As Vice President and CIO for Shell’s Project and Technology business, Amy Suhl works within Shell’s Technology and Competitive IT (TaCIT) department, which develops innovative technology solutions that aim to change the face of the industry.
To get to this stage, she’s moved between departments, business functions and geographical locations. Her varied career is testament to Shell’s belief in development and personal growth by providing diverse opportunities.
“Flexibility is great,” says Amy. “It gives you the opportunity to learn something new, not only about the business, but about yourself.”
IT… but not as we know it
“I joined Shell in 1986 in an IT role as a telecommunications engineer right after university, where I completed a Bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering.”
Life at Shell in 1986 was a far cry from how the organisation works today, says Amy. “When I first started there were personal computers, but we didn’t use them for very much. Most things were done via a mainframe. Each person had a terminal connected to the mainframe. From there we started using more of the PC and the client server network, and then that led into the unbelievable technology changes in the area of mobility and social media.
“Some of the early projects I was involved in included managing the set up of new offices, especially sales offices, which required working with IT contractors on the cabling and telephone systems.”
Move to manufacturing
“When I was appointed to a Telecoms Supervisor role I transferred to our refinery at Deer Park in Texas. This new role involved taking responsibility for all telecommunications at the site, from the phones to radio to the process control computers.”
Remaining part of the Chemicals business, Amy moved into a role in Business Analysis, where she worked with the site leadership team as well as department leads.
“It was a different role to what I was used to in IT, but I found it really rewarding to learn more about manufacturing, one of Shell’s core business lines.”
$1 billion budget
Amy moved into a role in Contracting and Procurement, where she managed approximately $1 billion worth of spend for the Downstream business’s travel, IT, consulting and contracting work. “It was a role with a very strong external focus, something that I hadn’t done too much of in my other roles.” Having completed an MBA in 1994, in part funded by Shell, Amy was well equipped with a sound commercial knowledge to complement her technical background.
Although Amy had moved through a number of businesses, she was always made to feel welcome: “It can be hard to learn so many new processes, people and systems at first, but after a while it starts to feel like home. Shell employees really help one another, and it was no different in this role.”
“I then went back into an IT role in our trading organisation where I was Global IT manager for all of our trading applications.” This role once again saw her based in the USA, but, being a global role, it required extensive travel to Europe and Asia.
She credits her networking as instrumental in her varied career path. But this networking would mean little if not for the scope and variety of Shell’s businesses. Regular job rotation and a culture of retention means that there are opportunities around every corner; opportunities that Amy has used to develop her career in the direction she wants. “I get to know people and I keep those contacts. I utilise and leverage those contacts in different assignments.”
Innovative uses for IT technology
“Now I’m in the IT function in Projects and Technology.” Her current role sees Amy play a broad yet pivotal role in a division that is working to develop innovative uses for IT technology in the energy industry.
“Shell is a technology company, so there are people that are doing incredible amounts of research and development in technologies not only in finding oil, technical applications, modelling, interpretation and imaging, but also in looking at technologies that can be used for things you might not think about.
“We’re looking at how unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) can be used to carry out safer inspections. Instead of people climbing up tall flare stacks, these UAVs might be able to carry out a risk-free inspection.”
These innovations are not only progressing Shell towards a technologically advanced future, but attracting top talent. “I believe that we have the best people, second to none. And because we have TaCIT, we can do things that other companies can only aspire to.”
“We still have a lot to do. Technology brings many options and opportunities. What the team is striving to do is to provide information at the speed we need, with the device we have, from wherever we are. We aren’t there yet, but we’re definitely moving in the right direction.”