LaKisha Bertke is a commercial operations services manager based in Chicago, Illinois. We spoke to her about her 24-year career at bp, life on the trading floor, and how her experiences have inspired her to support students taking the first steps in their careers.
LaKisha, before we talk about work, what does your ideal Sunday look like?
It really depends on the season! In the summer, my husband and I head to our lake house to spend time near or on the water with our dog, (a petite golden doodle who is extremely spoiled!). In the fall, I’m usually watching sports – especially NFL games or University of Michigan’s football team.
Who would you say has had the biggest influence on your career?
Definitely my grandmother – she runs her own business and I grew up really inspired by her drive. However, before graduating college, I wasn’t sure I wanted to run my own company, so I decided that the corporate route would be a better fit for me and I haven’t looked back since!
And what does a typical working day look like for you?
I work in the operations group in Trading and shipping(T&S), leading a team of 14 technical specialists who work in a wide range of areas, from inventory to terminal logistics. All of these experts have very unique skills, so I’m there to make sure they have what they need to do their jobs and work together seamlessly. Another area I am accountable for is leading transformational initiatives that that will help to better streamline parts of our operations activity, both globally and locally. In addition to this, I’m also really involved in the people management side of operations. I work closely with my peers to make ensure our grads and experienced staff have the support and development they are seeking.
What is the trading floor like at bp?
It’s got the most amazing energy and buzz about it that I love. People are always bouncing ideas off each other, and the culture really supports collaboration. I enjoy it so much I can’t imagine being in a cubicle or office now.
Do you get to work with other countries or markets?
Yes, a lot of the time! I have colleagues in Singapore, and London so I talk regularly to people from those regions. I’ve been able to travel to London which has been great, and a trip to Singapore is on my “wish list” at some point in the future! More generally, I’ve had the chance to work with a lot of people across bp through my current and previous roles. Working at an international company like bp means you have the ability to build an international network.
You’ve mentioned that you’re heavily involved in people development – who has supported you across your career?
I always say that it takes a village, and it really has taken a village to get me to where I am now! I’ve had so many people over the years support me, help me strategize and coach me. I even had an external coach at one point – it just goes to show that bp will help make sure its people not only have internal support, but get an outside view too when needed.
Do you get involved in mentoring programmes now?
Yes, I’m on the board of the Operations mentoring group, helping to match mentors and mentees based on their development needs. I helped re-establish the scheme two years ago – it’s taken time to get it into place, but it’s been really rewarding. I’m also heavily involved in DE&I initiatives, especially with bp’s partnership with a local organisation called Bottom Line. It supports students from low-income households to get into and through college by providing mentorship and funding. It supports kids from high school, all the way through college and until they land a job. bp sponsors some of their events and we’ve had students spend time with us through the summer to experience what it’s like at bp. I was the first person in my family to go to a four-year university, and it has been really inspiring to help others do the same and realise their dreams.
That’s amazing! Based on your experience, what advice would you give someone who is starting their career at bp?
My advice would be to not be afraid to make mistakes. No one is perfect – we all make mistakes! Also don’t be afraid to raise your hand when you need help. In the past, I thought I needed to prove myself when I started out and do things on my own. It ended up with me making avoidable mistakes, and I learned how valuable it is to ask for help. And finally, I think it’s always worth remembering to be your true self, even if that means you don’t fit in at first. Your voice matters, and it’s important to make sure people hear it. I’ve realised over my career that people accept you if you believe in yourself. And bp’s culture definitely embraces that too – if you show drive, initiative and desire, you can do anything here!