Meet Sonya Adams: An RMIT alumnus reshaping the energy sector

Meet Sonya Adams: An RMIT alumnus reshaping the energy sector

How can an international oil company transition to low carbon energy with a net zero ambition? RMIT alumnus Sonya Adams, Senior Vice President, Reinvent bp, explains her role in the global company's transformation and her journey from RMIT in Melbourne to where she is today in the UK.

Adams leads a team working towards the delivery of bp’s new strategy, which was launched in early 2020 and will reshape its business from an international oil company driven by the production of resources to an integrated energy company focused on delivering energy solutions for customers.  

Adams’ remit in the reimagining of bp is centered on customers and products, which is about putting customers at the heart of what bp does, being able to rapidly respond to changing customer demands as well as innovating to enable new ways to engage with customers.  

The RMIT alumnus’ career at bp began in 2001, and has since covered varied roles across the company in commercial, communications and external affairs, finance, procurement as well as supply chain, operations and logistics in Australia and New Zealand.  

Adams, who studied an RMIT Bachelor of Business (Economics and Finance), made the move to join bp in the UK in 2017. 

Tell us about your current role at bp? 

"My role helps to deliver on bp’s new strategy, by reinventing the company in line with our purpose," Adams said.  

"bp’s purpose is reimagining energy for people and our planet.

"We want to help the world reach net zero and improve people’s lives. We will aim to dramatically reduce carbon in our operations and in our production, and grow new low carbon businesses, products and services," she said. 

"Customers are the driving force for energy products and services demand.

"My role is to help us unlock the power of collaborating as one customer-centric, digital and agile team, focused on meeting customers' needs and delivering products and services fit for today, and a low carbon future."

You’ve held several leadership positions at bp. What are your tips for career progression? 

"For me, it has always helped to map out the skills sets, capabilities and experience that I’ve needed as I’ve worked towards my career goals – and then use my networks to identify the types of roles that will provide this experience," Adams said.  

"You need to consider where can you gain this exposure or learning, which could be either in or outside the organisation where you’re working.  

"It also helps to really have a think about the opportunities you would be open to, as well as knowing your strengths, what you enjoy and where you can be at your best," she said. 

"Having a plan is really important. It helps you to build out your skills set and breadth of experience, particularly when you're aspiring toward general management roles." 

Alt Text is not present for this image, Taking dc:title 'Sonya Adams' Based in the UK, RMIT alumnus Sonya Adams is helping to reinvent international oil company bp.

What are you passionate about in the workplace? 

"I have a passion for gender diversity but also the ‘I’ in Diversity and Inclusion (D&I), which is often overlooked," Adams said.  

"Inclusion for me is really important. I’ve seen it many times in my career when we have a diverse team, both from a gender and cultural/background perspective, you end up with people who will think differently and challenge us all to deliver the best outcome for the company.  

"However, we don’t always have that balance," she said. 

“I’ve spent a lot of time in my career developing young women and leaders and challenging them to think about operational roles, particularly young engineers.  

"It’s certainly a passion for me, but my strongest passion is having the best team and having an inclusive environment to get the best out of our collective contribution." 

What role have mentors played in your career? 

"I’ve had amazing mentors over the years and they’ve all played an important role at each stage of my career – particularly during key transition points," Adams said.  

"Mentors can be a sounding board to help you build the confidence to take on that new challenging role, or even just to step into the ring and say, 'yes, I really want to do this job'."

Adams said mentors also help you hold a mirror up to yourself. 

"I've had some really valuable conversations where I've thought something was a great opportunity and my mentors have made me think about how it would stretch or challenge me, and bring skills and experience that I don’t already have," she said. 

"One piece of advice that has always stuck with me is the importance of recognising what you bring to the table. 

"This means not thinking about yourself as a ‘job title’ but as a person, and what diverse strengths, perspectives and contributions you bring – but also being aware of your gaps and how you can mitigate them," Adams said.  

"It’s important to focus on the strengths and understanding what you offer, your role as a leader and then the areas where you need to build a diverse team and have the right people around you."  

What’s your favourite memory of your time at RMIT? 

"I had a great time at RMIT – and really enjoyed the blend between the theory and the practical application of learning," Adams said.  

"There was always recognition by the teaching staff that you wanted to go and use the knowledge that you were building.  

"There have been many times throughout my career when I’ve had moments of ‘wow, here I am living that exact case study I read at RMIT," she said.

"I also remember studying for hours and hours with my friends at the Hairy Canary with a lot of coffee drinking, studying and conversation – also very much a highlight." 


Join us at RMIT's International Women's Day 2021 Online Event (9 March)


Story: Karen Matthews


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RMIT University acknowledges the people of the Woi wurrung and Boon wurrung language groups of the eastern Kulin Nation on whose unceded lands we conduct the business of the University. RMIT University respectfully acknowledges their Ancestors and Elders, past and present. RMIT also acknowledges the Traditional Custodians and their Ancestors of the lands and waters across Australia where we conduct our business - Artwork 'Luwaytini' by Mark Cleaver, Palawa.