Career story

BP China aromatics president Xiaoping Yang explains how her career with BP has grown over the last 24 years

“I was born and raised in China. In the past 24 years working for BP, I spent the first 14 years in the US and the last 10 in China. It is extremely beneficial to have working experience in different countries and understanding of various cultures. As a business leader, you can motivate and energize the team more effectively if you can relate to and appreciate people for who they are or want to be.

I earned a PhD in chemical engineering at Purdue University, Indiana, US, and an MBA from the University of Chicago. I did my PhD thesis in developing a novel biochemical process to produce alternative fuels using micro-organisms. My presentation on it got me two job offers as a research engineer. I chose to join BP because I was impressed by the interview process: I still remember how valued and respected I felt by those who interviewed me.

Due to my engineering and technical background, I like to see the analytical numbers and distill the meaning behind them. The MBA programme definitely eased my transition from a technical role to a commercial business role.

The petrochemical industry is a fascinating field, not just in the complex process and engineering aspects, but also in the intertwined relationship of petrochemicals with crude and refining economics. I am so impressed by the geniuses who invented plastic and polymer products that have radically changed our daily life.

My journey with BP has been very enjoyable. Whether it is in safety, people development, or business improvement, there are lots of opportunities to make a difference. I have been really lucky to have great bosses and mentors—they have made a huge difference to my growth and career progression.

In my early career, the BP America refining business unit leader at the time – himself from an Asian background - coached me in how an Asian immigrant could work effectively in the US. Because of him, I started to build my understanding and appreciation of different people and their backgrounds. 

I also owe a great deal to the business unit leader of Aromatics Asia. He is a great coach, to me and to people at all levels, and has a unique ability to bring out the best in people. He motivated me to test and expand my capacity.
Be yourself, learn and develop, but never lose who you are. I particularly like this advice; it has set me free from struggling to mould myself to fit in
Tip from the top, Xiaoping Yang
Has success come easily? I wonder how we define ‘success’. I get a sense of success when I gain personal growth or receive appreciation for doing a good job from my line managers or people with whom I work. From this perspective, you get a lot of support to become successful at BP. It feels a bit like it’s easy to get people to praise you. 

Managing people and projects can be challenging, but I enjoy working with people and get most satisfaction when those around me shine and excel. Other people describe me as passionate, optimistic, energetic, and motivating. I think the hardships I endured as a child living in a poor family during the Chinese Cultural Revolution taught me resilience and built a determination to overcome any obstacles.”

Curriculum vitae

1986 – 1990
PhD in chemical engineering, Purdue University, US.
1990 – 1997
Research engineer, chemicals and refining, BP America.
1997 – 1999
Supervisor and liability manager, refining technology, BP America.
1999 - 2004
Key account manager, commercial analyst, analysis manager, commercial business unit, BP America.
2004 – 2011
HSSE and quality director, SECCO and Asia olefins and derivatives, China.
2011 - 2014
General manager, BP Sinopec joint venture, China.
2014 - present
Performance unit leader, BP China Aromatics, China.

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