Sheida Khajavi

Sheida Khajavi

Name: Sheida Khajavi

Job title: Oil Markets Analyst

Company: Shell

Country: The Netherlands
A Levels: Maths, chemistry, physics, biology
University: Delft University, the Netherlands

I didn’t want to be a chemical engineer when I was growing up – I wanted to be an astronaut! As I got older that changed but I maintained my interest in science.

My school in the Netherlands followed the UK education system. So having enjoyed maths and science at GCSE, I opted to study maths, biology, chemistry and physics at A-level.

My dad was a chemistry professor so I knew a little about chemical engineering already. We talked about it as a career path and, whilst I didn’t know at that stage whether it was something I would want to do, I was lucky enough to know more about it than many other students of a similar age because of my parents.

School assessment shows up chemical engineering

In my last year at school, I took part in a career assessment which helps students better understand which careers might suit them best, based on their current interests and skills. Chemical engineering came up as an option for me and that helped influence my decision to study the subject at university.

Chemical engineering appealed to me because it included both maths and the sciences without being too specialised. I thought that a degree in chemical engineering would serve me well in the future and, having taken the time to talk to chemical engineering graduates, I also knew it was a degree course that opened all sorts of doors and would also increase my chances of getting to travel as part of my work.

Lots of opportunity

The other thing that impressed me about studying chemical engineering was the diverse range of career options open to graduates. Quite simply, you don’t have to be a chemical engineer if you study chemical engineering.

I had offers from lots of good universities all over the world but opted to stay in the Netherlands and study at
Delft . The chemical engineering course there is widely considered as one of the best in the world and is accredited by IChemE, so I chose to stay on at Delft to complete my Masters and PhD too.

Working at Shell

After graduating I looked at investment banks and some of the major consultancy companies and was fortunate to have several offers on the table. In the end, I opted to stick with chemical engineering because I enjoyed it and knew that I would be able to put my technical expertise to good use.

I worked as a consultant at
Shell and was responsible for finding ways to maximise profits across various business units.

I also did some work with external companies on behalf of
Shell , working on 3-6 month projects. In that role, it is important to be able to understand the needs of the customer quickly and propose efficient, cost-effective solutions to their problems. After two years, I joined Shell ’s strategy group which led me to my current role as an oil markets analyst, a truly enjoyable experience.

The days are long – they can be anything from 8 to 14 hours per day so it’s very different to my previous role! But I really enjoy my work now and I’ve gone from being required to understand the needs of people to understanding how markets operate.

If you’re reading this, you obviously already have an interest in chemical engineering. My advice would be to do lots of research about the best places to study and the sort of jobs you might want to do at the end of your studies.

Chemical engineering is a really exciting subject and there are many different aspects to it. It’s not just about the sciences, you need to be analytical too and there is lots of variety within the profession. Just about everything we see and touch throughout our lives has at some point, been touched by chemical engineering.