From physics to petrochemical industry

IneosOlivia Steele studied Physics at the University of Edinburgh, but her role is open to chemistry and chemical engineering graduates.

Degree Subject

Masters of Physics with Honours Astrophysics, U of Edinburgh, graduated July 2015.

Brief career history, including current job title & employer

I started working for INEOS as a commercial graduate in Cologne, September 2015. I was out there for almost two years and had two roles in that time: ethylene operator and polymers performance analyst. From May of last year, I have been Assistant Product Manager for INEOS Olefins & Polymers Europe, based in Grangemouth.

Where was your current job was advertised/how did you find it, what was the appeal, what attributes were the organisation looking for?

I met INEOS at the Edinburgh University Careers fair and so applied online. I was keen to start a new challenge and the commercial graduate scheme was a perfect fit. It appealed to me because INEOS wanted graduates who studied a STEM subject, even for the commercial roles. They appreciated the analytical/numerical skills and problem solving I had learned through university.

Which other organisations offer similar roles?

Most other petrochemical companies offer similar roles, however with INEOS you are given real responsibilities from day one. The company offer lots of support and give you space to expand your role with time.

Can you describe what your job entails or a typical week in your job? With your crystal ball, what does the future for your sector/job look like?

I am responsible for the day-to-day planning of all our chemical products we make on site. This means working with our customers and consumers, the shipping team, different assets and taking part in many cross-optimisation conversations. The future for my current role looks exciting – I am beginning to learn more about cracker economics, getting involved in market analysis and taking part in some long-term projects.

Best/Worst parts of the job

Best part of the job is that every day is different (not a cliché!) and I get to interact with various teams both on site here in Grangemouth and abroad. Worst part of the job is that I have to deal with unforeseen complications – but only sometimes!

How have you used the skills and knowledge from your degree in your job?

Creative problem solving helps when dealing with certain issues and analytical thinking is needed not only for day-to-day planning discussions but also to work out the most cost effective solution in a time-pressured environment.

What extra-curricular experience (eg work experience, volunteering, societies, sports, interests etc) do you believe helped you get where you are today?

I have had a range of different types of work experience – as a shop assistant, a waitress, a summer research student at the observatory and as a research assistant for a company who make sports equipment in Austria – these were all great opportunities to learn about different techniques, improve communication skills and develop customer relations. Being involved in societies and sports also helps with organisational skills and working with different types of people.
Is there anything you wish you HAD done in your past to make it easier to get where you are today?

Perhaps taken some more chemistry modules at university…it’s been a bit of a learning curve!

What advice would you give to students wishing to enter your field of work?

The petrochemical industry is fast paced – make sure you are ready for a challenge, it won’t disappoint!

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