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Alumni Profile

Michael Johnson

Michael Johnson, SF ’85

Chairman and CEO, Conoco Gas and Power, Retired

  • New Mexico declared January 14, 2005 “Michael Johnson Day” for his contributions to the Earth Sciences
  • Consults to the Norwegian government on energy issues and technology
  • Testified to Congress in the late 1970s regarding opening up Alaska for offshore oil exploration and production, and in the late 1990s on natural gas and energy policy

Michael Johnson considers himself first and foremost a scientist. Even in semi-retirement he spends considerable time with science, from growing grapes in his vineyard to lecturing on climate change. Having studied geochemistry and paleoclimatology, he joined Conoco Inc. as a researcher who could help trace oils back to their source rock using geochemistry, geophysics, and subsurface geology. After becoming the division manager of the Rocky Mountains Region exploration department, Conoco saw MIT Sloan as a way to enable Johnson to take on higher-level management roles in the company and sent him as their representative in the Sloan Fellows Program in Innovation and Global Leadership.

“Going to MIT Sloan was like drinking from the fire hose,” laughs Johnson. “When you are out of college for almost 10 years, you’re not used to reading 300 pages of textbooks a night, and your mind is a little less flexible. Forcing business ideas back into it, especially as a scientist, was like starting from scratch. But it was a great experience—I learned about finance, economics, accounting, and business in general.”

After graduation, Johnson moved to a larger exploration department of Conoco focused on the West Coast and Alaska. From there, he became vice president of International Exploration and Production, or Upstream, which involves finding and producing oil and gas. Johnson then went on to become the managing director of Conoco’s entire subsidiary in Norway, a $4 billion-a-year operation.

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