No risk, no reward

by | Apr 6, 2021 | Alumni Network, Alumni Profiles, Spring 2021 | 0 comments

Throughout her life, Jackie Haney ’01 has always asked the same bold question: Why not?

While working in oil and gas, if she didn’t fully understand—or agree with—a particular engineering choice or business decision, she probed deeper, asking everyone around her for insights and, often, challenging the status quo.

“I’ve never had a problem with taking a leap or reaching out to get advice,” she said.

Haney’s curiosity and self-confidence, coupled with the technical know-how she gained at Mines, propelled her to success as an entrepreneur, too. Today, Haney is a managing partner and CEO of oil and gas investment firm UnionRock. She also founded several other oil and gas firms—Versa Energy, Cobalt Oil & Gas and Copper Trail Partners—and was named one of Denver Business Journal’s Top Women in Energy in 2019.

Always a top student in science and math, Haney pursued a chemical engineering degree at Mines, but even then, she wasn’t afraid to take smart risks. As a high school senior, she cold-called then-Athletic Director Marv Kay, read off her swim times over the phone and asked for a scholarship. He agreed, and Haney spent the next four years swimming for Mines while studying, working multiple jobs, participating in the Society of Women Engineers and helping with graduate research.

After six years of engineering field work at ExxonMobil and Shell, Haney pivoted to finance and learned how to evaluate and underwrite property transactions at oil and gas firm Venoco.

Eventually, she struck out on her own as an engineering consultant, appraising properties for oil and gas companies, banks and private owners. Around the same time, she decided to take another big leap: cashing out her 401(k) to invest in properties herself.

“I had looked at enough properties and seen enough deals that [other companies] wouldn’t do because they were not the right fit,” Haney said. “And using my field and underwriting experience, I thought, ‘Somebody should buy that.’”

Over time, other investors took note of Haney’s business savvy and began entrusting her with their money and assets, too.

“You’ll miss 100 percent of the shots that you don’t take, so why not take a shot?” said Haney, drawing inspiration from meeting professional hockey player Wayne Gretzky in 2015. “The worst thing that can happen is that you’ll miss. But if you do, then at least you’ll have something to learn from and look forward to.”

As her own boss, she’s still learning, still charging ahead and still asking “Why not?” whenever possible.

“Being an entrepreneur gives me the opportunity to explore possibilities as they present themselves and to have some control over my professional destiny,” she said. “Many people back away from uncertainty and are uncomfortable with adjusting to change, but I find it enlivening to take measured risks.”