BP’s graduate programme took my career to the next level, here’s how

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While a career in oil and gas may not seem the most obvious choice for an environmental enthusiast, Katrin Harding has found a rewarding career at BP, in which she is driven by seeing that her role is making a positive change to the world. She recognises this may sound surprising, but says she has met many people at BP who also are personally committed to contributing to the lower carbon energy transition.

So how did she get there? Having studied maths at Cambridge, Katrin reflects that she didn’t have a clear idea of what job she wanted to do after university. In September 2014, she joined the Commercial Supply & Trading Graduate Programme at BP. BP Supply and trading is one of the world’s largest and most successful energy trading organisations. It engages in controlled trading around BP’s asset and supply position and the commodities it trades go way beyond crude oil and natural gas.

Roles vary from analysing data, organising shipping operations, economic evaluation and reporting daily profit and loss, to directly supporting the traders, while always looking to optimise BP’s performance and ensuring its global customers receive a safe, controlled supply of energy products.

“My first job was in the BP Treasury. I was in the corporate risk management team looking at foreign exchange hedging for the entire BP Group. It was fairly modelling-based, projecting foreign exchange exposure in 10 or 15 currencies for the BP Group cash flows. The role was an excellent opportunity to learn about economics, which I found with my maths background I could understand and pick up quite easily on the job. Going into a meeting where people are talking about managing billions of dollars of cash flow was mind-boggling.

“My second placement was in the crude oil operations team, where I was managing the logistics of oil shipments. Whenever our traders did a deal, perhaps a lifting from a BP production facility in West Africa, as soon as they knew where they were sending it I made sure we had an appropriate ship, sorted out documentation, arranged inspectors and coordinated with our counterparties on the supply side and sale side to schedule the shipment, making sure everyone knew when it was arriving. I was responsible for handling our crude oil cargoes from the Middle East, North Africa and West Africa and all the imports to South Africa.

“It was the first job where I was on the phone all the time, so it was great experience, representing BP to the outside world. It’s quite a process-driven job, but it’s so important that it’s done properly because you’re coordinating a shipment of up to two million barrels of crude oil, worth about 150 million dollars. It’s obviously very valuable cargo, and you’re working with lots of different teams. I wasn’t a subject matter expert, but I pulled many different experts together to make sure all the shipments were handled properly.”

Her final rotation on the graduate programme was in the Global Environmental Products team, where she has since taken a permanent role in origination (business development): “Anywhere that BP is touched by environmental regulation – whether that is restrictions on carbon dioxide emissions from our production assets or regulation that we must include a certain amount of renewables in our fuels, if that creates a tradable certificate then the team helps BP comply with the regulation, and then looks to make third party trades to generate profit.

“When I joined the team, I was working on market data analytics for the European market, which is the most mature and largest carbon market in the world. I was helping with the set-up of new customers and deals, but also doing research into new markets. From there I segwayed into my current role, focusing increasingly on forestry and land use.”

Here, Katrin has found a role that matches two of her passions, environmental regulation and business development. “One of my key focuses is on mechanisms for financing forest conservation and forest regeneration in tropical countries. When done well, these initiatives come with a lot of social benefits, providing sustainable jobs, better education and healthcare, and aim to help communities move away from destructive practices to a more sustainable pathway. Forests have huge potential to reduce emissions and help the world achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement, but currently the regulation hasn’t been created to drive large-scale investment in the sector.

“For two years I have been representing BP in the forest carbon partnership facility (FCPF), run by the World Bank. BP has a small investment in the Carbon Fund, and is working alongside both developed donor governments, and developing governments from tropical forest countries to reduce emissions from deforestation. The FCPF supports forest countries to design programmes to reduce deforestation, and the Carbon Fund makes results-based payments for the carbon emission reductions that are achieved. It’s really interesting working alongside government representatives - very different to the corporate world.”

She reflects that “BP is at an interesting and important point in time. As we look for new solutions to adapt the business through the lower carbon energy transition, new ideas and people are really valuable, and it’s a great chance for graduates to play a role in solving these challenging problems.

“I found the three rotations during my grad programme, each for one year, have been fantastic. You have long enough in each role that you can get to grips with something and be given real responsibility, and at the same time you are changing positions often enough so it is still a challenge and you are getting to see different sides of the business.”

As well as the structured three-year graduate programme, the company is also a good fit for her culturally: “BP is a very friendly company. All the people I have worked with have made me feel valued and relaxed at work. Particularly working in Supply & Trading, compared to similar jobs in banks or trading houses, I think we have a really good work life balance. Everyone is respected for who they are, and people are interested in and support what you do outside of work. I’m trusted to deliver while having flexibility to control my own time, which for me is an important part of making BP a great place to work.”

Find out more and apply now to one of BP’s roles on the Commercial Supply & Trading Graduate Programme: http://degreematcher.bp.com/

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