Women in Oil & Gas: Pushing Boundaries on the Road to Success
For many engineers working in complex fields, it’s a challenge to explain in layman’s terms what they do. Fatma Benferhat recently described her job to her young nephew this way: “I repair parts of big turbines, and those turbines are disassembled like a Lego and repaired piece by piece.”
More formally, Fatma is Lead Engineer, Repair Development at the ALGESCO turbomachinery equipment service center in Algeria, one of BHGE’s largest such facilities in the world.
She supports a team that fixes gas turbines and centrifugal compressor rotors that are used in oil fields and power plants. Her role includes inspecting the equipment – which can weigh an aver of 8,000 Kg and extend more than 3 meters from end to end –as they come into the shop and decide what work needs to be done.
She particularly enjoys her work because every day is different, even though she deals with the same pieces of equipment. The challenge arises because each rotor comes with “a new technical problem to solve.”
As someone who was never interested in dolls, preferring to read her older brothers’ engineering and science magazines, and wanted to be an astronaut, it’s no surprise that Fatma is working at ALGESCO. However, her current leadership role is, in part, due to the support and encouragement provide by BHGE.
“I was a shy person, but BHGE always pushes me to go out of my comfort zone. This is to help us push our boundaries and ask for more.” So, early on, she was nominated by her manager to participate in a leadership development program that “taught us how to identify our weaknesses and work on them.” This helped her address her shyness and enabled her to make presentations and lead tours of the facility.
She continues to build her leadership skills with the company’s support. Currently she is enrolled in BHGE’s Services Women Talent Development Program, which seeks to increase the number of women leaders in the services areas of this fullstream oil and gas services company.
Her passion for engineering also drives Fatma to mentor younger female engineers or soon-to-be engineers, whether they are interns at BHGE or college students. She regularly encourages college women to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields.
Having earned a Mechanical Engineering degree from University of Science and Technology – Houari Boumediene, Fatma tells them not to be intimidated by these fields. “Don’t be afraid. Choosing a technical field is no more complicated than any other specialty.”
She also has led university women on tours of the ALGESCO facility to familiarize them with the type of engineering work she does and to open their eyes to the possibility of pursuing this type of career.
As she herself has done, Fatma encourages young people to “always push your boundaries and be outside of your comfort zone.”
An engineer at heart, Fatma brings her passion for excellence and constant improvement to one of her non-work passions: cooking. “I apply the lean concept in the kitchen, so I can have a meal ready in less than 30 minutes. She also likes swimming, jogging and hiking in the woods with her husband.