The journey towards a career in oil and gas engineering has many twists and turns. For three women at Tendeka, a global specialist in advanced completions, production solutions and sand management, it was never a fixed destination they’d have mapped out as schoolgirls. Now, it’s a path they’re passionate about and actively encourage more women to navigate towards.
Amy Barclay is a Global Applications Engineer with the Westhill-headquartered company. She admits she ‘fell’ into the role of engineer. “My field of study was chemistry and when I started at Tendeka three years ago I was solely in the laboratory. However, my manager gave me more responsibility and I soon took on the role of engineer.”
It’s a similar story for Technical Support Manager, Eilidh McKay. “When I was in school, I had never considered engineering to be a career which I could do.” Nearly ten years on at Tendeka, Eilidh is combining her day job managing a team of applications engineers with studying for a MSc in Oil and Gas Engineering. “I enjoy the wide variety of my role. I love being able to get involved in all aspects of the industry from R&D to when the tools are installed.”
As a laboratory engineer, Nicola Wigg has turned her life-long interest in rocks, minerals, and palaeontology into sustainable, cost-saving solutions for the oil and gas industry. “I really enjoy the challenges associated with exploring new concepts and ideas but ultimately, I love the intricacy and attention to the finer details that is required when working in a laboratory setting.”
Together, Amy, Eilidh and Nicola were instrumental in bringing the concept of Filtrex, a one trip remedial sand control system, to the marketplace and were awarded the Offshore Achievement Award for emerging technology in 2020.
Pride and prejudice
According to a study two years ago, there are fewer women in oil and gas than any other major industry. It claims that women fulfil only 15% of technical and field roles.1 Established in 2009, Tendeka bucks that trend with nearly a fifth (and growing) in engineering roles working across global energy hubs in the North Sea, Asia Pacific, Middle East and USA.
Succeeding in their oil and gas careers has been tainted by what Nicola describes as ‘primitive prejudice’ and it’s a challenge each feels can be eradicated through better education. “It’s not that girls don’t believe they can be engineers as their personal perception of ability isn’t the problem,” said Nicola. “Instead, I feel that women do not want to study engineering knowing they face difficulties fighting for respect and equality once qualified.”
“Engineering and STEM doesn’t need to change to try to cater to what society thinks girls are interested in,” added Amy. “Girls are interested in STEM. They just need to be shown that they will be accepted into the industry and shown they do have a place.”
The theme for this year’s International Women in Engineering Day is ‘Engineering Heroes’ and it’s a topic that the trio from Tendeka would like to have more gravitas. “I have been given opportunities as a young female that I may not have received at other companies or in other industries so we should be showing off the accomplishments, patents, awards, and women in high power positions,” said Eilidh. “Women who break the stereotypes and do offshore engineering roles are amazing as this still comes across as a male-orientated job. Seeing them on a rig site always makes me feel very proud.”
The company recognises that people development of whatever gender, is critical to having the right skills within the team, but also to fully support the growth and development of its staff. Its formal programmes cover core training and competency while mentoring is being looked into as a more personal approach.
Nicola believes anyone looking to a career in engineering, at whatever stage in their life, should take inspiration from the quote by the American author and motivational speaker, Zig Ziglar: “Your value doesn’t decrease based on someone’s inability to see your worth.”