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BP graduate life: Ross O’Brien

23 August 2019
Mechanical engineer Ross is in his third year on the UK Downstream challenge programme

Hi, I’m Ross O’Brien and I’m currently in my third year of the UK Downstream graduate scheme. Since joining BP, I’ve had three separate roles within our petrochemicals business. All three have been aimed at developing technical skills but also at experiencing wider aspects of the business. And being a mechanical engineer, as long as it’s got hammers and spanners, I’m there! I’m not the only one too; there are about 40 Downstream graduates in the UK and many more across the globe.


So how does the graduate scheme work?


It’s common for each graduate to have three roles in three years. I’ve been based at our acetic acid site in Hull (UK) for my three years and despite the rumours, I can confirm: “it’s never dull in Hull”On top of being able to rotate around the business, the scheme also offers some technical and interpersonal skills training. But one of the best aspects is the team-feeling you get from being a graduate. There’s a real sense that we’re in it together exploring our careers. This is something that’s got even better over the past year with recent improvements made.

...one of the best aspects is the team-feeling you get from being a graduate. There’s a real sense that we’re in it together exploring our careers.

What does a normal day look like?


At the moment I’m working in our global acetic acid team where we support our seven global BP and joint ventures plants. We’ve got plants in China, Taiwan, South Korea, Malaysia, USA, and the UK. Our team’s goal is to make them run safely and reliably.


The team usually gets going at 8am in the morning. We’ll work closely with the plants to make sure they have the support they need. A morning call with our colleagues in Asia gives us an update and can sometimes dictate what we work on for that day. To be honest no day is the same, as we’re usually responding to whatever issues arise wherever they occur. Oh and when we get time aside from tackling the day to day issues, we then focus our attention on developing the next generation of acetic acid plants. Watch this space…


Aside from the regular emails and Skype calls, the team does get to travel and visit the plants. At the end of 2016 I got the chance to support one of our Chinese plants during their maintenance shutdown. Working in a new country with a different culture was an experience that I won’t forget.


How has the graduate scheme helped me?


Over the last 12 months, a new graduate-led committee has been working to improve the scheme. It’s developed an online community, increased the number of virtual sessions and added business-focused events. This has been really helpful because I can now easily get in contact with other graduates, learn and share experiences with them and also benefit from attending workshops.


Last year there were two workshops, one aimed at developing skills and another aimed at learning more about BP’s UK business. At the skills workshop we learnt about different communication styles (including our own) and how to use these to make an impact. To cap it off we were thrown into a team activity where we had to quickly work together to pitch a business idea to a panel of BP leaders. The business workshop was held later in the year at Hull, focusing on petrochemicals, so it not only gave me the opportunity to show my fellow graduates where I work but also the chance to learn more about the commercial side of the business. This year we’ll be focusing on a new skill and visiting a different UK business.


Some of these improvements are now due to be rolled out globally and I’m keen to see how other graduate communities benefit. It’s safe to say that there’s a lot of hard work, fun and great people involved with the graduate scheme. I’ve enjoyed every bit of it.

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