Undergraduate study

Gracie Curtis-Holsgrove graduated in 2015 with First Class Honours Master’s Degree in Chemistry. Find out what happened next.

Where are you now?

The company I am currently working for is Shell Global Solutions.  I’m based in Amsterdam but travel all over the world. As a Flow Assurance Engineer, I’m responsible for ensuring that the fluids in the pipeline - gas or oil - flow effectively from the reservoir to the surface processing plant, without any barriers, like waxes.

Recently I was offered a role extra to that as a business advisor, so now I am working a lot with our VP Upstream Engineering for Projects and Technology. That includes less technical and more people/high level management skills – a good career opportunity for learning people management skills as well as networking at a higher level.

 In addition to that, next year I will take on a new role as a Flow assurance engineer in a multidisciplinary team, in supporting non-operated ventures (assets) in my region. For this region that’s mostly Khazakhstan, Kashagan and Karachaganak, which should be really fun, and I get to broaden my range of engineering skills, becoming more of a process engineer with a specialty in flow assurance.

How did you get there?

I did a placement year in this same team, here in Amsterdam, as part of my degree.  During my placement, they invited me to become one of their assessed interns – I was younger than the European graduates that usually undertake these roles, but they made an exception for me! 

The internship led to a permanent position when I graduated.   I also did a few unpaid summer placements before University:  I did a week at Shell in Ellesmere Port in 2008, 2 weeks at Sheffield Forgemasters in 2009 and 1 week at Brocklesby Ltd in 2010.  I think it’s important to get as much practical work experience as you can to improve your employment prospects.

What do you love about your job?

It’s well paid. Graduates in this type of role at Shell typically earn 50,000 EUR (approx £37K) in their first year and there are guaranteed increments of 10% per annum while you’re training. Shell provide lots of additional benefits like on-site gyms, healthcare, and that type of thing. I have the opportunity to travel a lot, from seeing how my solutions are implicated in places like Brunei and Gabon, to training courses held in Norway and Houston. I also enjoy the multi-cultural working environment: my colleagues are from all over the world and it’s great to work with people who are motivated and enthusiastic about what they do.

What made you choose to study at Loughborough?

When it came to choosing a university, aside from considerations about the course content, I knew I didn’t want a city-based campus as I didn’t want to get too distracted from my studies! My preference was for somewhere close to the countryside, but still within easy access of a city if I wanted it. Loughborough’s green campus appealed to me, yet it was only 30 minutes away from the cities of Nottingham or Leicester. Initially, Loughborough wasn’t my first choice, but after my visit, the location, combined with the course on offer and the staff that I’d met on the visit day, convinced me.

How has Loughborough shaped who you are?

When I first arrived at Loughborough as a student, I was very shy and doubted my own abilities - I didn’t feel ‘smart enough’ or that I deserved to be here, which seems an odd thing to say, but it was how I felt.  My personal tutor really helped build up my confidence and self-belief and I’m a very different person now to who I was then.  I’m confident and self-assured and actively seek out new opportunities and challenges. 

What skills have you taken from your study into your career?

Although I am now learning even more skills, my qualification from Loughborough gave my career a head startdue to the modules I studied such as radiochemistry, advanced physical chemistry, environmental chemistry, and maths for chemists. I’m the only member in my team with a non-engineering based background, giving me a unique perspective on the work we do.

If you were to give one piece of advice to a new student joining Loughborough University, what would it be?

It would be to get more involved with the learning experience from the outset.  At first, I was reluctant to ask questions if I wasn’t sure about something on my course. But once I asked for support and advice, I made huge strides in my degree.  I just wished I’d done this earlier!

Where do you see yourself in the future?

I’m really happy at Shell and could see myself staying here for a while. They’re a great company to work for and really look after their employeesPotentially, I could explore other roles such as geo-chemistry or reservoir engineering - working within such a large organisation means there are many diverse opportunities, so I should never be short of a new challenge!

Photo: Gracie (right) with her manager Menno van Dijk at a gas well in Hardberg, the Netherlands