Dr. Cynthia Pierre, now a Materials & Corrosion Engineer in Australia, gives us an insight into her experience of the Future Leaders Programme and explains how she got to where she is today
Why apply for BP's Future Leaders Program?
A former colleague at my previous employer invited me to join him for a coffee to encourage me to apply to the BP Future Leaders Programme (FLP). After reading about the programme online, I became convinced that this would be the ideal next step in my career journey. I look back today and I’m beyond grateful for that colleague’s thoughtfulness and coaching because he was so right!
What were the first days and weeks like?
The first few weeks anywhere can be stressful, but I was given a FLP buddy who helped me navigate BP operating systems and was there to answer the questions that I didn’t want to bother my managers with! My FLP buddy connected me with his friends and provided me with a community in and outside of BP. His help really allowed me to settle into BP and my new life very well.
Describe the challenges, environment, demands
Being a member of the FLP community gives you immediate credibility. People trust you and give you meaningful projects to demonstrate your ability to add value in a particular area within BP. Also many people want to meet and get to know you. Initially, balancing time between your team, the FLP community and various other BP related groups that you may be a part of can prove to be challenging. From my experience, the unique opportunities that are given to you and the ability to leverage your learnings to other areas within BP are the top two highlights. Another real highlight and value is your ability to make a broader impact early on. Lastly, the value of your immediate global BP community through your fellow FLP colleagues cannot be overlooked.
What are your key milestones since joining BP?
I would say updating/writing BP guidance on various materials and corrosion engineering topics such as amine corrosion or corrosion under insulation/fireproofing and supporting the Toledo Refinery during the 2015 USW strike. I worked 12 hour shifts over a three month period in the Quality Assurance Laboratory. I was able to work with a new team and site, learning so much about how the refinery operates. Also, serving as a member or co-leader of various incident investigation teams has allowed me to help other sites learn from these incidents and also taught myself how to stay alert and avoid making decisions that lead to undesired incidents or failures. Moving to Perth, Australia to take on the Materials & Corrosion Engineer role has been a real milestone for me. Over the past year, I have been able to make many significant contributions to the refinery. And personally, raising money for RedR and completing a trek to Machu Picchu in Peru with other BP colleagues, was truly amazing.
What career options have been available at BP?
I began my career in Refining Technology and Engineering (RTE), a central organisation, which supports BP refineries around the world. I worked as a subject matter expert in the area of materials and corrosion engineering (MCE). After completing this role, I had various career options in other parts of RTE and refineries as well as Petrochemical operating sites. I chose to assume an MCE role at a refinery to gain further depth and experience in the discipline. First-hand experience at a refinery or operating site allows RTE employees to better support and guide its customers. I feel this career path will make me a more effective leader within RTE or a BP refinery. It's not who you know. It's who knows you and your work. Make your network.
What training and networking did you get?
There are various communities of practice (COP) or continuous improvement forums (CIF) that provide an employee access to colleagues in similar roles and/or disciplines across the globe and senior advisors. I’m an active member of the Materials Corrosion and Inspection COP. This group meets monthly and shares valuable information on relevant materials, corrosion and inspection issues, incidents, technologies and learnings within and external to BP. This group periodically has regional and global face-to-face meetings, where even more in-depth sharing and learning occurs. I’ve also been fortunate to attend various industry related conferences and training courses from National Association of Corrosion Engineers (NACE) and Australasian Corrosion Association (ACA). These development opportunities have allowed me to form networks with discipline experts at peer companies and allow BP to stay ahead of legislative changes and new technologies. The most incredible training and networking opportunity is the FLP Global Event. This event gives FLP employees training and access to executive leaders within Downstream. I learned so much about BP, myself and this incredible group of people that I belong to. The learnings, meetings and people from the Global Event are the most significant training/networking activities of my time at BP.
How has your mentor helped support, influence and shape you?
Through the FLP programme I was given a mentor and a business sponsor, while my first line manager was effectively a coach and a mentor as well. All of these individuals have worked to give me opportunities to demonstrate the breadth of my abilities. Their advice has helped hone my technical expertise and soft skills, while simultaneously showing me ways that the additional skills and experiences that I gained can increase the number and type of future career opportunities presented to me.
What was the best advice given by your mentor?
“Focus on establishing credibility and delivering results. Everything else will be added.” The second is, “It's not who you know. It's who knows you and your work. Make your network.” Together these two pieces of advice highlight the importance of completing excellent and valuable work, while simultaneously ensuring that you proactively build a network and keep those individuals informed of your contributions and impact. The third is to take care of yourself first because that will influence your ability to be successful. Take time to unplug and recharge, because everyone needs it.
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