Strategy Analyst Intern - Gas, Renewables & Power at TotalEnergies
MSc Advanced Chemical Engineering and Energy
Lynda talks more about her role on Careers Network's podcast: Career Talk.
Please describe your current role and the journey you took to get there.
I am currently undertaking a 6-month end-of-studies internship in the Gas, Renewables & Power (GRP) Department of TotalEnergies. The objective of this department is to analyse and develop various projects aiming at supporting the energy transition. These projects involve different technologies such as renewables (wind and solar), biomethane, hydrogen, liquefied natural gas, etc. I am part of the Strategy and Intelligence Unit of GRP which is the central strategy team overseeing everything related to governance and monitoring of investment projects. My role consists in performing strategic analyses on various electricity markets (France, Belgium, Spain, UK, Texas…). In these analyses, I consider various parameters such as the energy mix, the regulatory framework, the existing interconnections, the market dynamics, the electricity pricing, etc. I also benchmark the major players (hence TotalEnergies’ competitors) on these markets by analysing their business models, their production portfolio, their volume sales, their customer portfolio (B2B or B2C), their sales strategy i.e., what percentage of the electricity they produce is linked to long-term contracts and what percentage is sold on the spot market (a market where electricity is traded for immediate delivery, prices can be quite volatile on that market). Long-term contracts are usually used by electricity producers to hedge against prices volatility. These analyses aim at both defining a strategic positioning of TotalEnergies on these different markets and directing GRP’s long-term investments.
The journey I took to get there…
My journey started with a Bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering at the University of Wolverhampton, which provided me with the necessary technical knowledge and skills in thermodynamics, fluid mechanics, design of processes, environmental engineering, mathematical modelling, mass and energy balances, to name but a few. After graduating, I entered the University of Birmingham to study a Master of Science (MSc), still in Chemical Engineering but with a specialisation in Energy as I had developed a keen interest in climate issues and the energy transition. Thanks to this MSc, I gained knowledge of a wide range of technologies such as renewables, electricity, gas, hydrogen, energy storage, etc. Towards the end of this MSc, I applied for the “Energy Economics and Sustainable Development” Masters Programme at the University of Grenoble Alpes. This choice of specialisation took root in an observation I had made during my engineering studies: technical and technological feasibility does not necessarily guarantee the effective entry of a technology on the market for regulatory, economic, or even geopolitical reasons. As an engineering student, very technical oriented, I wanted to better understand the dynamics and functioning of that market. Thus, I started to read more articles about such topics in order to satisfy my curiosity and my need for understanding. Then, I thought that it would be interesting to get the necessary knowledge at University in due form. I left the UK for France as higher studies are much for affordable there.
The Energy Economics Programme I am currently pursuing requires a 4 to 6-month mandatory internship after spending 6 months of in-person lectures at University (as most French Masters Programmes do). Therefore, from the beginning of the academic year (September 2021), I had been applying for different intern positions, went through many interview processes, and finally got three offers. I chose to accept TotalEnergies’ offer as the role and associated duties were the most aligned with my career plans.
Did you know what you wanted to do before you started University? If yes, please provide details
Before I started University, I had a very vague idea of what I wanted to do. A few months before graduating from high school, I finally settled on architecture and therefore applied for the prestigious National School of Architecture of Rabat (Morocco). However, a few weeks after receiving an admission offer from that Architecture School, I was also offered the opportunity to study Chemical Engineering at a UK University, thanks to a scholarship granted by my country’s Government. I had never applied for that scholarship, but the outstanding results I had obtained at the final high school exam made me eligible and I was notified that my profile had been selected. After a rather short period of reflection, I accepted the scholarship offer and flied to the UK, where I graduated from the University of Wolverhampton with a BEng (Hons) Chemical Engineering. Following that graduation, I was accepted into the MSc Chemical Engineering and Energy delivered at the prestigious University of Birmingham. I chose that programme because I had developed a keen interest in both climate and energy-related issues over the course of my undergraduate studies but did not want to completely shift away from the chemical engineering world at the time.
Did you have any work experience before your graduated? If so, please describe in detail.
Yes, I had some work experience before I graduated.
In 2019, I interned in the Catalytic Reforming Unit of Abidjan refinery (Ivory Coast) for 3 months. I was in charge for collecting and analysing various data related to different feed parameters (such as pressure, temperature, octane number, etc.) that could affect the performance of the reactors in the Catalytic Reforming Unit and subsequently the final product quality. My analysis enabled me to write a report proposing different alternatives and solutions for optimising the results of that Unit. Thanks to this experience, I am able to deliver high quality process monitoring, drive reliability and predictability through effective unit monitoring. Besides, I can provide prompt communication of process variables shifting in an unexpected direction to prevent safety issues as well as prompt technical input and high-quality troubleshooting on daily optimisation and constraints management. I possess proven problem-solving, communication, analytical, time management, interpersonal, pressure handling, and organisational skills.
In addition to that, I had the opportunity to participate in the Masters Campus-Based Team Internship during my time at the University of Birmingham. My team and I were a group of engineering students enrolled in different Masters Programmes at the University of Birmingham. During 3 months, we worked on a technically and economically viable engineering solution aiming at solving a challenge faced by Severn Trent, a British water company. The objective was to help improve Severn Trent’s sustainability by reducing the energy consumption and emissions of the ammonia recovery unit of Severn Trent’s Birmingham wastewater treatment plant. I was the team leader and therefore had to supervise the work of my team, define and distribute the tasks and provide guidance, chair meetings, and maintain the team's cohesion and communication. At the end of our internship, my team and I suggested the implementation of a diverted digestate liquor system coupled with biomethane in a solid oxide fuel cell system. The solution was presented in the form of a pitch presentation in front of a panel of engineers from Severn Trent and University of Birmingham staff.
What do you love most about your role?
The thing I love the most about my role is the feeling to be contributing to something big and meaningful: projects that help support the energy transition and the shift away from fossil fuels, within a company that is historically known for being fossil-fuel oriented. We are operating a change and I feel proud of it.
What is most challenging about your role?
I believe that the most challenging thing about my role is the fact that the energy world is constantly changing as it strongly depends on geopolitics. It is important to stay constantly updated. Yet, I love this.
Another challenge which is not directly related to my role is the corporate life which I believe is mainly designed for extroverted people. As an introvert person, I find it quite challenging to constantly go through meetings, but also group breakfasts, group lunches, after works (which are not mandatory but yet, important for me to integrate into the company life). However, it is a good exercise to get out of my comfort zone and I am increasingly getting used to this.
Have you faced any key challenges during your career journey, if so, how did you overcome them?
I have not faced any major challenges in my career journey. I certainly did face numerous rejections. However, these, I believe, are part of the process. No one escapes. Besides, I can say that they definitely helped me sharpen my ability to tailor my CV and cover letter to each opportunity, as well as better prepare for interviews.
How did your time at Birmingham help you prepare for this role?
As previously stated, the University of Birmingham is a prestigious University whose name only is a key that opens many doors. I particularly noticed this during some interviews I was invited to. However, in addition to that, I also benefitted from the Masters Campus-Based Team Internship I participated in during my time at UoB. I believe this experience strengthens my curriculum not only in terms of professional experience, but also in terms of soft and transferable skills. It definitely is a big addition to my CV.
What are your career plans for the future?
As regards my career plans, in the medium term, I intend to acquire some additional experience as an a chemical and energy engineer specialised in energy markets, by joining a company operating in the field of energy such as TotalEnergies or EDF, for example. I have a particular interest in electricity markets as well as renewable gas markets such as biomethane or hydrogen. My objective is to contribute to a better implementation of low-carbon technologies in energy markets through strategic analyses, but also to participate in a better development of projects aimed at supporting the energy transition.
What advice would you give to students who are interested in getting into your industry or role, or if they’re unsure what they want to do?
When applying, make sure you highlight your passion for the role as well as your soft and transferable skills even if you have no experience. Highlight how your degree or personal skills will be valuable for the company. Optimise your use of LinkedIn by following and/or connecting with people doing those jobs you have an interest in. Do not hesitate to message them. Start reading a lot. If you don’t like reading and going through massive documents and articles, you will not like this role. Similarly, keep on sharpening your Excel and VBA skills which are really important to analyse various energy market data as an analyst. Make sure you keep on developing your critical thinking and analytical skills which I think might already be quite good if you went through engineering studies. As regards my current role, feel free to drop me a text on LinkedIn if you’d like @Lynda Koffi. I’d be happy to answer any question you may have that I have not covered here.
What would be your key piece of career advice for a student just entering the employment market?
It’s tough out there. It will be easier for some of you, but harder for others, yet, hold tight. Your degree (particularly from the University of Birmingham) is a springboard like no other, but it certainly does not guarantee that every single door will open to you straight away. You have all the resources and strengths within you. Never doubt that. The moment you start doubting, you start failing. Be curious and keep on learning. It’s really important. I often tell myself that learning has no threshold level. It’s crucial that you remember that. Continuous learning will help you unleash your potential. It is not possible to learn everything at University but nowadays, we have a wide range of resources available on the Internet. Make a good use of these.
And good luck folks!