Alumnus Shares Advice on Making the Most of Your Student Experience

Texas Engineering
Nov 7, 2019 · 3 min read

While growing up in San Antonio, alumnus Arnold Moreno was inspired by two local events to pursue an engineering degree at The University of Texas at Austin. The first was the parade for San Antonio’s famous “Fiesta” festival, where he watched the Longhorn Band play year after year, instilling in him a deep-rooted love for the university. The second were his visits to the Kelly Air Force Base where his father — who was active in the Air Force — would take him and his sister to see annual air shows.

Following his childhood dream of using paper airplane design to solve real-life problems, Moreno (B.S. PE 1997) enrolled at UT to pursue a degree in aerospace engineering. However, with the aerospace industry’s budget cuts and nationwide consolidations in the early 1990s, he pivoted his career trajectory to an industry that had a more stable job market at the time, and one that greatly intrigued him — petroleum engineering. Graduating with 20 other petroleum engineering students, he went on to a successful career in the oil and gas industry.

Now a managing director of acquisitions and divestitures at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Moreno came back to the Forty Acres to speak with the Cockrell School’s petroleum engineering honor society, Pi Epsilon Tau, sharing invaluable insight into the energy industry and helpful tips on how to make the most of their degrees.

What should students be doing today to ensure they are on track toward a successful career?

The Cockrell School values its students and offers a tremendous educational experience. But, it’s your job as a student to explore that experience and make it yours. What outcome are you hoping to achieve? I like to think about my end goals and how the decisions I make today might lead to the future I hope to create. You have an incredible wealth of resources and mentorship available to you — be sure to tap into every opportunity possible.

The oil and gas industry must continually fluctuate in order to meet shifting global demands. In your opinion, how can we remain innovative in the midst of an industry that is constantly in motion?

Oil and gas are worldly commodities, and there are many companies involved in trying to control the supply and demand of oil across the world, which means we have many backgrounds and disciplines providing input on this one, single source. The industry is constantly evolving in response to new demands and supply levels. In the quest to develop novel, innovative solutions to renewable and alternative sources of energy, we must be willing to invest in the next generation of leaders who will provide the solutions that ultimately fuel our future.

Why is it important to engage with and give advice to the next generation of students, as you did with the Pi Epsilon Tau talk?

First of all, I believe mentors are pivotal to a student’s success. I had a great mentor when I started working in industry who helped me to make better choices and taught me to intentionally pursue a career path I was passionate about as opposed to simply plugging into a company and doing what they need you to do. Second of all, I think information is key. New graduates have a lot more questions than they do answers, so being able to talk with somebody who has been there can provide invaluable insight and return such a positive impact on students’ lives and careers. It’s important for me to make time for that.

If you had one piece of advice you could give to undergrad students, what would it be?

I came out of the program thinking, ‘I can do anything. Give me a problem and I will fix it…on my own.’ This is such a limiting way of thinking. Don’t be afraid to seek out experienced engineers at your company and learn from them. Ask questions. The ‘apprenticeship’ culture of engineering is often overlooked, but it’s crucial to collaborate with and learn from those who have come before you. Be humble: in college you’ve learned how to learn, and when you start working, you’ll be taught what you need to know.

The Cockrell School of Engineering at UT Austin: Educating future engineering leaders. Developing innovative solutions. Improving lives throughout the world.

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