After completing my BEng in chemical engineering and then a PhD in microfluidics at University of Sheffield, I initially got a graduate position at a consultancy firm serving the oil and gas industry. But I wanted to be at the heart of operations and learn as much as I could, so I applied to the Shell Graduate Programme. It appealed to me because of the structured training and the fact that Shell is a global player.
Once I got the job as a Graduate Process Engineer I met with some good supportive line managers and colleagues. As a mature student, I felt at first that the term ‘graduate’ didn’t take my past experience into account but I needn’t have worried. The team that I worked with respected my experience and maturity.
My route to Shell started in Malaysia, where I grew up. My heritage is Chinese and Chinese education hones a work ethic from a very early age. I also had a lot of ambition and drive because of my family situation – I could almost write a book about it! We were the less fortunate cousins and I looked at the other side of the family who were well educated, went to university and thought ‘I want what you have’.
When I was 14 my family lost its main source of income overnight. My mother was introduced to the textiles industry and eventually managed to set up her own shop. I helped her by making alterations, bookkeeping and manning the shop. Over time, we saved enough to afford my education at the University of Sheffield, where I’d decided to study chemical engineering.
Once I’d made my choice to become a chemical engineer, I encountered resistance from my family, who saw engineering as a man’s world. But I am quite headstrong and said, ‘No that is what I want to study’. When I arrived in Sheffield it was my first time abroad – I definitely struggled to understand all the different accents.
Not long after I joined Shell I became pregnant – my supervisors were very understanding. I now have two children, and I want to stress how supportive Shell is of working parents. There are some stressful times managing home life and work but that’s always the way when you have kids. I wanted to help others in the same situation so I started an unofficial buddy group for new parents – if we help each other out we will be stronger. It’s important to retain and grow talent to secure the future of our energy resources.