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Why BP? James' Story

Meet James, a mechanical engineer graduate, and learn about the graduate programme that has led to his career at BP

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

 

 

I’d say that I’m friendly, outgoing and easy to get along with. I live in Aberdeen and I spend most of my spare time socialising and Aberdeen has been fantastic in that respect. Surprisingly, there is a lot to do here. Since moving to Aberdeen we’ve been skiing, white-water rafting, golfing, go-karting, clay pigeon shooting, climbing and swimming in the lochs. As a graduate you are thrown together with a big group of like-minded people, so you form a very active social group.

Why did you choose the energy sector?

 

Energy in general is a real area of interest for me. Just the fact that it fuels everything – the economy, industry, transport, etc. Almost everything we do relies on energy. Living in Aberdeen really puts it into perspective. Up here it sometimes gets so cold you can barely move your muscles. But you can always get into a car and go anywhere, and be warm, and listen to your music on the way because there’s a tank of what is essentially liquid energy in there. It’s just the most incredible thing.

 

If you weren’t in this career…what would you be doing?

 

To be honest, I’d probably be in some other sort of engineering. Possibly working in a chemical or nuclear plant or doing mechanical design for wind turbines. But it was always going to be engineering for me. Having said that, if anyone ever offered me a contract at Man United, I probably wouldn’t turn it down!

 

What have you been doing since joining BP?

 

My first role at BP was in a central engineering team working from an office in the North Sea headquarters – the central technical engineering team. I wasn’t affiliated to any particular asset (oil field) and essentially had to provide more in-depth technical support to several assets, as and when they needed it. It was a great place for learning the kind of engineering compliance, calculations and all the detail behind what we do. But for me, it didn’t have enough of the frontline field experience; like crawling under something in overalls to get a dimension or scraping the grease from a bearing to understand how overheating may have affected it! So, for my current posting, BP has sent me somewhere where I’m working with the equipment and the people who work with the equipment on a day-to-day basis. BP is good like that; they recognise what one placement is good for and what another placement doesn’t cover. All engineering graduates are guaranteed a minimum 100 field days in the first three years, most get more. I’m now a Mechanical Support Engineer assigned to the Clair platform phase one. I do two weeks offshore, two weeks in the office and two weeks leave – which is pretty nice. It means every day I’m out in the field looking at kit and when I get back in to the office I try and find ways to improve and repair it, make plans for improvements, efficiency savings, modifications, repairs, etc.

 

What has been your career highlight?

 

Winning the TechnoFest (an internal BP competition celebrating technical excellence) was a pretty great experience. In it, I was able to discuss the mechanical work I’d been doing and meet people from all round the world. The finalists were from the USA, Trinidad, Egypt, Azerbaijan and Singapore. My project was on preventing failures in small bore tubing. Essentially, it was about analysing the design and the materials, using finite element analysis, to produce small bore tubing that was no longer susceptible to fatigue failure.

What do you love about what you do?

 

Ever since I was about four I’ve loved taking things apart and fixing them. When I was four it was very rare that I’d fix things, I would always break them, but as I’ve progressed I’ve got better at it. The most fundamental part of a mechanical engineer’s job is being able to fix and design new things. And it’s an inherently satisfying thing that doesn’t need an economic justification; it’s just nice when things work. I love the fact that my job means I’m continually progressing and getting better at understanding increasingly sophisticaed systems.

What is your favourite story about working at BP?

 

One night as I was leaving the office, my boss asked if I could stay for 10 minutes as it was urgent. It was to check I would be OK to meet our CEO (Bob Dudley) and an ‘important’ Member of Parliament. He wasn’t exaggerating – the next day I was chatting face to face with Prime Minister David Cameron about life on an oil rig, Shetland weather and the Rugby World Cup. This was an exciting experience and confirmed the importance of BP as the UK’s biggest company. However, what was best about that day was the banter offshore; minutes before Mr Cameron arrived, we terrified our boss by hiding just off camera and replacing the Control Room Technician with a toy monkey.

What has most surprised you about working at BP?

 

The level of support you get at BP has surprised me. You leave school and go to college and you have a little less support, then you go to university and you have even less support. I was expecting the same here. But the transition from academia to the working world has not been nearly as hard as I had expected. My colleagues have been incredibly supportive whilst, at the same time, giving me a degree of responsibility. I don’t have people telling me what to do; I have coaches who will be there when I get stuck – and you do when you’re working on complex problems.

What keeps you at BP and why should graduates consider joining BP?

 

You start on the salary of certain City jobs and get to do interesting engineering work on the frontline. The feeling of delivering tangible change is very satisfying. We are a very global company, with major production on every continent and every environment. BP is in the Arctic, the tropics, the deserts and the seas. But for me, more important than the place is the people – and there’s a great bunch here.