Rebecca Wiles attributes her rise through the BP ranks to an unswerving focus on what is most relevant to her role, but, she insists, she’s still enjoyed herself along the way
“I wanted to be an astronaut when I was little, which still appeals, although I won’t be applying for the Mars mission! I studied maths, physics and chemistry at A-level and thought about becoming a chemical engineer. During my lower-sixth year, I was always getting caught talking in the study area by the headmaster, so he decided to ‘fill my spare time’ with geology and technical drawing courses. I really enjoyed geology, but when I applied to university, I was nervous about moving away from my core subjects completely, so I went for geochemistry.
I joined BP from university because in the late eighties it was growing its geochemistry capability. When I visited for interview, I was impressed by what I saw: the different applications of geochemistry and science generally, and the wealth of roles globally.
I didn’t consciously focus on progressing. I focused on learning anything relevant to what I was doing and delivering priorities efficiently. That’s still my philosophy. I try to simplify and clarify complex issues to make sure that I’m focusing on the right areas. I’m motivated to do a good job and I also believe in having fun at work!
Striking a work-life balance is a very personal business: what works for one person might not for the next. When my daughter was little, I was working in petroleum systems. The workload was relatively predictable and, therefore, I was able to manage my time.
When she turned 10, she decided she wanted to go to weekly boarding school (Harry Potter was popular!). I had more time, so I stepped out of my comfort zone at work.
My husband had a demanding role in the military for a long time. He has similar energy levels to me and we are both pretty independent and tolerant of the required working hours. In one of my previous roles as vice president of BP Norway, I lived alone in Stavanger and my husband commuted to me most weekends. Some people may see that as not managing a work-life balance, but it worked for us.
The international aspect of my work is important. I always enjoy learning things and meeting new people when I travel. I’m proud of the way BP shows up in different countries. I think that we are considerate in the way we carry out operations and in contributing to local content and social programmes. Sometimes, there are opportunities to see first-hand the impact we are having on society.”
Make the most of being part of a large organization. There are so many opportunities to grow and you can have great fun doing it.
1984 - 1987
Sc (Hons) in geochemistry, University of Reading.
1987 - 2000
Petroleum systems analyst / geochemist, BP.
2000 – 2002
Commercial advisor, BP.
2002 – 2003
Exploration team leader, Block 31, BP Angola.
2003 – 2004
Central planning and performance management team, BP.
2004 – 2009
Vice president of exploration and appraisal, BP Angola.
2009 – 2013
Managing director and head of country, BP Norway.
2013 - 2014
Vice president of global resource appraisal, exploration.