Rising Stars Winner Q&A

Ross O’Brien, Executive Assistant – Executive Office HR, BP

2018 Winner – Part of the Rising Stars Winner Q&A, with Sarah Casey, Project Director, World Refining Association

Published on 16th July 2020

How has the lockdown affected your daily work routine?

The lockdown came as a sudden change. I’ve always worked at operating sites, so working from home has been different and strange. The two big changes to my routine have been not seeing people and missing my morning gym. I miss seeing people in person and I’ve realised how much energy I get from them!

Can you tell us about your current role at BP? How did you end up there and what is your favourite thing about the role?

For a couple of years, I had been working on a side project to establish BP’s purpose. Through this project, I got to know one of our executives well. At the end of 2019, I was finishing an assignment in Germany and he reached out to see if I would apply to join his team. I jumped at the chance! Being an Executive Assistant is a completely different role, but so far I’m loving it. The best parts are the insights, learning how a large company is run at the top and spending time around amazing people. Every day I learn something new.

What are you most excited about regarding the future of BP?

February 12th 2020. That was a special day for me. We announced our new purpose and also an ambition to become net zero. This is why I studied engineering and joined the industry in the first place. It’s the challenge of our generation and we can’t fail. I’m so glad that I’m part of a company that is now directly part of the solution. No turning back.

What technology do you think has the most potential for the future of refining? CCUS, hydrogen, biofuels or chemical recycling?

For me, technology offers so many solutions. There are a couple that I have my eye on for our industry. I may be biased, but I believe 3D printing has a huge potential to shift how we build and maintain our assets. I also see that digital technologies can take us to the next level. We recently hired a new data scientist that is off the charts (!) and when I spoke to her over lunch, she helped me to understand the opportunities we have with data. There is a huge amount of waste in our industry currently – this will change dramatically as we continue to “hack” our assets.

What would you say is the biggest challenge for downstream at the moment?

Downstream is facing huge societal pressure. It is understandable for many reasons – we need to get better. Society doesn’t value the Downstream very highly, which you can see in market valuations compared to other technology companies like Tesla. This brings challenges for securing investment and more importantly, brilliant talent.

What do you think the young engineers of today will say to our 2020 Rising Stars question? (A Day in the Life of a 2050 Process Engineer: How would you revitalise the downstream sector for a role in the energy transition)

I would like to see them embracing the future and not trying to polish the past. I reckon technology, plastic waste and carbon will feature high on the agenda. I’m excited to see the entrants this year.

What is your favourite book?

Great question – I love reading! I’m fascinated by people throughout history that have achieved great things. Success, as a topic, intrigues me greatly. Malcolm Gladwell wrote a book called “Outliers”. I reference it repeatedly and use it as a reminder that success is absolutely a balance between nature and nurture – but more is in your control than you may think.


If you're interested in hearing more from Ross, read this previous interview where he shares how the experience was for him onsite in Cannes, how it benefited his career, as well as tips for future nominees.

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