Alexander, Lead Distillate Product Trading Operator, Phillips 66

  • Case Study - Alex Wilson


    Chemistry with Industrial Experience (MSci 2009)

    Lead Distillate Product Trading Operator, Phillips 66

Since leaving Bristol…

After graduating, I worked for a small company that was in the pet/veterinary market and ran a small team in their veterinary division. I then moved to London when I was offered a job working as a Junior Analyst for a massive oil, gas & power company, ConocoPhillips (now Phillips 66). Within 10 months I was promoted to Lead Marine Finance & Performance Analyst, monitoring the financial performance of all our vessels across the globe.

During this time I was nominated to attend, and passed with high marks, the in-house 'Trader Selection Process' - something that the company test you with to see if you could become a trader in the future. After this I was again promoted after about a year into Clean Products Finance & Performance Analyst (Clean Products covers Diesel/Gasoline/Jet fuels/LPG/chemicals).

After about 8 months in this role, I applied for a Trading Operator role. I beat off about 20 other applicants to become a Heavy/Fuel Oil Trading Operator - something I had wanted for a long time - a highly prestigious role. I was also the youngest operator on the team.  Having worked on the Heavy/Fuel Oil desk for 8 months, I was then asked to take on my current role, Lead Distillate Barge Trading Operator.

I had no idea what I wanted to do after university - a blessing and a curse.  Most employers want an individual with an open mind to take anything on, but not too open that they cannot focus! Remember that with whatever role you look at, even if it does not seem the perfect one to start with, it is so much easier to move from one role to another once you are in a company, rather than applying 'from the outside'.  So do not be afraid to view roles as stepping stones to better things, but make sure you put 100%+ effort into them so that people see your potential.

In my current job…

My role is based around operating all barge/tank activity for my distillate (Diesel/Gasoil/Jet) traders (I support a few).  I am the key contact for all distillate barge movements around ARA (Amsterdam/Rotterdam/Antwerp).  I also do some vessel operations with imports/exports all over Europe.

Operations is a great role - we are basically the traders' 'right-hand man' and so we get involved in all of their trading decisions.  However, our role is so much more varied.  I am basically the link that ties our refineries, storage tanks, inspectors, marine teams, other company operators, risk/finance/credit/compliance and market analysis teams together.

In the short term I hope to become a Junior Trader.  But I love my current role, so it is a case of building up my knowledge and skills to become a trader.  Some of my colleagues have been operators for 30 years and they are still learning and adapting to market changes every day.

In the long term I hope to get into investment in renewable energy, either via a private equity firm or a smaller start up company.  I have already worked for a private equity company and any company investing in renewable energy or energy management would interest me.  Always keeping an open mind!

Having a UoB degree…

My current position does use some of the specific technical knowledge from my degree, as I work on oil 'blends' using additives and other grades of oil.  So I am able to put my chemical knowledge to some good use!  However, the problem solving skills and logic techniques that I learnt at UoB have proved the most valuable.  A degree is a requirement to work in my position (or for my company) and having a degree from UoB is a massive help in securing an interview as people know it is a top university.  I have built a huge number of contacts on top of my university contacts, but the people I met at UoB are the core group of people whom I rely upon for advice and help, and I wouldn't be the same person without them.


The tip I would give to current students when applying for jobs is to apply for as many jobs as possible that interest you, but make sure you put as much time and effort into each application.  Be enthusiastic! The first job you get after university will not necessarily be your dream job, but it will put you on the path to getting there.  Be patient and always be on time and willing to learn things.  Finally, there is no such thing as 'over-networking', so always be keen to help and meet new people; impress them and you never know where it will lead....