What is your current job title and area of responsibility?
My job today is working as the Senior Business Architect for Manufacturing. So effectively I am the chief IT architect for our global refining and petrochemicals businesses. It’s all about setting the strategy and the roadmap for how we are going to invest in technology in our refining and petrochemicals facilities across the world. The whole modernisation, digitalisation, transformation of BP is obviously fundamental to that.
How did your early career develop?
I joined BP in 1997 as part of the quartz apprenticeship programme at BP Hull and trained as an instrument technician, which involved working on the devices and systems which monitor and control our plant operations safely and reliably.
What has been the biggest challenge you have had to overcome in your career?
In October of 1999 at the age of 20, I was hit by a car after taking my bike out on a Sunday afternoon. A car travelling in the opposite direction on a national speed limit road cut across my path and hit me nearly head on. The result of the collision was devastating, leaving me with 18 fractures and several shattered bones. My left dominant arm was ripped off and my left leg was also very seriously injured.
I spent two months in hospital and had numerous surgeries to put my body back together, although much of the damage, particularly to my left arm was so severe that it would leave me with life changing injuries.
What is BP’s approach to disability; how have they helped you do well at work?
Working with my line manager, HR and occupation health, I returned to work on light duties after leaving hospital and a further 3 months of recovery and rehabilitation. I received a massive amount of support from colleagues and friends at BP and without this, I do not know how I would have coped.
It was clear that becoming an instrument technician with only one working arm would not be entirely practical, but by making a relatively small adjustment – to specialise further into analyser systems, which require less bi-manual dexterity – I was able to complete the apprenticeship and take up a substantive role working the analyser maintenance team. When I look back at my career so far, having worked globally in Petrochemicals, Refining and Upstream, I do not think that my disabilities have prevented me from reaching my potential. For the vast majority of my time in BP, having a disability has not made me feel disabled.
Tell us about a personal strength you have developed, as a result of your disability. How has your plus helped you in your career?
At a very practical level when you only have one working arm, this makes things challenging. But I have always been quite a logical person and this has given me patience and determination. A lot of the work is challenging. Doing that in a measured way, with patience, playing a long game, if you like, are things I consider to be my strengths.
I would also say humility: it took me 10 years to come to terms with the fact that I have a disability, and more importantly the fact that having a disability does not make me disabled. There’s a distinction between having a disability and being disabled. Thankfully I very seldom felt disabled, certainly at BP. I mean humility in the sense that it really brings home to me that it’s ok to recognise that we all have allowable weaknesses in some areas and actually it is about focusing on strengths. We all bring to work lots of different strengths and weaknesses. You need to be mindful of all of them.
Pretty much everyone comes to work to do a good job. So it makes me much more mindful of focusing on people’s strengths rather than making judgements about my perceptions of people’s weaknesses.
What advice would you give a student with a similar disability, who wants to pursue a career in the field you work in?
I would say focus on your passion and your strengths and what you actually want to do. If you see that there is a role within BP that you think you have the capabilities to do, don’t allow any disability or any factor to influence you and stop you from applying. Focus on your ability and your aptitude for the position you are applying to. And have a conversation, because I think we are really open to adjustments so that people can be successful.