After working as a Process Control Engineer with an electrical engineering degree from Louisiana State University, Cindy DeLaney moved from technical into commercial activities, and then trading, with Arco Chemical Company and Koch Industries. Since joining Shell 17 years ago as an experienced trader she has been working as a trader/trading manager and is now our Global Fuel Oil Trading Manager based in Houston.
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. She talked to us about her career path, how she balances her work with her family life and how she finds traders who are a good fit for her team.
Having studied electrical engineering at university – I was one of just six women to graduate from my course – I worked in Arco’s Chemical Plant in Channelview Texas. I started to become more interested in the planning and economics side of running the asset. I suppose it was this curiosity that eventually drew me into trading.
Did you always want to be a trader?
I never had a plan to be a trader. I didn’t know what a trader was. Now, I would never do anything else. And although I didn’t study business formally in college, I’ve always had excellent finance professionals in my career to support me. We have so much talent at Shell; you get the support you need.
Opening doors for other female traders
Whether we hire men or women, we want the best talent, with the goal of making profit. But that talent can come from an enormous diversity of backgrounds.
A lot of people – women, especially – think that to be a trader you need a business background. Some might think that geologists or engineers are not suited to trading—but that’s not the case.
I try to make time to visit sites and hold networking lunches with other women in the business and tell them about my experience. I’m one of the few female traders that started as a practicing engineer. I’m married. I have a child. I’ve been trading for 25 years. I think that having that visible contact with other women can make a big difference.
Why trading isn’t scary
Trading shouldn’t be a scary place. It is the one place that has almost total transparency: everything’s visible. You do a deal – it shows up in the P&L the next day. If you’re good at what you do, that’s what matters. People care about your contribution to the bottom line, not about your race or gender, which can be refreshing to some people. Success as a trader is perhaps less about networking and the luck of the draw of being assigned to the right projects than it is in other jobs.
I never felt discriminated against as a female trader. I was good at it: I knew how to make money, and this was recognized. As a trader, you earn your credibility internally and externally.
Why the TDP is a gift
When I started out in trading with ARCO and later Koch, they didn’t have a Trader Development Programme. At Koch they gave me a blank piece of paper. It was stressful because I didn’t entirely know what I was doing. I had to stumble and find my way into trading—it was by accident, really. I got lucky because it has turned out to be an extremely rewarding career. I find it hard to imagine doing anything else.
The TDP at Shell has been very successful in recruiting potential trader talent within the company. It helps to prepare traders to be better traders; to be part of a more systematic trading approach. In trading, for example, first impressions matter. Every trader has a brand; you’re representing your company to the outside market. Before you’re ready to trade, you have to get your toolbox full of tools. The TDP helps with that. When you’ve done the TDP, that toolbox isn’t full but it’s full enough to start that journey; you’re better prepared than you would be without it.
Shell has a great set of assets, very talented traders and more information than any trader could dream to have access too; what an amazing place to be a trader. That’s why I say to people that the TDP is a gift! Whether it’s in banking, investment houses… there simply aren’t many trading programmes like this one.
What Cindy looks for when hiring traders
I look for inherent curiosity, passion and humility. You can never think you can outsmart others or the market; we don’t want that reputation for Shell traders. And, the market is always smarter than you.
I tell my team that we’re students of the market. You need to wake up every day looking forward to learning more and constantly studying the market.
Are people skills important?
Hugely. The longer you’re in trading, the more your network grows and experience of trading through different market conditions. That’s why your personal brand is important; it follows you wherever you go. Yes, people trade with Shell but, above all, people trade with people.
People have to respond to you, even if they’re not working directly for you. The operations teams that support trading work 24-7. They can choose to pick up the phone at 2am in the morning or not – that’s where your people skills and approach to working with others can make a big difference to the outcome.
Learning to read the market
The market is always converging to efficiency – because that’s the market. You’re always reinventing; running up that hill – everybody has to have a little bit of that in their DNA.
Over time, you see different market cycles, market trends and connections in the world that helps you to be more strategic. The connection between what Trump is doing and what that does to the dollar vs the Euro; policies that might impact gas vs oil... It’s huge but you learn to read it.
Shell’s culture and work-life balance
I have men and women in my team that have families. The wonderful thing about Shell trading is that you are such a team. If you need to take time off, somebody’s there to cover you. I’ve been able to have a vigorous, challenging career and also balance that with a great family life with my husband and son.
I’m naturally a high-energy person and I never think I have all the answers so it can feel that there are never enough hours in the day! Actually, the support that you get here for work-life balance is much better than other places I’ve worked; it’s in the Shell culture.
What I love about Shell trading more than anywhere I’ve worked before is this true team concept. You succeed and fail together. Your teammates become like your brothers and sisters. The quality of people and knowledge surrounding you is incredible.
Shell is both profit and employee oriented. We have extremely high standards for ethics and professionalism, which makes me proud to be a Shell team member.