rest of the time," she laughs.
Woodward got involved in the royalty business by helping a Stanford petroleum engineering professor manage and invest a small endowment fund held by the Stanford School of Earth Sciences.
"When it was just about time for me to finish my business degree, he suggested that I stay and work with him -- there was plenty to do as a consultant," she said. "Early on we not only worked for the university as consultants, but also started forming investment partnerships. I completed business school in 1987 and by 1988 we had formed our first partnership.
"I formed Mineral Acquisition Partners Inc. with him and two other partners, to serve as a general partner for these limited partnerships in 1989. We have grown significantly over the years, building a very successful engine for buying mineral and royalty interests.
In 1996 MAP bought the professor and one of the partners out.
Today MAP is on a significant growth trajectory, having acquired $60 million in assets and recently closing on a $12 million fund. Later this year the firm will be offering a $50 million fund.
"I tell my students that although I could have predicted that I would be doing something that combined business and geology, I could never have predicted what I'm doing today," she said. "So much of what you do turns on little opportunities that come up in your life.
"So it's important to be open to all the possibilities that come along."