From the diary of a female engineer in BP

Nigar Jalilova, BP AGT region’s process engineering team leader, explains how successful performance can take you far in the company, regardless of gender

This summer, interns Fidan Selimzada, Aygun Dadashova and Gulay Mamiyeva had the opportunity to meet with Nigar to find out more about her career and hear her views:

Nigar is the first engineer in her family. She graduated from Azerbaijan State Oil Academy and, following her aspiration to work as an engineer in the hydrocarbon sector, became the first female process engineer in the BP AGT region. 

It was her passion for science and engineering that originally inspired Nigar to select her future major. “I have got a mathematical way of thinking but I didn’t want to be a chemist,” she says. 
I wanted to be an engineer with a chemistry dimension. I like both disciplines, but I enjoy engineering more. So this was my main motive in choosing my occupation.
Nigar Jalilova

Building experience

For 16 years Nigar has rotated between projects rather than staying in one team. She considers this is one of the best ways to grow within BP - the opportunity it offers to learn in different teams and work with different people and different team leaders. “In the end this gives you an invaluable chance to build technical competences and to widen your experience based on what you do,” she remarks.

As she puts it: “In BP I’ve always had support from my team leaders as well as co-workers. My first co-workers, mostly men, saw me as a young engineer trying to perform to the best of my ability and were always helpful and supportive. I’ve also had great support from my various team leaders. It all helped me to realize that female engineers could perform to the same level and gain the same recognition as their male colleagues.”

Since 1999 Nigar has been involved in a number of important projects. One of the most memorable moments so far was to be nominated by for an annual AGT region engineering award. “I didn’t know anything about it,” she recalls. “That award is usually presented by the regional president. I felt really proud when Gordon Birrell read out what my team leader said about me – ‘hardworking, capable, with a passion for delivery’. It was thrilling to get an award furnished with such genuine feedback.”

Focusing on delivery

Nigar remembers the first part of her career with BP in Azerbaijan with intense warmth. She was involved in engineering offshore and at Sangachal Terminal. Her main focus in this period was simply doing her job as well as possible – utilising all her technical knowledge and putting it into practice. 

In her view, as one builds up experience and technical skill, so it becomes clearer where you want to go – whether you are best as an individual contributor (like a technical authority), or whether you perform better in collaboration with others. “What I understood was that I definitely needed to work in a team. I realized I could do that and, most importantly, that I would enjoy it.”

From then on, the key for Nigar was to build a career while improving her technical expertise creating relationships, collaborating with different people and taking on new challenges. All this aids, she believes, self-development and a better understanding of oneself and one’s future goals. At this level, too, an engineer can truly estimate their contribution to the work of a company and identify the areas where the highest input can be achieved. 

Today

As a team leader, Nigar makes sure that all the members are treated exactly the same and encouraged to speak at the same level and with the same confidence in meetings and discussions. 

The bottom line for her is performance. “As team leaders, we have to be able to differentiate personal relationships from the job.  But so far it goes really well.

BP backs female engineers

More generally BP, in Nigar’s view, has a strong diversity and inclusion agenda. In what was traditionally a male dominant sector, BP has focused on recruiting and retaining female engineers. BP’s focus is on increasing diversity both in our region and in the BP group worldwide.

Performance is the key

Regardless of gender, Nigar argues that if an employee is performing well, the effort ought to be recognized. “If an engineer works on their development, and there is a real passion for delivery, reward should follow, no matter if an engineer wants to be a standalone contributor or to grow as a team leader,” she says. “In other words, if they are strong in terms of technical performance and behaviour they should definitely be supported and so be successful.”

She concludes: “My advice to female engineers would be to set up career goals and keep on delivering. In terms of experience I would suggest not getting stuck in the same place or in the same team. The more experience you can get through different positions and working in different teams, the better results you will achieve.”

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