Claire Madden

Claire is a process engineer, working within the central global projects organisation (GPO) engineering team for the alarm management task force

How I got into engineering

I went to a state school for girls where I completed my A-Levels in chemistry, physics, maths and further maths. I then went on to study chemical engineering at Imperial College, London.

I loved my degree as chemical engineering is quite a broad subject area which can open up many career paths. For example, people in my class went on to jobs in the banking, manufacturing and oil and gas sectors. I also found studying engineering interesting, as it is quite a varied skillset that you are required to develop. There is scientific theory to learn, but a lot of the focus is on teaching you about problem solving skills and report writing skills which are very transferable to most career paths. I really enjoyed my degree and would definitely recommend it to others.

What I do now

I’m a process engineer at BP, working within the central global projects organisation (GPO) engineering team for the alarm management task force. This role is targeted at managing start-up vulnerabilities for GPO’s 2017 start-ups and beyond; particularly addressing alarm management performance which has been a significant vulnerability on some of our previous start-ups in GPO.

Throughout my time at BP I have been grateful to experience a broad range of activities from different areas of the business. From experience of design and Project Management on Shah Deniz 2 to understanding the issues that arise on operating assets like Magnus and ETAP has enabled me to learn lessons that I would apply in future roles.

My career highlight so far

The highlight of my time at BP so far has to be my secondment to the summer Olympics in 2012, where I was a transport workforce team leader. I was based in the site in Russell Square which was the “transport hub.” We had to transport all of the different media crews that were covering the games to the venues. The workforce was mainly a group of volunteers. It was a great experience and a unique opportunity to interact with a diverse range of people, all motivated to be working at such a spectacular event.

My biggest challenge

I would say that my biggest challenge has been working on the Shah Deniz 2 project, as it is such a complex project. It involves many challenges that come with deep water and high pressures. The project had to develop an isolation strategy to enable interventions on certain pieces of subsea equipment that may fail. As an early role in my career, having to document a study on how a high-pressure boundary isolation would be managed, whilst minimising risk during pigging activities, was a unique challenge! As part of project feedback to BP, this strategy was feedback through the learning system to inform any refresh of the isolation standards in BP. Thereby, future projects would have guidelines when they encountered similar problems in the future.

My advice for anyone considering a career in engineering

In order to be effective in a professional working environment, it’s important to interact with a wide range of people and to maintain a healthy relationship with people in your team and the wider company. Developing presentation skills is also something that is very important to communicate ideas and generally comes up as a task in an assessment centre. When starting work, the people around you are always going to be more experienced, but realising that you learn the most by interacting with them and making that effort to engage can be very valuable. BP and other companies are looking for those people who are intellectual but who can also communicate. 

Doing an internship can also help. It gives you that additional credibility of some ‘real’ experience and can give your application form more diversity than others. My interviewer at BP used to work at the company I had previously interned at, so we had that added topic to talk about and break the ice! In an interview, they are looking for people who can think logically about scenarios. So it’s beneficial to take your time to consider options and apply a logical chain of thought; cramming from a text book on the day of the interview may not be the best approach!