Chery Da Costa—From Strength To Strength (Page 1 of 2) 1 Oct 2011

Cheryl Da Costa was recently one of few graduates successful in gaining a position in BHP Billiton's graduate program. She talks to SPE News about her experiences both off and on site.

What attracted you to petroleum engineering?

CDC: I originally studied Chemical Engineering and started work as a Process Engineer in 2009. However, I found working at an oil refinery a bit restrictive given that I wanted the option to work overseas. Moving into petroleum engineering seemed to be the best alternative as the upstream oil and gas profession is such an expanding industry, both in Australia and overseas. There appeared to be a lot of opportunities for a new engineer in a variety of different areas which was a more encouraging prospect compared to my previous role that did not provide as much scope for development.

Where are you from originally?

CDC: My father was born in mainland Tanzania and my mother was born in Zanzibar. They migrated to California in 1980 and then to Australia in 1985. I was born in Victoria, not nearly as exotic. I studied over east as well, a Chemical Engineering and Business Management double degree at RMIT University (in Melbourne).

What was it like moving for work?

CDC: I was actually very lucky to have already completed a three-month student vacation work program in Western Australia during the summer of 2008-2009. This made the move much less daunting as I already had a network of friends to help with the transition. The weather was also a definite perk.

What's your current position and what activities do you engage in?

CDC: I was hired as a Graduate Reservoir Engineer and I work in the Subsurface Team at BHP Billiton Petroleum. I am currently completing a six month rotation in an offshore production facility, which, as a new graduate, has been a fantastic opportunity. I provide engineering support to the offshore operations team whilst working with Perth office-based engineers to optimise production. I also assist with maintaining the models we use in order to provide production forecasts on a monthly basis.

What was the recruitment process like?

CDC: The recruitment process was very time consuming as is typical with most oil and gas companies. There were quite a few stages to complete and I was completely sure I was out of the running at the end of each and every one of them. I flew to Perth for my final interview and was a complete nervous wreck; however, the interviewers were lovely. There was no long waiting period between the final stage interview and the release of employment offers, so the phone call from Human Resources a couple of days later was a nice surprise.

What were the difficulties you faced at the start?

CDC: Besides tackling the move interstate, one the biggest difficulties that I faced at the start was my lack of a petroleum engineering background. Though I knew the basics from my chemical engineering degree, a lot of the theory was unique, resulting in a very steep learning curve. Though I have had the opportunity to learn both on the job as well as through various training courses, and I am hoping to complete a Masters in Petroleum Engineering in the near future.