Finlay wanted to work on the most interesting engineering projects in the world. So far, he hasn’t been disappointed and is working on some challenging projects he would have never thought possible.

"The big question for all fourth year students was ‘where am I going to get the most interesting and challenging projects to work on?"

Finlay McPhail

Learning on the job

It’s not as if you are totally thrown in at the deep end, though. There’s an onboarding period and during those first few months I completed two courses, Introduction to Shell and Introduction to the Upstream Business, which is a bit like engineering boot camp.

It’s two weeks of face-to-face training including a weekend in the Ardennes learning about leadership skills and about yourself, how to work in a team and some petroleum industry fundamentals.

It was so valuable because university is very theoretical and while you may do group projects you don’t actually learn much about how to work as a team in the same depth. 

I have a number of competencies to achieve during my two years on the programme, which I’ll complete through further courses. For example, I recently completed an external course on offshore structure hydrodynamics.

Knowing what you need to do requires quite a lot of personal steer, plus the initiative to talk to your line manager. It’s a very organic approach and allows people to develop their own path.

You’ve got to roll with it…

Once you’ve completed the onboarding process things start to pick up and get busy. Sometimes unexpected things happen that you have to just run with. For example, I went to South Korea just a few months after starting the programme. It was all part of my work, shadowing some of the more senior engineers. 

My regular base was in Rijswijk, where I worked primarily on FLNG (Floating Liquefied Natural Gas) projects across three major parts of the business: Shell Trading and Shipping, which is based in London; the project team sitting in Paris; and my team in the Netherlands. I often travel between the three places; which sometimes leaves me wondering ‘what groceries do I buy this week?’ 

But after four years at university in London, I wanted a change. Moving to the Netherlands was a big change, but Shell helped me find accommodation and I’ve had a lot of support from management. 

Looking to the future

It’s interesting to see where my friends with similar qualifications have ended up. I feel I made the right move applying to Shell’s Graduate Programme and that there’s a huge amount of potential to go a long way.”

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