When Phillips 66 Chairman and CEO Greg Garland ’80 recounted his nearly 40-year career during a visit to Texas A&M University, he offered this advice: Work with a purpose, embrace change, and don’t be afraid to fail.

He credits his professional success to good timing and great enthusiasm. He graduated from Texas A&M University in 1980 – what he termed “a great time to be in the oil and gas industry.”

“I interviewed with 16 companies and got 15 job offers,” he said.

It all started on a day when he failed to get on the interview sign-in sheets for companies. “I met a guy in an elevator who was from Phillips 66. I was in a T-shirt, shorts, and sandals. He said, ‘Come see me at 2:00,’ so I did. I don’t know what he saw in me, but it worked out great. You never know when an opportunity is going to present itself, so be ready.”

Garland’s visit was hosted by Mays Business School and the Colleges of Geosciences and Engineering.

Be intentional about the future

Garland told the students they will have many opportunities along the way. “Choose wisely,” he said. “Find a company you’re aligned with and that you can work for long-term – hopefully for 40 years – and that challenges you. And hopefully, you can live where you want to live.”

He also advised, “Always do the right thing,” and said the Aggie Core Values provide a great starting point. He remains a supporter of his company’s values of safety, honor, and commitment.

“You’ve got to find something that is bigger than the sum of the parts. You’ve got to find something that motivates you. Getting up every day at 5 a.m. for 39 years is hard. You’ve got to find something that pulls you out of bed because you love what you’re doing, pulls you out of bed and makes you go do it because you know you’re making a difference in other people’s lives. I don’t know what that is for you, but you’ve got to figure that part of it out. You’ve got to choose a company, choose a profession and an industry that will allow you to do that. Do it with purpose.

Garland said Phillips 66 helps improves lives in Houston by investing in the community by supporting STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education and the Barbara Bush Literacy Foundation, which includes going into classrooms to help children read, and putting books in children’s hands to take home with them. “We have a selfish reason for doing this,” he said. “We know if you’re not reading by third grade, you’re not going to make it.”

How one accomplishes something is just as important as what gets accomplished, Garland said.

“It’s not what you do, but it’s also how you do it,” he explained. “In today’s world, we just don’t have room for brilliant jerks. We need people who want to be part of a team to communicate, who understand the value of diversity and inclusion. We need people that will work to make the environment a better place to be, and help us to create a great workplace and a great place to work for our employees. That doesn’t happen by itself. It only happens when every individual is aligned to make that happen.”