Sophie Tao Trader in Development, Crude Oil Trading

After graduating from LSE with an MSc in Accounting & Finance, Sophie joined Shell’s Finance Graduate Scheme. Following stints in both Market Risk and Mergers & Acquisitions, she decided to join the TDP where she’s learning how to take and manage risks. As she told us, it’s been a very good decision: one that has deepened her direct exposure to energy markets and broadened her career opportunities.

What were your perceptions of Shell, before you joined?

I chose the energy industry because I believed it would offer me a global and exciting career. Before I joined, Shell came across as a clear leader in this industry which has its footprints across the globe. I first learned about it when I was still a teenager in my hometown in Sichuan, China. I never imagined I would, one day, be working at this multinational company in London but here I am. I’m grateful for this opportunity.

Learning about risk…

My first role at Shell was in Market Risk where I learnt the fundamentals of the crude oil market. After that, I rotated to M&A and Commercial Finance, developing finance expertise about Shell’s asset deals and corporate transactions.

Joining the TDP is a lesson about risk – not everyone can graduate to a permanent role in trading but it motivates me to always push the boundaries and perform at my best. Trading also trains me to thrive in a fast-moving and dynamic environment. Additionally, there is, of course, a steep learning curve on how our traders take and manage various types of risks in their portfolio.

First impressions of the TDP

I started the TDP with Market Analysis. My main responsibility was to help traders form trading strategies by providing market intelligence to them. I gained a good understanding of the global supply and demand balances for crude oil. I performed competitor analysis as well as crude economics and valuation, which helped the team identify trading opportunities.

The market is extremely dynamic and is driven by so many factors: geopolitics, the macro economy…. Every day, you witness first-hand how newspaper headlines directly impact our business.

My first impression of the TDP was that there were so many opportunities to learn and develop as a future trader. From day one, I was given many responsibilities to add value and contribute to our team.

The structure to succeed

The good thing about TDP is that it’s a structured programme that allows you to experience distinct parts of trading, possibly in multiple locations – and there’s good support from management level. I’ve been receiving great guidance from my line manager, which makes me feel valued in the team.

You also get to develop good fundamentals and build up broad knowledge of the industry. Shell tries to identify people who have great potential and is willing to commit the best resources to further develop your strengths.

What makes a good trader, in your view?

Curiosity to know more. I’m always driven to make sense of things, understand new concepts and acquire knowledge. There’s always something new I want to achieve when I walk into the office every day

Creativity is also crucial in a fast-evolving market. Our business needs new ideas to make profit.

Diversity & Work-Life Balance

People in my team come from diverse backgrounds and possess different strengths. I cannot stress enough how much I have learned from the people I work with. There’s also a women’s network, which provides extra support to develop female leaders in the organisation.

The nature of the job is demanding and competitive but it is possible to balance your work and your life during the TDP. All things considered, it’s a really good career programme if you enjoy a challenging environment and you’re keen to achieve something early in your career.

Looking forward…

I believe trading is a place where I can develop a fulfilling long-term career while getting great exposure and developing an expertise along the way. Being an Asian, my current work experience in European markets also gives me a different perspective, which will be able a huge advantage if I wanted to contribute to our business in Asia.

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More inTrader Development Programme

Cindy DeLaney, General Manager

Cindy is passionate about diversity in trading and, as well as managing a global trading business, acts as a champion and mentor for many other women taking their first steps into the field. Read her advice here.