I’ve spent an exciting and rewarding 28 years in the oil and gas business, including Shell and other multinational companies. I was educated as a petroleum engineer but over time I have moved from a Manufacturing and Technology background to Design Engineering and Project Engineering roles.
Before the word ‘digitalization’ was fashionable, I was pulled onto one of the very first advanced analytics projects. This was as a subject matter expert from the business side, to help bridge the gap between Shell’s business and the IT function.
That’s really where my IT journey in Shell started. I began working in smart manufacturing, catalyst research and with some advanced technology platforms that were world-leading at the time. I then moved into Project Engineering IT, which meant bringing advanced solutions to multi-billion capital projects all over the world.
Now, I am the Global Functions Services and Operations Manager in the IT function in Shell.
You could say it’s a very new role - I just joined it a couple of days ago! I have relocated from the US to Bangalore, where I will be managing Services & Operations for entire global functions of Shell across HR, Legal, Treasury, Taxation, Finance, Internal Comms, Security, Real Estate and Government Relationships.
A Change of Tactic
In the technology background of my earlier days, leadership was all about driving passion for new technologies and channelling that through people to create a defined impact. It was all about the combination of man and machine and how to make the most of that.
When you move into people-orientated leadership, it becomes more about vision as well as ‘blue-sky’ thinking. When you have hundreds of people in your team, the goal is to create shared visions around why we do what we do and how we’re going to achieve it. You have to be transparent and give people a clear path. Ultimately, you’re trying to get as many people aligned behind the same dream as possible.
One of my techniques to motivate people is to get them thinking differently about their role in the organization. When people introduce themselves to you, they often tell you their job title, but I find this doesn’t tell you enough about the person and why they do what they do.
Instead, I like to ask people what they do on a day-to-day basis and to think about what impact it has on Shell’s business. When looked at this way, it ceases to be a mundane activity and is transformed into a source of pride.
As for my own motivations, I’d say I’m someone who is driven by a lot of imagination, curiosity and passion. I’ve tried to bring these attributes into each of my roles and Shell has been the place that’s allowed me to develop, nurture and apply them. Here, I’ve learned to grow as a human being and an individual. It’s about so much more than technical skills, you discover yourself on the journey.
One of my proudest projects was in the catalyst R&D space. The outcome of our work underpinned a multi-billion-dollar investment and was something of a game-changer in catalyst analytics. Not only was it an exciting project in which Shell was doing something that looked genuinely futuristic, but it was also a wonderful collaboration between industries.
We teamed up with the Cambridge Science Park start-up, as well as taking best practices from the Pharmaceutical industry and implementing them in Oil & Gas. We also conducted it as an agile project, but this was nearly 10 years ago, just when it was beginning to be talked about. So, because there were so many exciting ‘firsts’ with this project, it is really close to my heart and I’m proud to say it had a lot of impact for Shell and the wider scientific community.
In my time at Shell, what has really hit home is that their care for people and the environment is exemplary – seeing this develop over the years has been fantastic.
I have also learned about the importance of authenticity and transparency in my time at Shell. So much so that I’ve made it part of my leadership style. When I’m in front of people, what you see is what you get; I like to walk the talk. For this I have the senior leaders at Shell to thank. It’s present in everything they do: their commitments, their plans, and also in the way they interact as human beings.
There have been so many continuous learning opportunities. It’s amazing to work at the forefront of catalyst research and development, deep water projects, global functions, R&D and innovation. The most impressive thing to me is that you get to experience all of these areas from within a single organization.
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