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  • Role: Caspian Controls Adviser
  • University: Queen Mary London
  • Degree: Economics

Samir Mehdi

The final year of university is a hectic and often traumatic period, so to couple this with a search to find your ideal graduate position is no mean feat. Having chosen to pursue a degree in Economics, several possible career paths awaited, most notably a career in the investment banking world or in the wider financial sector.

Banking wasn’t for me

Proceeding through the recruitment process of investment banks, I promptly realised that that industry was not as well suited to me as first thought, which is why I elected to pursue financial roles in companies where finance was not the predominant business activity.

Finance jobs in industry

Assessing the various industries along with my personal interest in commodity markets, ExxonMobil, perched at the top of the ever-important Oil and Gas sector, was an obvious choice. The graduate programme not only delivers quality on-the-job training but also the support needed to attain professional qualifications as well as a uniquely designed course at the world-renowned London Business School.

Three years on, I still thoroughly enjoy my work and am striving towards achieving the CIMA qualification through the support of the company. Whilst my first day seems a distant memory, continuous development and new challenges are always on the agenda.

As you will work day in, day out with your colleagues, it is critical that you fit in well with their work environment. Meeting various employees throughout the recruitment process made me realise the calibre of employee that the firm was after. It goes without saying that this is an atmosphere that most would relish being part of.

The first assignment

Highlighted throughout the recruitment process was the amount of responsibility you’d be given from day one. This certainly proved to be the case for me. Whilst some graduate schemes opt for training before commencement of duties, my training was on the job and started from the moment I walked through the doors. Thankfully, structured job handovers and exposure to systems quickly got me up and running.

Continuous training throughout your career certainly helps, be it in the form of courses across Europe, London Business School modules, or on-the-job training. Studying towards CIMA has consolidated my understanding of processes by backing up day to day activities with background knowledge.

I joined the Caspian/Russia Controllers group which covers areas that include Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and also Sakhalin in Russia. Whilst somewhat ‘traditional’ resources in ‘traditional’ areas are heading towards the end of their life-cycles, more ‘exotic’ locations are the order of the day and few more so than Azerbaijan, the country related to my first role.

As the Azerbaijan Cost Analyst, I was soon involved in various aspects of the business, ranging from dealing with the logistical difficulties of oil production from a land-locked sea to the more routine, day to day activities of general and financial accounting. Exposure to the business side of operations is certainly an aspect I was keen to explore. Working closely alongside both production managers in the UK and in Baku (Azerbaijan) undoubtedly achieved this goal.

There is always a great sense of achievement when your opinion is sought by those with vastly greater experience.

Another key activity is year end financial reporting which is naturally something closely looked at within the company and by the wider global community, so to be involved with this within six months of joining the company was certainly a challenging task. Thankfully, due to an extensive training course in Budapest and through the knowledge and experience of colleagues, this process went smoothly.

Career progression

The company has a strong development programme based on individuals’ performance, ability, potential and business need, and also where feasible employees’ personal aspirations. Now that all business service departments are located in our UK head office, cross-functional job moves are increasingly available and bring with them an opportunity to experience various parts of the business other than just Controllers.

Within 12 months of my first role I had my first job rotation, albeit within the Azerbaijan reporting unit. As the Azerbaijan Revenue Analyst, I was routinely involved with multi-million dollar crude sales, liaising closely with other departments and companies and also producing documents not only for internal requirements, but also as required by the Azerbaijan Government.

As well as usual monthly, quarterly and annual activities, there is often project-based work, such as preparatory work ahead of audits both in the UK and venture offices.

It is for this reason that I went on my first visit to Baku where I was involved in audit-related work as well as an opportunity to see some of the delights of the city. Working with people in several locations worldwide gives you a sense of how global and diverse the company’s operations are and therefore the opportunities available.

My third and current role has taken me away from the traditional accounting aspects of working within Controllers and I am currently working on Internal Controls. Controls are fundamental to the base upon which global organisations are built and to be working in this area so early in my career is a fantastic opportunity to develop the breadth and depth of skills required to be successful. The day to day activities are varied as can be, ranging from participating in joint venture audits to providing advice and guidance to the business line group.

My current focus has been on leading internal assessments in the UK and I will shortly be travelling to Atyrau in Kazakhstan to help conduct an internal assessment of our offices there.

What’s to come?

Who knows…One of the greatest aspects of working for a multinational company in such a fascinating industry is that opportunities continue to arise all over the globe. International opportunities are therefore always a possibility.

In the near future I hope to finish my CIMA qualification and who’s to say what doors may open. If my short experiences have taught me anything, it is that you should unquestionably be prepared for any eventuality. One thing is for sure, this has and will continue to be an exciting, fast-paced and evolving environment that I strive to be a part of.

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