In this series, we introduce key members of the Sparta team, to give you a bit more of a look at who it is that’s making the wheels turn here at Sparta, what makes them tick, and hopefully highlighting a few of the unsung heroes that are working hard behind the scenes.
In this interview we speak with Rachel, our Chief Commodities Officer at Sparta! With over 20 years of industry experience in some of the industry’s most prestigious companies, Rachel brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to our team.
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN WITH THE COMPANY?
I started in March. So, it’ll be coming up to four months now. Having said that, four months in a scale-up equates to feeling like you’re very much part of the furniture.
CAN YOU EXPLAIN YOUR ROLE
Yeah, sure! I’m the Chief Commodities Officer here at Sparta and I am part of the exec committee. My responsibilities are to manage our Commodity Owners, who are the subject matter experts in each of their commodity fields.
Each of our products on the platform is split into verticals. We started in gasoline and distillate, and we recently launched jet. We’ll be launching naphtha at the end of summer. Our Commodity Owners are responsible for understanding the critical data, analytics and key market drivers that are needed that go into these verticals for our client base, which are predominantly traders or trading analysts.
HOW DID YOU GET STARTED IN THE INDUSTRY?/CAN YOU GIVE ME A RUNDOWN OF YOUR CAREER PATH UP UNTIL THIS POINT?
Sure. So, I started in the industry over 20 years ago. My background is in chemical engineering. I started off working in Pembroke refinery in Wales. I’m Welsh so we only travel a little bit away from home. I studied in Bath, which is pretty close to home too.
Apart from working with Chevron in Pembrokeshire, I’ve worked for another company called ConocoPhillips. Which is a large oil major as well, in total, I spent the best part of nine years between the two of them. Keen to see the industry from a different perspective, I moved over to the research side of the industry, working as a Downstream Analyst for Wood Mackenzie.
After a period, I was approached by Bank of America Merrill Lynch. I joined them as a trading strategist on the trading desk in London. I thoroughly enjoyed the short-term markets, the speed of decisions that we’re being made and the buzz of the trading floor, so when a role with Citi Bank came up, I moved over to work with a bigger fundamental trading team and spent 3 years with them as a trading strategist with some origination work thrown in for good measure.
Banking hours are demanding, and spending too many hours in Canary Wharf, I wanted a better work-life balance. So, I moved back to Wood Mackenzie, where I spent the last eight years leading research teams across oils, gas and a stint running the VesselTracker side of the business. I was also a part of the acquisition team that bought Genscape, which was a career highlight for me.
I joined Sparta because, again, it gave me a really different view of the market. Working with a scale-up, getting involved in all the intricacies of trying to build a very successful business and getting back into that short-term market space really appealed. So in short, I’ve always been an oil and love the short-term market space and worked from an analyst perspective. I didn’t particularly want to go into trading. I guess my main skillset is leading big teams, integrating and growing businesses, and acquisitions. With my diversity of experience, I felt like Sparta was a good fit.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE PART OF WORKING AT OUR COMPANY?
The fact that you can turn around at 13:30 and wonder where the morning has gone, to be honest. We are very busy, and it is super exciting to be here. My days fly by with the amount of work we’ve got to do, we make decisions and are very action-oriented. But also working with brilliant people. Because we are a small company, you have to work together very, very closely and there’s no space really for anybody to coast. So, we’ve hired really well. Everyone’s full of energy and everyone wants to get stuff done, which makes Sparta a really refreshing place to work.
WHAT ARE YOU MOST PROUD OF IN YOUR CAREER SO FAR?
Oh, that’s a good question. Aside from joining Sparta, I’m very proud that I’ve done a lot of work trying to encourage women into STEM subjects and roles. I mentor a few women who are just starting out on their career paths as well as being a STEM Ambassador for schools. I’ll continue to try to encourage more women and girls into engineering because it’s been a brilliant career for me.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE OUR COMPANY CULTURE?
In three words, I would say energetic, action-oriented, and fun.
WHAT’S ONE THING PEOPLE DON’T KNOW ABOUT YOU THAT THEY WOULD BE SURPRISED TO FIND OUT?
I have a number one hit record in the charts from being part of band many years ago. I’m not saying anymore.
WHAT IS THE MOST INTERESTING PROJECT YOU’VE WORKED ON HERE?
The one that I’m working on at the minute. We’re looking at launching our next vertical, and, given my background, I’ve had to get quite involved in that. Understanding the process in which Sparta builds verticals has been exciting and great learning for me. We’re doing a lot of due diligence around what that vertical should look like and what our client base would like to see. Being a part of the different elements of the product roadmap that bring us from starting a vertical to completing it has been very cool so far.
WHAT PIECE OF ADVICE TO YOUR YOUNGER SELF?
Stay curious. I’ve been fortunate because I’ve always loved our industry and what we do within commodities. I’ve always wanted to see it from different angles because our industry has many facets. From a financial perspective, working with investment banks, to research and consulting, helping companies understand their roadmaps, and supporting people who make day-to-day decisions based on industry fundamentals. The best advice I would give, and to be fair I’ve mostly followed it myself, is to stay curious and think about the broader aspects of the industry and how everything fits and works together, becoming well-rounded and working on how you can add value.
HOW HAS YOUR ROLE EVOLVED OVER TIME SINCE YOU’VE BEEN HERE?
I’m still relatively new to the company, so that’s difficult to answer. However, in the four months of my tenure, working at a start-up is really interesting because it’s very different from joining a large corporation. I now feel, only after four months that I’m certainly part of the furniture. It’s been a steep learning curve and a very fast-paced journey. I’m sure you felt the same as well, right? It’s very different from a large organisation where the pace can be slower get up to speed and add value. Here, it’s jumping into the deep end, and I love it!
WHAT ARE YOUR GOALS FOR THE NEXT FEW MONTHS/YEARS?
My immediate goals for the next few months are to continue building out my team and our commodity owners. As we expand the platform into different commodity areas, I want to ensure a fully staffed and ready-to-go team. That means attracting the best talent in the industry, whether it’s traders or trading analysts who want to look at the market from a different angle and join a scale-up. I want to support the team as we grow and launch verticals. We must ensure that these verticals stay relevant and provide the necessary information for our clients to make their day-to-day decisions.
IF YOU HAD THREE WISHES, WHAT WOULD THEY BE?
Number one, for the company to become the massive success I know it will be. And number two, if I could have 26 hours in a day instead of 24, as I always seem to need more time. Third, I hope my husband has taken enough hints and delivered on some concert tickets that I’ve been chatting his ear off about for the past few months.
WHAT’S ONE THING THAT SURPRISED YOU ABOUT YOUR CURRENT ROLE?
One thing…I think there’s a few things, actually. I was surprised by how organised we are as a company. I thought things would be chaotic since I had never worked for a start-up. But we’re incredibly organised in how we’ve structured and built the company, which stands us in good stead as we keep building and adding more value to our markets. I also want to call out the people here and the level of talent in my team. They are amazing and genuinely some of the best analysts in the market that I’ve ever worked with
WHAT’S THE LAST SONG YOU LISTENED TO?
Yeah, it was “Strong” by London Grammar. We also had a Tina Turner night not that long ago for obvious reasons (showing my age here!)
WHAT, IF ANYTHING, ARE YOU CURRENTLY BINGE-WATCHING OR READING?
I’m currently reading a book called “Rigged” by Andy Verity. It’s about the whistle-blowers who exposed the LIBOR scandal a few years ago.
In terms of binge-watching, I’m rewatching past episodes of Modern Family and Succession.
WHAT’S ONE THING ON YOUR BUCKET LIST?
To play the top 100 golf courses in the world.
Rachel manages our commodity owners here at Sparta and can be contacted at Rachel.email@example.com
Sparta is a live, pre trade analytics platform that enables oil traders, refiners, banks, hedge funds and wholesalers to have access to real-time and global actionable insights to capture market opportunities before others.
To find out how Sparta can allow you to make smarter trading decisions, faster, contact us for a demonstration at firstname.lastname@example.org