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Inspiring Leaders – Energy Industry

06 July 2021
Written by Sian Lloyd Rees

About the blog series…

On the 29th April, six female leaders came together to chat and answer questions on our careers, what inspired us, what drove our decision making and many more topics raised by the audience. We weren’t able to get to all of the questions, so we each agreed to take one key question topic from the event and address it. Our next guest blog is by Sian Lloyd Rees, Head of UK and SVP Europe and Africa at Aker Solutions…

A few questions were raised at the recent Inspiring Leadership event on whether we are doing enough to both encourage women into the energy industry and achieve the diversity needed at all levels.

I think we all know there is more we need to do and, as just one input to a much broader debate. I thought I’d share some of my experiences and learnings over the years.

The right boss/mentor makes a big difference – don’t wait to be chosen

I’ve loved the career I’ve had thanks to oil and gas. The great people I continue to meet, countries I’ve almost literally been dropped into and the opportunities I’ve received. When I look back, I possibly needed to try harder to prove myself as one of fewer women in the industry in my early career, but there was also a lot of deep support to help me succeed. This support was crucial as it both challenged and championed me in different ways – often pushing me out of my comfort zone and onto the next stage in my career. We can’t always choose our boss, but we can select and solicit mentors that best match our needs at various stages of our career. I’m not sure if I consciously chose my mentors or if I was simply drawn to the people I wanted to learn from and formed a connection. However, I know it was hard for me to push myself forward and ask for guidance and support in this way, especially at the start of my career, but the benefits far outweighed my initial awkwardness. So, my advice is to go for it, the worst that can happen is they say no and I bet you very few will do that.

Own your career and make it work for you

When my children were young, and I tried to balance everything for several years, it became clear to me that the long office hours expected daily in our industry at the time just wasn’t compatible with the balance I needed and wanted in my life. It’s not that the company I worked for wasn’t sympathetic, but the culture and industry structure was deeply engrained in a particular way of working.

So, I pivoted my career, realising the skills I had gained in oil and gas were highly transferable, and I moved to work in the IT industry. This is an industry that is very results based and flexible in how you organise your time to achieve this. I thrived and my family thrived. I didn’t want to step back in my career, I was as ambitious as ever, but I needed a system that was flexible enough to make it work for me at this stage in my career.

I returned to the energy industry as we expanded the energy agenda. As a leader, I try to provide a working environment that accommodates all, at different stages. We see quite high levels of diversity at joining and early career levels, but as time goes on our needs can change for many reasons and we need to build enough flexibility into our systems to retain talent. The recent lockdown accelerated our industry’s move to more flexible working practices, this will remain and adds to the attractiveness of our industry for many reasons.

But it’s also good for each of us to understand our experience and skill sets are adaptable and portable, especially as the notion of a portfolio career is becoming more common.

Be special

We are already seeing a broader range of competencies, perspectives and experience engaged in this industry as we move forward with the energy transition. This is welcome as I’ve been in teams in the past where the majority had a very similar psychometric profile. I was frequently the only one profiled as a ‘socially adapted introvert’ (and no, I’m not clear what that really means either…) and sometimes I wondered if this was a disadvantage in our industry. I now choose to think this profile makes me a bit special. So, I’d encourage all of us to think about what makes us special. What is your unique strength? Now more than ever with the broader energy opportunities ahead of us we need teams that look, think and act differently.

Watch this space for more advice from my fellow industry leaders, and if you missed the Inspiring Leaders event which took place back in April, catch up here:

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