After studying at the EHL hospitality management school in Lausanne and gaining initial experience in advertising and the import/export of pharmaceutical products and by-products, John Keane started his trading career at Cargill in 1985 and worked afterwards for companies like Vitol and Mercuria and today still an active trader, mainly in West and Central Africa.


#1 – What is the best moment you can remember in your career?
Having worked in this sector for 30 years, I can say that each challenge has been a fresh start and that each change has led to a new post.
Loyalty is the golden rule, but change can help to build experience – too much fidelity can lead to stagnation and boredom. Networking definitely helps with all this!

#2 – If you had to give just one piece of advice to a junior starting his/her career, what would it be?
Today, young people who are just starting out often want to get in at the top straight away, but I can assure you that it’s best to start at the bottom. It allows you to develop and hone your thinking in a way that will enable you to progress.
When you join a company, you should be curious about everything and strive to develop and flourish. By doing this, you learn a little more each day, your managers’ trust in you will grow and they will give you greater responsibility – that’s how you move onwards and upwards.

#3 – Do you have a Motto/Lucky charm?
Always challenge yourself. Things change so quickly! You can spend years in the same job, behaving as though you know everything, and that’s where the danger lies. You should test yourself every day to make sure that your knowledge is up to date.
I would also add that being successful at work is only meaningful if you find what you do fulfilling – it’s important to strike the right balance.

#4 – What do you enjoy the most in your day to day job?
The human contact. Whether it’s on the telephone or on the ground, there are some relationships that you maintain over time – from the lad who opens the refinery gate right up to the CEO. I’ve always spent time with people in a range of positions in the sector – every individual is important. It’s the human element that I love.
What’s more, when you travel, you drive, take flights or public transport and you realise how everything relies upon oil – it’s fascinating!

#5 – If you had to do it again would you chose the same career path?
Yes, without a doubt! I love what I do. Life isn’t about choices, but opportunities. You can never predict what’s going to happen, but there are opportunities where you need to be there and make yourself known. You need to manage your reputation and stick to your word, while at the same time always remaining true to yourself.

#6 – Where is your favourite place on earth and why?
Saint Tropez! It’s an incredible place, 365 days a year!

#7 – How could you qualify your relationship with Ampersand World?
Our relationship began over a coffee, when I was asked whether I would be interested in sharing my knowledge, given my grand old age! (Laughs)
I really like what Ampersand are doing. I have great respect for Penda and what she has achieved. She has sought to change the rules of the game in this profession and it has proved hugely successful!