Kylie together with her children

Kylie van der Sar has always been fascinated with physics. Add to that her curious nature and interest in large, industrial machinery and fluid mechanics, and it’s easy to see why she decided to study engineering. After completing her degrees in mechanical engineering and commerce, she kicked off her career as a Project Engineer at Shell’s Newport Terminal in Victoria.

Today, 18 years later, Kylie is Shell Australia’s Business Development Manager, leading upstream acquisition and divestment deals. Her work helps to shape Shell’s portfolio of opportunities in Australia.

“I’ve always been attracted to companies who had large technological projects and a chance to work abroad with Shell was an exciting prospect. I’ve worked on projects in the Netherlands, Russia, across Europe and in Africa. I’ve now been back in Australia for almost five years,” Kylie says.

She appreciates the fact that it’s easy to develop yourself within the company. “I’ve been able to plan out a career without having to move outside Shell. There are a lot of opportunities in the company. Also, when I think about the values that Shell aspires to around honesty, respect and integrity, I realise that it aligns with my own personal values.”

According to Kylie, Shell’s flexible working policy is another benefit to employees. “I like the autonomy to manage my own time and the trust given to me that I will manage my workload. Thankfully in my role, the nine-to-five mentality doesn’t really exist and I can arrange my work to allow me to watch my kids perform in their school assembly or leave early to look after them if needed.

Lars (9) and Hugh (6) are involved in any sport they can play and they are full of energy. My husband Irold and I try to spend as much time as we can with them. Flexible working is about being responsible; about delivering what you need to when you need to,” she says.

Her job does come with challenges, though. “Seeing as my role has to do with acquisitions and divestments, I constantly have to look across different disciplines; legal, financial, technical, economical and sometimes even geological. But a lot of my time and effort also go into my team. I am always trying the get the most out of the people and to help them become even better at what they do.

I realise that if my team works well and delivers well, it’s good for the business. Managing the work as well as the people is something I enjoy; I get a great sense of achievement from developing those around me,” she shares

"Passion is the prerequisite for any success; the driving force behind really achieving your goals."

Kylie together with her family

Outside of her day job, Kylie is an active member and role model in the Shell Women’s Network. Her goal in these activities is to empower young women to become the best they can be. One way in which she has achieved this is by leading a female mentoring circle and sharing her advice for building a dynamic international career and a strong personal brand.

She also appears as a speaker in forums. “I find it satisfying to know that I can make a difference in the lives of people that I talk to and that they can learn from my mistakes. I also act as an individual mentor to a number of women,” Kylie says.

Kylie thinks younger women can easily fall into the trap of getting into their work so much that they forget to showcase what they’ve already done. “Don’t forget to always think about where you want to go next – market yourself and find opportunities within the company to progress your career.”

In turn, she thinks more experienced women should focus on building a network. “Reach out and establish relationships. Networking is an integral part of how we operate in Shell. If you try to learn from the people around you, you’ll make things a lot easier for yourself,” she adds.

Kylie’s tips on personal branding

  • Be clear on who you are and what is important to you. It must be genuine, consistent with your core values and not based on what you think others want to see in you.
  • Be consistent. What you say, how you act and how you carry yourself in business as well as in private situations need to reflect who you are and what you stand for. Provided that your actions are consistent with your core values, this will not be difficult.
  • Your social media presence forms an integral part of how you are seen and you should try to manage it accordingly.

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