24-year old Pratik Acharya is an operations critical telecommunications graduate at BP. As well as helping to maintain things like offshore platform comms, his role at the energy giant also involves keeping his team up to date with new engineering standards and technologies. The Student Engineer caught up with him to hear about his journey.
Hi Pratik. You’ve had quite an international upbringing. Can you tell us a little bit about it?
My life is a bit of a world tour! I was born in Gothenburg, but lived mainly in Stockholm, Sweden, for the first 12 years of my life. When I was 12, my dad accepted an expat role in Pakistan. Halfway through the five-year contract, there was a terrorist attack and all foreigners were advised to evacuate. My dad wanted to finish the contract, but for the safety of the family, the rest of us moved to Nepal. I did a year of my education there, before moving to boarding school in Thailand the following year. I did the International Baccalaureate (IB) in high school, after which I went to the UK for University. This was partly because I had been living outside of Sweden for so long, my English was better than my Swedish!
Why did you choose engineering and where did you study?
I completed an integrated master’s degree in Electronic Engineering at UCL, which was a four-year course.
As an engineer, my dad always had an influence on me. I was open to the sciences or economics, but after I did an aptitude test in school, it showed that I should do well if I pursued engineering or physics, so I went down that route.
I have always been quite analytical and logical and STEM plays to my strengths. It teaches you to think critically and helps you differentiate between what is based on real fact and what’s not backed up by credible scientific arguments.
Why did you choose to join BP?
When I was applying for internships, almost the “usual” route amongst my classmates was to apply for banks; engineers have the correct skillset. But I was always looking for a good work-life balance and wanted to do something different. I found that BP has its Supply & Trading division in Canary Wharf, so I applied for a Technology role there, but the position went to someone else after the final stage.
However, the door was not slammed shut. BP suggested that my degree was applicable to a telecoms role as well and wanted me to come for an interview the next day. I went on to complete my internship and got to know the team really well. I was so impressed by the work and how BP operates that I happily said yes when they offered me the job afterwards.
(Credit: BP via Flickr)
What’s it been like working for one of the big energy companies?
It is a big company and with that, comes great development opportunities and a greater number of options available. If you want to change your role then you can move around within the company. BP’s flexibility comes through in the work-life balance too. The work is very interesting, especially in telecoms. You may have more telecom design considerations to keep in mind designing for oil and gas compared to normal telecoms firms. I think that it makes the role even more exciting. And of course, it provides more opportunity for travel.
Can you tell us a bit more about your role at the company?
Starting from the beginning, I am a Graduate Operations Critical Telecommunications Challenger (graduate). I joined in September 2015, but the year before I also interned here for 11 weeks.
Currently, I am in the Upstream Engineering Centre, which is a centralised engineering team that provides support to BP projects and operations when they need them. We are also in charge of the writing and upkeep of engineering standards that apply to the entire Upstream business. We keep everyone up-to-date on the latest industry and internal standards based on new technological or legal requirements.
My role in Telecommunications is incredibly important because BP can’t run without communications. Imagine a BP offshore platform in the middle of nowhere. Having internal communications and communications with the shore makes activities much safer. Our importance is then heightened in an emergency; you need to have communications on deck so that everyone can evacuate safely and actions can be effectively coordinated.
BP’s Deepwater Gunashli platform in the Caspian Sea, offshore Azerbaijan
What’s been the best thing about working for BP, and what’s been the biggest challenge?
The highlight of my stay at BP has been the travel. Having travelled a lot in my childhood, I can get a bit restless staying in the same place for too long. I’ve been on international work travel now to Azerbaijan and Italy, and have potential trips to Egypt and the US planned for this year. The work in Rome, Italy, was especially rewarding as it involved testing telecom equipment for two weeks to make sure that the systems were compliant to our specifications and worked as per design. I learned a lot during that trip.
Given the size of BP, at the start, it was a little overwhelming, but my team and the company as a whole were really supportive, professionally and personally. I also initially struggled collaborating on big projects with people working in different time-zones. I may have lived in a few of them in my childhood, but I wasn’t as accustomed to working in them as I am now!
What advice do you have for other graduates considering a similar career path?
I would suggest that they to do an internship first, because it is a great way to test the waters. It allows you to meet the people that you are potentially going to be working with in the future.