Women in Oil & Gas: ‘A Solution-Provider Mindset’
Oil and gas Kuwaiti field engineer Noor Alenezi has always loved solving problems, ever since she fell in love with math at school. By the end of high school, she began to see that math could be used to solve engineering problems in the real world. She earned her Electrical and Computer Engineering Degree from Effat University in Saudi Arabia.
But when she joined Baker Hughes, a GE company (BHGE), she was surprised that the job description is not related to her educational electrical engineering background.
“But after a while, I realized that it’s not about electrical or mechanical engineering. It’s about the engineering mindset that’s about solving problems and finding solutions. A solution provider is the mindset required,” she says.
Today, Noor is very comfortable in her role as a problem solver. She loves her work because she’s in charge of a team that deploys an incredibly versatile piece of technology that can help oil and gas well operators solve all types of problems.
She’s a coiled tubing and acid stimulation field engineer in the Pressure Pumping Department with BHGE in Kuwait. Her team includes the coiled tubing operations, the maintenance team, and a laboratory team.
In her role, she meets with clients to understand their problems, she designs technical proposals and operational procedures, and she supervises the work onsite.
Coiled tubing can help, whether it’s a new well under development or an existing well that’s been producing over the years, Noor says. it could be a piece of equipment dropped down in an underdevelopment well, or a decline in production. Coiled Tubing applications are numerous and various; it can be fishing, cementing, acid stimulation, cleanout, milling and many other different interventions work scope as well.
The versatility of the technology fits her personality. “I’ve never liked to get stuck on a problem. I won’t stay thinking about the problem, but instead, what is the best way forward?”
Although Noor was one of many women studying engineering in university, there are many fewer practicing engineering in oil and gas. “For Kuwaiti woman, working in deserted areas with men for days, is something considered a shameful thing. You’d rarely find support for it,” she explains. She was once asked to leave a rig by a field operator who “didn’t want to take the responsibility” of having a woman onsite.
“Sometimes it’s not just family or society; it can be the operator that doesn’t want you there.” But that hasn’t stopped her, and it shouldn’t stop other women, she says.
“You should do what you like, regardless of what society expects of you. What limits you in your career and your future shouldn’t be that. Don’t shy away from doing what you want.
“I make up my own mind about what I want to do regardless of others people opinion. This is my career and my dream.”
Although Noor has pursued her dreams. She does have advice for her younger self and for other young women. “At the beginning of my career, I was shy to speak for myself and felt that my work would speak for itself. But my advice now is not to shy away and to speak out about what my achievements are.
“Yes, technical knowledge and operational experience are great, but self-branding and networking can take you miles ahead.” BHGE has always been very supportive, she said, especially providing a great field lead program. “Through it, I got the technical and operational support I needed.” As a full-stream company, BHGE gives her something else as well.
“When I meet with clients, their expectations are higher now that we are part of GE, and am happy for the opportunities provided to meet these expectations.” On a more personal level, being part of a bigger company means “more opportunities to learn, and I’m looking forward to it.”
She sees the difficulties resulting from being one of few women in the field today as worth it, to help “pave the way for generations to come. So, if I take the first step, [those after me] will go many miles forward.”
She supports women’s empowerment as a member of the SPE (Society of Petroleum Engineers) Women in Energy Committee and as a discussion leader and session chair for two Middle East SPE Women in Leadership and Excellence events.
She also is a committee member of ICOTA (Intervention & Coiled Tubing Association) Middle East Chapter. In giving back to her community, Noor is using her role with SPE to organize the first SPE magazine in Kuwait.
More broadly, her community activities include support to the Kuwait Down Syndrome Society. During Ramadan this year, she solicited BHGE’s sponsorship of the Girgean festivities for children of the center. Girgean takes place in the middle of the Holy Month of Ramadan and involves children dressing in traditional clothes and carrying bags as they go from house to house in their neighborhood, collecting candy.
“What’s great about this company is that you get the support for any ideas that you initiate,” she says. What’s more, “I didn’t get only support, but also continuous praise and motivation to do even more.”