Over the summer, three BHP students interned with Shell Oil Company in Houston. Catherine King, BHP & MIS ’15, and Aarayaman Singhal, BHP, MIS & Plan II ’15, were IT Analyst Interns and Erin Sun, BHP & MIS ’15, was a Data Management Intern under the Shell Exploration & Production Company. We asked the trio about their experience at Shell.
What steps did you take to secure your internship?
Catherine: I applied through OCR by submitting a cover letter and resume. The next step was to complete a two part assessment: a Competency Based Questionnaire and a Cognitive assessment with a decision making task and a problem solving task. Once those assessments were completed, a phone interview was required to complete the application process.
Erin: I was studying abroad when I applied to this position in the fall semester through OCR. It was one of the few positions that I was interested in and didn’t require an on-campus interview. I dropped my resume for a Shell IT internship through OCR and submitted an application on their website as well.
What were the responsibilities for this role?
Aaryaman: I was mostly creating a SharePoint website for my team. I also helped with other tasks around the office like updating our training materials and thinking about how to capture organizational knowledge.
Catherine: I had two deliverables for the summer. The first was to create a spreadsheet that summarized the contents of 5 databases and highlighted the gaps between the overlapping records. The second deliverable was to run a pilot with Shell’s Trading department to create action items with the focal points and work to resolve the data gaps.
Describe the culture within the organization.
Aaryaman: Shell has a very networking-oriented culture. If you want a specific job or role, you contact the person in that role and talk to them. Everyone is willing to take 30 minutes out of their day to meet with someone.
Catherine: The people at Shell are unbelievably nice. As a result the culture is honestly pretty laid back, granting its employees a lot of freedom and flexibility. Shell is such a huge, global company, that many of the teams, including mine, are virtual. The virtual nature of the company invites late night and early morning calls that can be taken from home if necessary. Work / life balance is a high priority at Shell. The company offers a 9/80 schedule—employees work 9 hours a day, so every other Friday is off!
What was most surprising or unexpected during your experience?
Catherine: The most surprising part of interning at Shell was realizing how much trust they put in the interns. Specifically, I had a supervisor who sits in London, and the rest of the team was virtual and did not sit in the Houston office. The team not only gave me full responsibility of the project with very little direction, they also never once asked how many hours I worked or questioned if I came in late because of an early morning call to India or Malaysia.
Erin: The most surprising part of my internship was experiencing office politics. Besides group projects, most of the work I’ve done at UT is managed by me and only affects me. However, my project at Shell concerned and would most likely affect the entire department. During my internship I saw how important communication skills were. Being able to ask the right questions and listen to conflicting opinions was an important part of my project. The biggest challenge was being able to convince people who have more experience and different opinions my point of view.
What advice would you offer your peers in the Honors Program about getting the most out of an internship?
Aaryaman: Don’t settle for assignments and tasks you’re given if you don’t find them interesting. Keep asking for and finding ways to do the work you want to do.
Catherine: Network, network, network. It really is worth it to have a 30-minute conversation with employees! I was able to set up a chat with Shell’s CIO and VP of Projects & Technology department to discuss my final presentation. At the end of the talk she offered to look over my slides and give me feedback!
How did you find your classes in the Business Honors Program at the university to be applicable during your internship?
Catherine: The most applicable courses to my internship this summer were BA 324H, MIS 301H, and OM 335H. My project required communication with six stakeholders in five different countries. I am very glad to have taken BA 324, a class that gave me the foundation to tailor conversations and emails to employees who embrace varying cultures. Secondly, I used excel for all of the summer, so the effort put into all the MIS 304 homeworks paid off! Lastly, OM was a huge help in understanding the processes and applications required to transport the oil up from the ground to the refineries, through factories, and ultimately to the retailers as efficiently as possible.
Erin: The classes I found that helped me the most were my MIS classes for the technical part when I used SQL and OM because I was looking at process improvement and some project management. I had to build many process flows during my project. Every class project I did at UT also helped to build time management skills, people skills, and helped me to become more detail-oriented, making sure that I have everything I need to reach my goal.
How did this organization ensure you got the most out of your internship experience?
Catherine: The Shell internship program is very developed, and gives interns many opportunities to see other parts of the business, outside of where the interns worked each day. For example, the IT interns were given the opportunity to see the Trading floor, hear presentations on the manufacturing processes, and a trip was scheduled to tour the Deer Park refinery!
Erin: My supervisor and mentor during my internship made sure that I was interested in my project. They made me feel comfortable speaking out and giving my opinion. I mainly used passive skills during my project to interview co-workers to get details about the data management process, but since I also wanted to use my technical skills, I was also given the task to develop reports using SQL. I got to experience both the functional and technical side of the department.
What are the most valuable lessons you gained from this internship?
Aaryaman: There are too many to list but if I had to choose one: Find ways to do the type of work you want to do so that you enjoy your work. No amount of money is worth spending 8-10 hours/day doing something you don’t enjoy.
Catherine: The most important part of an internship, I have found out, is to determine who you are and what you like as an employee. This could be anything from a startup company in a small town to realizing you like a larger company in a metropolitan city. Ultimately, my most valuable lesson was determining my own personal strengths and how they can benefit my future employer and myself.