Anne Claudel

Anne is an internal technical auditor in BP’s Upstream function but her previous roles have given wealth of operational experience on many engineering projects - often in extreme environments

A rising star

In recognition of her achievements, Anne was presented with the Rising Star award for the oil and gas sector in June 2016. It’s something she takes in her stride: “I believe in capability,” she says, “not in gender considerations.” 

Why did you decide to pursue a career in engineering?

My parents work in the health sector, there are no engineers in my family. After high school, I had to choose a field. I don’t like the sight of blood and I am not overly patient with people… so I decided that the health sector (doctor or pharmacist) was not the best choice for me. The remaining options were business school or engineering school (school is the equivalent to a university in France, the diploma from a “school” is usually more recognized than a diploma from a university). Besides the facts that I liked sciences in high school, part of the reason why I chose Engineering is that I thought that, being a male dominated sector, it would be easier for a woman to stand out, where as in business and marketing, it would be more difficult to differentiate myself. Boy was I right! A competent woman on the rigs is the queen! That was my first wise thought, maybe the wisest so far!

So yes, my love of sciences played an important role, coupled with my “cynical” logic, in helping me make my decision.

Did a person or experience influence your decision – e.g. a teacher at school, your parents, work experience?

Nobody influenced my decision to go for engineering. Both my grand-mother and my mother worked full-time and I never considered not working. Based on these examples, I knew I had to find a career I would enjoy because my work would be an important part of my life, for a long time.

What has been the highlight of your career so far?

There have been so many, and I expect them to keep coming. The people I meet, the countries I have lived in, and visited, the odd places and environments I have worked in are all highlights.

People - The oil and gas industry is inherently diverse in terms of ethnicity, culture, backgrounds and experiences. I recall this company man on a platform in the North Sea, with this white beard: I was stuck on the rig on Christmas day; he looked like Santa Claus. It took me some effort to gain his trust and to prove that I was technically capable. I still have the picture of us hugging before I flew off. Or the pilot of the 4 seat-plane that was taking me to the rig in the Sahara, he let me sit on the co-pilot seat and talk with the control tower!

Countries – I have lived in 5 countries, ranging from -30degC to +50degC, from a town of 15,000 people to London. I have worked in 24 countries, spanning the globe.

Environments – I now work at a desk with nice ergonomics features: an adjustable chair and desk, 2 screens, a mouse that prevents my wrist from straining… I used to work (and sometimes spend nights) from a truck on the rig, where the cold or the sand or the heat made everything a challenge. Which environment do you think is more exciting? 

The latest highlight is having been elected as the chairperson of the Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE) London board.

What advice would you give to young women who are considering a career in engineering?

In Engineering, you will be able to prove your technical capability and add value by the soft skills you will bring to work. Don’t think you have to be one of the boys if you want to succeed in engineering; you have to bring your whole self and you will make a difference. Just go for it, I really don’t see why anybody would hesitate.