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Students in the Zachry Leadership Program attend a retreat at the beginning of the fall semester where they unplug and get to know each other, and themselves, better.

Ravi Lad, who graduated last year from Texas A&M University with a petroleum engineering degree, looks back on his time as a student. He was a member of the first cohort of students in the Zachry Leadership Program (ZLP), and he sat down with us recently to talk about how the program continues to benefit him. Ravi now works for Apache Corporation in Houston, Texas. 

Q: What made you want to join the Zachry Leadership Program?

A: Back when I was a sophomore engineering student at Texas A&M, having made it through the “weed out” of freshman year, I was looking for opportunities to challenge myself and grow in ways that weren’t necessarily academic or related to my studies. Enter the Zachry Leadership Program (ZLP)! What made the program so appealing to me was that it offered an avenue to learn about the role of business within engineering, and (especially) that it allowed me a chance to connect with people outside of my major over a two-and-a-half-year time frame.  

A former student, Ravi Lad, poses for a photo on a train.
Ravi Lad was in the first cohort of engineering students to go through the Zachry Leadership Program.

Q: Looking back, what are some of the most important lessons you learned from the program?

A: One of the most important lessons I learned in the program was how to be self-aware and how to empathize with others. As it was reflected in ZLP’s structure, it all begins with yourself. To this day, I still journal and use tools (like time audits) we discussed in the program to help me continue learning about myself, such that I can figure out what my strengths and weaknesses are and adjust course appropriately. Beyond that is the importance of human connection. Having learned how to stay out of judgment and align with others has helped me form deeper relationships both professionally and socially.

Q: What makes the Zachry Leadership Program so impactful?

A: ZLP is impactful because of the holistic nature of it. ZLP focuses not just on creating great engineers, but rather on creating great people. There are already plenty of engineering organizations that sharpen coding skills, networking grace and academic proficiency. There is no program other than ZLP that asks you to briefly set those things aside in order to focus on the intrinsic qualities that make for a truly remarkable person.

Q: Can you talk about your career? Where do you work and what do you do?

A: I am a petroleum engineer for Apache Corporation, based in Houston. Currently, I’m a member of their engineering development program in which I’ll have the opportunity to rotate through six, six-month rotations (three years in total). During this time, I’ll get some hands-on experience in each of the major sub-disciplines of petroleum engineering and get to work in at least two geographic locations in the company. Right out of school, I completed my field rotation in Elk City, Oklahoma, where I got to see and interact with the upstream extraction of oil and gas first-hand. I’m currently in my second rotation, now at the Apache Houston office, where I am getting a high-level overview of strategic planning in the corporate reserves group.

Q: How has ZLP helped you now that you have graduated and started your career?

A: What has helped me most in life following graduation has been ZLP’s focus on soft skills. I’m not talking about communication, how to dress professionally, etc. These items, while important, focus more on developing a good career. Rather, I’m talking about the skills learned in the program related to the themes of each semester – self-awareness, empathy, beauty/creativity, vocation and service. As an 18-year-old kid going into college and picking a major, I had no clue what I was meant to do in life. As a 22-year-old ZLP graduate and working engineer, I’m still a bit lost! But it’s always the core fundamentals of the program I come back to during my evenings that are helping me find my greater purpose in my career, and in life. I once thought journaling or spending lengthy amounts of time staring at art were silly. Now I don’t leave the house without my journal and make every effort I can to go spend time in nature. It’s a good thing to be successful on paper, have a stable job and know your way around a conversation. But it’s a great thing when you’re able to wake up every morning excited to go to work because you know in your heart that this was your purpose. I’m on my way there thanks to ZLP.

Learn more about the Zachry Leadership Program