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From musician, to engineer, to superintendent: Al’s story

23 April 2020
After he spent five years pursuing his passion for music, Al decided to try his hand at engineering

After he spent five years pursuing his passion for music, Al decided to try his hand at engineering. He studied Mechatronic Engineering, and before long was designing hydraulic systems for the commercial and mining industries. 


In 2009, Al joined BP as a contractor and has since worked in a number of full-time engineering positions. Today, he’s the offsites operations superintendent for BP’s Kwinana Refinery in Australia. He reflects: “I didn't want to be put in a box as an engineer who works on the same technical problems and solutions for 30 or 40 years. While this is perfectly fine for some people, it’s definitely not for me.” 


Driven by a desire to follow his interests, Al transitioned out of his day-to-day engineering role. He now makes major decisions about how the refinery operates safely and efficiently.

BP has enabled me to express interest in things which are important to me – process and personal safety, mental wellbeing, continuous improvement and growth.

Innovating risk management


There are many components to a refinery, all of which must run safely and efficiently. Al explains that “as the asset owner for the offsite area, our team owns the risk for the external pipelines, jetties, tank farm, waste-water treatment plant and cooling water pump house.” 


With a lot going on at once, balancing priorities across these areas may seem tough: “there’s a lot of work we need to do to keep everything operational, as well as to continuously improve performance and efficiency. But obviously we’re not going to compromise on safety or quality”. To get around this, Al explores new, innovative ways of working. “I’m enjoying the challenge and love working with a great team, looking for new ways of doing things,” he says. For example, “we have a project called the ‘digital lighthouse’ which is looking to add innovation to the way we do a lot of things on site, including using tablets, robots, gadgets and drones to give us the information we need to improve safety and efficiency in the field.” 


Overcoming personal barriers 


Al has overcome personal hurdles throughout his career: “I think my biggest challenge, very early on, was my self-confidence. I was a graduate instrument electrical engineer who trained as a mechatronic engineer, but everyone around me just seemed so much smarter.” Reflecting internally helped Al overcome this. “Tapping into who I am really enabled me to put the fear that comes with a lack of confidence behind me. This has only strengthened my career since,” he says.


Fearful of transitioning roles, Al followed a similar thought process. He soon realised that “engineering is a skill but it does not define me”, and this realisation allowed him to transition and take advantage of all of the opportunities available to him at BP. Now, he doesn’t hesitate to get involved in new projects. “I’m given opportunities to pursue projects that come up – and when I get these opportunities, I jump on them!” 


Working within his leadership role, Al also seeks to empower others –  

Supporting others to be their best and to think innovatively is something that I really enjoy.