Making a difference: a career in oil and gas

By Ferrioli Sonia
GE Oil & Gas, Powering, France

A career in oil and gas is, in my opinion, one of the most exciting in the world – for a man or a woman! Admittedly when I was at university my engineering class was more male, and I can understand that an industry so intrinsically linked with heavy machinery and technology has traditionally been viewed as one that’s tougher for a woman. But there has been an evolution over the past decade and now the O&G sector needs more women – we bring a different viewpoint and perspective that can contribute in overcoming the barriers ahead. What’s important to succeed isn’t your gender, but your intelligence, effort and desire to learn more every day.

My own journey with GE Oil & Gas started when the company came to the Politecnico in Turin, where I was finishing my engineering studies, to search for candidates for its entry-level Operations Management Leadership Programme (OMLP). I went through pre-screening & interviews in Florence, together with other engineers coming from the best universities in Italy, and I was fortunate enough to be one of just two people selected. I haven’t looked back since. At the time, I couldn’t have imagined what was lying in store for me – I’ve travelled all over the world, cooperated with people from diverse cultures, been trained in areas that were totally alien to me and team worked to develop technologies that have never been built before. It’s been a true enriching experience so far, I’ve learned every day from the talented teams I’ve met and it’s inspiring to know that we are working to make a real difference to one of the biggest problems facing the contemporary world.

Society simply can’t grow and evolve without oil and gas. Energy demands, particularly from developing countries, are spiralling quickly and to meet them, we have to overcome some of the greatest technological challenges ever known. This is what makes the industry so exciting now.

My GE career so far has been exceptionally varied, in terms of both where I’ve worked and what I’ve done. I’m based in Paris now but my team is spread all over the world and I’ve also worked in Houston, Florence & travelled to China, India, USA, Latin America. The international element of the job is something I really love – it’s challenging on a professional level, enabling you to learn different approaches and make better decisions, but also on a personal level, expanding your horizons and exposing you to different cultures.

Then, there’s the job itself. With my technical education and background, I started as an engineer in supply chain, working on production optimization, quality improvement & manufacturability for the new products & technologies developed. A never ending challenge to improve our machines & provide new solutions to the industry needs. For example 6 years ago, working as NPI (New Product Introduction) Supply Chain Leader with a team of 12, I helped to develop a new sub-sea motor compressor enabling offshore oil extraction up to 860 metres below sea-level. Six years ago it was a customer need not achievable with the existing technology, now it is a reality! … a solution!

However, what surprised me was how much work I’ve done beyond just engineering. I’m part of GE’s Corporate Leadership Staff, which develops senior people in the company for leadership roles. As part of this, we are trained to see the big picture – which means learning about operations, sales, finance, communications, marketing, leadership, among many other areas. This has allowed me to work in commercial teams, in product management and my current role is in sales. An amazing portfolio of experiences that enabled a deeper understanding of the business, of the industry, of the market dynamics but most importantly of the Customers. If you had told me when I started that I would be performing such varied tasks, I wouldn’t have believed you! But I feel so enriched from doing so – it takes you out of your comfort zone and forces you to stretch yourself in ways you can’t imagine.

The challenges facing the industry in the years ahead are numerous – from extracting supplies from areas people have never been, to using technology and big data to help machines become more efficient and intelligent. The world needs intelligent minds – male or female – to take on these challenges and help build a better future. If you’d like to help make the difference, come and join us.

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