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Field of dreams: why six BP women chose a career in engineering

Release date: 20 February 2020

From the Atacama Desert in Chile to the NASA Space Center in Houston, these women found career inspiration in very different places. For some, the path to their dream job wasn’t always easy, but, in the end, they all excelled in the field. To mark Introduce A Girl to Engineering Day, six inspiring BP women tell their stories of how they were introduced to engineering and what the industry means to them today

Lydia Balogun-Wilson, Clair Ridge area operations support team leader, Aberdeen, Scotland

“I tell young women: ‘You can do anything. I have a family and I work full time. The only thing that can hold you back is you.’”

 

Lydia Balogun-Wilson

Working offshore on the Glen Lyon FPSO in the North Sea

‘Curiosity set me on my path’

Lydia Balogun-Wilson, Clair Ridge area operations support team leader, Aberdeen, Scotland

 

Lydia grew up on three different continents – living in Nigeria, the US and the UK. But there was one thing that remained the same since she was eight years old – her love of science.

 

She says: “I had a curious mind and wanted to know how things worked. I used to watch a lot of science programmes on Nickelodeon, as well as Blue Peter and Sesame Street. I used to love how science experiments were conducted on these programmes and how you were encouraged to use your imagination to solve problems.

 

“My father was the one who inspired me to love science and later engineering. He always bought me child-friendly science journals, model planes and cars to put together.

 

“My second inspiration came from one of my uncles, who was a process control engineer in a top cement manufacturing company in West Africa. During one of my visits to his office, I noticed there was only one woman working in his team. When I asked him why, he said women did not tend to study engineering. I saw this as a challenge and made it an ambition to not only study engineering, but to excel at it. So, I read chemical engineering at university and later studied petroleum engineering at Masters level. 

 

“In 2011, I joined BP as a mature hire after having worked for engineering design companies for eight years. Since joining BP, I have held a variety of operational roles, both in the office and offshore. I am privileged today to be leading a team of engineers on one of BP’s flagship assets in the North Sea.

 

 “I am currently the first black person to hold this role or its equivalent in the region and I am extremely proud of this achievement."

 

Lydia loves inspiring young girls and women to get into engineering. She volunteers on the Stemnet programme and mentors young women.

 

She adds: “I tell them: ‘You can do anything. I have a family and I work full time. The only thing that can hold you back is you.’” 

Kelly Richardson, executive assistant to Andy Krieger, head of GWO, Houston, US

Kelly Richardson, executive assistant to Andy Krieger, head of GWO, Houston, US

Overcoming a lack of support for school science

Kelly Richardson, executive assistant to Andy Krieger, head of GWO, Houston, US

 

Even though Kelly’s dream of studying science was put on hold for a while, she didn’t let that get in the way of a career in engineering.

 

She says: “I attended an all-girls high school in Manchester in the UK and when the time came to choose my GCSE options I wanted to study separate sciences. However, I was the only one in my entire high school who chose this option.

 

“My school couldn’t afford to run a class for a single student, so I ended up studying for an art qualification instead. So later, when I left high school and went to college, I immediately chose to study sciences and maths.”

 

Kelly credits her strong female network for supporting her drive and ambition.

 

She says: “I think I was a secret feminist as a child and didn’t really know it. And my two childhood friends were too. I think we unconsciously noticed biases in our society and often wanted to emulate the men around us who had been successful. It never felt like we would be limited by the fact we were female; we just assumed we could do the same. I am still friends with those two girls – their strength is a constant source of inspiration.

 

“All we really need is diversity. We need to understand different perspectives because it’s better for productivity and creativity. I am particularly passionate about women working in STEM careers because I think some women are put off before they can even begin. Women could be missing out on something they love just because they have been brought up, not to think they can’t do it, but not even to consider it.”

 

For Kelly, one of the benefits of working with BP in engineering is the travel. She adds: “I have lived in Scotland, England, Canada and Angola – and moved to Houston at the start of 2020. With my new job, I will travel a lot; in fact, I'm in Azerbaijan right now.”

“All we really need is diversity. We need to understand different perspectives – it’s better for productivity and creativity.” 

 

Kelly Richardson

Visiting the newly built Island Contractor light weight intervention (LWI) vessel in Norway before it began work on the first-ever LWI campaign for BP

Umbelina Braz, offshore site engineer, Luanda, Angola

“I want to pass on to my daughters the idea that there are no limitations for women – just believe that everything is possible.”

 

Umbelina Braz

Working on the Greater Plutonio FPSO, in Block 18, offshore Angola

From political strife to improving family life

Umbelina Braz, offshore site engineer, Luanda, Angola

 

To follow her dream, Umbelina had to make difficult life choices at an early age but it was all in pursuit of giving her family a better life.

 

She says: “My first contact with engineering was when I was 10 years old and I decided that I wanted to be an engineer against my mother’s dream, which was for me to be go into the law like my father.

“I joined engineering school in Angola when I was 19. Then, I made the most difficult decision and left my family behind to move to Portugal alone due to Angola’s political instability.

 

“I had three inspirations at the beginning of my career. The first was my sister who always believed in me and helped me to overcome difficulties.

 

“The second came from the former Angolan Oil Minister, Albina Assis. At the time, she was the only woman in the Angolan government leadership team and I admired her because she was in such a difficult environment where the political and social context and our culture didn´t allow women to work – let alone lead a team. I thought that if she could succeed, then any of us could too.

 

“My last inspiration was my family and my dream to improve their lifestyle with the wages I could make from working in oil and gas.

 

“Initially, I wanted to be the next Minister of Petroleum, but now my focus is on my family – my husband and my daughters. I want to pass on to my daughters the idea that there are no limitations for women – just believe that everything is possible.”

Amrita Lulla, development engineer, global concept development, GPO, Sunbury, UK

Driven to make a difference

Amrita Lulla, development engineer, global concept development, GPO, Sunbury, UK

 

It was a TV show that inspired the teenage Amrita to take on a challenging career in engineering.

 

“I was 15 when I watched a BBC documentary on sustainable development. In it, a group of scientists and engineers wasputting up a mesh called a cloud catcher in the Atacama Desert in Chile. This device helped to collect water in one of the driest places on Earth, which allowed people to settle in a place they couldn’t previously. 

 

“I was fascinated and inspired by how a handful of people could create such simple solutions to change the lives of hundreds and thousands of people for the better. Following that documentary, I became very interested in sustainable development and global challenges on climate change and food and water scarcity, which then led me to study chemical with environmental engineering at university."

 

Amrita is passionate about bringing more women into the industry – a passion that has seen her embark on a UK tour.

 

“We need more women to create new diverse and dynamic working environments that energize the workforce to tackle these complex problems and improve business performance.

 

“Also, engineering is a brilliant, stable, well-paid job with lots of opportunities and women shouldn’t be missing out on all the fun!

 

“It’s been fantastic to learn from people’s experiences in different parts of the business – the sharing really helps us to bring the best ideas together and grow as a company.

 

“In addition, I am actively involved in promoting STEM, which has taken me all over the country – from primary schools to universities and industry events – to share my experiences and promote more diversity in engineering.”

“We need more women to create new diverse and dynamic working environments that energize the workforce to tackle these complex problems.” 

 

Amrita Lulla

Attending BP's annual STEM festival in Sunbury, UK, which marks the end of two STEM mentoring programmes

Casey Yaw, Mad Dog 2 subsea operations engineer, Houston, US

Casey Yaw, Mad Dog 2 subsea operations engineer, Houston, US

“The world needs women in engineering because women bring new and creative ways to solve problems. Women are also able to multi-task, which is crucial to a career in engineering.”

 

Casey Yaw

In charge of changing out a subsea choke on one of the Thunder Horse wells in the Gulf of Mexico

‘Science is in my blood’

Casey Yaw, Mad Dog 2 subsea operations engineer, Houston, US

 

Some people are just born into it – and that’s certainly the case for Casey.

 

She says: “I grew up loving maths and science. My dad is a chemical engineer and my mom was a science teacher, so they were always taking me to visit NASA and the science museum in Houston.

 

“My eighth birthday party was science themed, in which I did science experiments with my friends. However, it wasn’t until I was about 14 years old that I decided that I wanted to study engineering in college.

 

“The main inspiration was my mom. She was always teaching me new science facts and quizzing me on maths problems in fun ways.

 

“Her passion for science and maths encouraged me to fall in love with those subjects as well. When I told her I wanted to study engineering, she was very excited and extremely encouraging. She taught me I could do anything if I worked hard every day.

 

“The world needs women in engineering because women bring new and creative ways to solve problems. Women are also able to multi-task, which is crucial to a career in engineering.

 

“My career has taken me all over the world. During my internship with BP, I worked in Wamsutter, Wyoming, as a facilities engineer.

 

In my first two years as a full-time employee at BP, I had 120 nights offshore on drilling rigs, production platforms and installation vessels in the Gulf of Mexico.

 

“In my third year at BP, I won an internal competition and got to present one of my projects to the executive team in London, which included current BP CEO Bernard Looney.

 

“And the next year, I was chosen to represent BP at the One Young World conference in Ottawa, Canada, where I got to meet young people from multiple countries and discuss current world issues.


“All of these experiences have pushed me out of my comfort zone and given me a chance to show the world that I am not just another BP employee – I am a hard-working woman engineer who takes pride in her work.”

Henriette Kruimel, Tortue subsea services lead, Sunbury, UK

Plugging the gap

Henriette Kruimel, Tortue subsea services lead, Sunbury, UK

 

The giant structures that protect the Dutch land from the sea were the inspiration behind Henriette’s journey into engineering.

 

“When I was 18, I looked for something in line with the subjects I enjoyed and was good at. In the Netherlands, we have all these amazing water protection works, which have always really fascinated me and so I decided to study to be a civil engineer.

 

"I was attracted to the fact that engineers have lots of career paths and opportunities, so I did not have to go down a narrow route when starting at university; there would be a range of opportunities afterwards.”

 

Henriette believes there is no better time for women to get involved in engineering to plug the skills shortage in the world.

 

She says: “The world has 50% women and we need to ensure that what engineering and science do is aligned with the world’s needs. As there is a general shortage of engineers and scientists, we cannot afford to only have half the world supporting this. We need women to help close the skills gap.”

 

“I was attracted to the fact that engineers have lots of career paths and opportunities.”

 

Henriette Kruimel

On board a floating production, storage and offloading vessel

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