David C. Baldwin

David C. Baldwin is a leader in recognizing the next rising star – he is like a “Shark Tank” judge of the oil and gas industry with his great intuition for which companies have the passion and persistence to make it big.

Beyond his success in the industry, Baldwin has been recognized recently for his commitment to his community. In 2016, he and his wife led a 3,500 mile bike journey across the country, which raised $13 million for supporting people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Baldwin standing in office

For his philanthropic efforts, he received the prestigious 2018 Hoover Medal. Administered by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, it is an engineering prize for "outstanding extra-career services by engineers to humanity." Baldwin joins the ranks of the other impressive winners, including two U.S. Presidents: Dwight D. Eisenhower and Jimmy Carter. In addition, Baldwin received the 2018 SPE Public Service Award. We asked Baldwin about his recent accolades, his leadership philosophy, and what advice he would give to current students.

1. What did it mean to you to be a recipient of the Hoover Medal?
I was shocked and overwhelmed when I received the phone call with the news from former SPE president, Dr. Nathan Meehan. I was aware that I had been nominated, but thought winning the award was a long shot given the achievements of previous winners. After I hung up with Dr. Meehan, I went to the Hoover Medal website to further study the award - I immediately felt humbled and deeply honored. I am proud to be both an engineer and someone who cares deeply about their community, but I have never felt that my individual achievements were particularly noteworthy. Now to be recognized alongside other great engineers and humanitarians is an honor that I will deeply cherish for the rest of my life.

2. As the co-president of SCF Partners, how would you describe your leadership philosophy?
I really do not consider myself a great leader. Fortunately, I am surrounded by partners at our firm and executives and entrepreneurs within our portfolio companies who are fantastic leaders. I love learning from them, and I attempt to emulate certain parts of their leadership skills so that I can become a more effective leader. I also like to constantly challenge our portfolio companies and my colleagues to innovate, improve and grow. I enjoy taking risks and trying new things, and I like to build teams that are inspired to accomplish big goals.

3. What are the common characteristics you see in the successful companies you invest in?
Our companies are almost always led by passionate and persistent entrepreneurs. They are driven to succeed and often are able to avoid obstacles that derail many competitors. We also like to invest in niches where the growth outlook may not be apparent to others. We seek to have common goals and financial alignment with our management team and employees.

4. What inspired you to enter the investment side of the oil and gas business?
Early in my engineering career, I discovered that I enjoy finding solutions where others see obstacles. I also enjoy working with others and putting teams together to solve problems. Thanks to the entrepreneurial spirit at my first employer, Union Pacific Resources, I was able to deploy these interests. We built a great team that was an early pioneer in making horizontal drilling a commercial success. Later in business school, I met L.E. Simmons. I was highly impressed with his business and financial mind, so much that I went to work with L.E. after business school. He has now been my mentor and partner for 28 years. He taught me how to take my technical skills and match them with a financial and business framework.

5. What sets the oil and gas industry apart from other avenues of investment?
First and foremost, the oil and gas industry is the most cyclical and volatile industry in the world - what other business has commodity and activity declines of 60 percent to 80 percent over extremely short periods? I find the entrepreneurs to be among the most determined, innovative and resilient leaders of any industry. It is also a truly global and intensely competitive business. For all of its challenges, the energy industry is an exciting and diverse community and is the backbone of economic growth all across the world - it is a great place to build a career and make life-long friends.

6. Looking back at your days at UT PGE what are some of your favorite memories?
I struggled in my first three years at UT Austin while trying to both play baseball and keep up with my engineering studies. Frankly, I was not performing well as an athlete or a student so I decided that one of them had to give. By then it was apparent that I would starve as a professional baseball player, so I needed to get my act together as an aspiring engineer. Fortunately, I loved my elective engineering courses over the last three semesters before graduation, had a great summer internship and fell in love with the entrepreneurial nature of the industry. I also enjoyed forming relationships with many fellow classmates with whom I have remained friends throughout my adult life. I left UT Austin with a sense of pride that I could overcome setbacks and was excited to put my academic knowledge to work.

7. What advice would give to our current students?
My strongest suggestion would be to not fear initial failure. Life can be difficult, and learning to overcome setbacks early in your life will provide confidence for dealing with future setbacks. Also, try to identify what you really enjoying doing and find a career path that allows you to exploit your strengths. There is nothing more rewarding in life than waking up every day energized and excited about the opportunities and challenges ahead - this only happens when you are doing what you love. Most importantly, find ways early in your career to be involved in your community and do activities that benefit others. Being ambitious is fine, but life is richer when you can help others overcome obstacles and reach their potential.

8. What are your passions outside of energy?
My wife Maire and I love to travel and pursue almost any outdoor activity. We have also spent our entire married life volunteering to help individuals with intellectual and development disabilities (IDD). We decided to step in where social services were not providing support. Shortly after marriage we decided not to have children, but we committed ourselves to filling that void by trying to help others in a meaningful way. Volunteering has yielded some of the richest and most rewarding times of our lives. In 2016, we founded “Pursuit," as a means of broadening our commitment to people with disabilities. It also led us to an adventure of a lifetime as we rode our bikes across the country championing support for the IDD community.