"The best part of working here is that in the university of life, this is a masterclass"

Mark Killien, an External Relations Adviser for Exploration at Shell

Mark explains “In fact, it’s a smorgasbord of masterclasses, which build expertise in a wide variety of roles and in diverse areas of the energy industry.”

Mark has always been open to learning from new experiences, and so the Shell culture, which cultivates this, has been a natural fit. So too has the challenge of the work.

“In External Relations some of our biggest challenges involve making sure we have positive impacts on the communities and wider societies where we work,” Mark says. “Transparency is key, and the company must perform in order to maintain its reputation as a responsible operator.”

From temp to the top

Before Shell, Mark was a Public Relations Adviser at the Cape Town City Ballet in South Africa. He had grand plans to travel and made it as far as London where he took on what was intended to be a temporary role in HR at Shell.

Mark recognised he had much to learn about the energy industry, but it was a challenge he approached with enthusiasm.  He hadn’t planned on a 14-year career, but he quickly found himself feeling at home at Shell. After two years, he moved back into a role in communications.

“I became increasingly aware of what our industry does,” he says.

"Delivery vans drive, trade happens, people work and families are fed all using the energy we find, extract and provide. I also became more aware of the realities that surround the industry, like the potential impacts on where we operate."

Mark Killien, an External Relations Adviser for Exploration at Shell

As Mark’s journey with Shell took him into exciting new areas, he found he was constantly faced with fresh challenges he could learn from. He learnt about marketing petroleum products across 23 different markets as Communications Manager for Shell’s global LPG business. Later, as part of the Communications team for the global Downstream business he was responsible for reputation management, where he learned how to develop deeper relationships between the company and its customers.

He took the same approach later in his career with academics, think tanks and NGOs while Head of Stakeholder Relations for Shell UK. His favourite role was working on mergers, acquisitions and divestments (MAD). “I always liked the acronym, MAD, and it really was pressurised. I loved the delicate nature of deal negotiation. It’s thrilling seeing the direct impact your work has on commercial success.”

The right thing

Having covered much of Shell’s businesses in his time, he says his most challenging role is his current one as External Relations Adviser for global Exploration.

“I work with people who make sure that the impact we have on society and environment around us is understood.”

He says this means his role is often to be the voice in the room that questions a course of action and ask whether it is the right thing to do.

“A great thing about Shell is we constantly ask ourselves that question.” Mark explains: “Bringing insights gleaned from understanding the world and people around us to the decision table is what External Relations is all about. A positive reputation is not achieved through spin, but through how you behave and what you deliver.”

Mark’s top 5 tips for a career of constant learning:

  • Be curious about why things are the way they are. Never assume.
  • Find the opportunity in everything.
  • Seek out challenges and keep raising the bar.
  • Know what you do matters – we all play an important part.
  • Do your best and do it with respect!

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