Senior Process Technician Ms Ng Hap Bee (Huang Hemei) joined Shell Eastern Petroleum nine years ago as her first job and she has never looked back.

Says Ms Ng: “Bukom is a great place to work. Many Bukomites (what we call people who live work on Pulau Bukom) have worked in Shell for many years, some even up to 40 years! It is like a big family here and my colleagues are one team who help one another.”

Ms Ng works at Shell’s Pulau Bukom Manufacturing Site, an integrated oil and petrochemicals site with manufacturing facilities for fuels, lubricant base oils and specialty chemicals. Bukom is one of the most important Shell production sites in the world, the largest wholly-owned Shell refinery globally in terms of crude distillation capacity.

“At Bukom, we also have access to a gymnasium and badminton courts, while other perks include a weekly ‘Fruit Day’ where we receive fresh fruits. I think very few people can say that they work on an island and can enjoy a beautiful sea view every work day,” says Ms Ng.

Her job involves operating process units within the production area where she is works on daily routine rounds, coordination of any maintenance jobs within the plants, equipment test runs, continuously monitoring the condition of the process units and troubleshooting.

“I also ensure that safety procedures are being practiced and that the work environment is safe before any work starts,” says Ms Ng who holds a Bachelor of Technology (Chemical Engineering) from National University of Singapore after obtaining her Diploma in Chemical Engineering from Ngee Ann Polytechnic.

Due to the nature of her work, Ms Ng works on eight-hour shifts. “Working on shifts, there are times that we need to work during festive periods and weekends so we may have less time with family compared with desktop type of work. However, we are compensated with paid leave in return. Work-life balance is all about how you manage your time to spend it with your family and friends,” she says.

More importantly, she has learnt to adapt to working in a male dominated environment which requires the application of physical strength. She explains: “I was the second batch of female process technicians to join Shell. In the early days, I had to work really hard to prove myself and fit into the traditionally male-dominated environment.”

“It was a learning experience for everyone in the team and I had to explain to my male colleagues why I wanted to work in the process unit. Eventually they have all accepted me as part of the team,” says Ms Ng.

When she got pregnant in the middle of her part time degree course, her colleagues rallied behind her. Ms Ng says: “It was tough as I tend to get tired easily. Besides working, I had to cope with my school work. My line Managers were very considerate and caring, they helped to arrange for me to go on normal working hours and reduced my work load.”

Running a live Unit, every day is a new challenge, according to Ms Ng. “When equipment fails, we need to think of ways to mitigate it so as to keep the unit running safely.  We have a comprehensive set of requirements and procedures to ensure that it’s a safe place to work in,” she says.

Shell provides staff with professional training and development programs, as well as leadership programs, and access to coaching or mentoring. Together with their line managers, staff evaluates the gaps and decides on learning that include on-the-job or project experiences and formal learning.

“My line manager conducts regular catch up with me to understand my long term career plan, identifies my gaps and learning needs and then develop plan to help me grow,” she says.

In order to cultivate the habit of continuous learning, Shell also reimburses an amount every year for every employee to attend any course of their choice for self-development. Financial assistance is also provided to employees seeking to upgrade themselves academically.

A special scholarship programme is also available for process technicians to pursue a degree.

Says Ms Ng: “I joined Shell as a junior technician with a diploma in chemical engineering. After working for a few years, I took up the Shell scholarship for process technicians to pursue further studies.”

“My degree in Bachelor of Technology (Chemical Engineering) from the National University of Singapore has helped me improve my process technician skills, enabled me to understand more of the unit’s limitation and constraints to enhance my trouble shooting skills. The degree study also allowed me to progress to an engineer position.”

In Shell, diversity and inclusion are ethos that it abides by. Employee networks like Network of Women (NOW) are supported or sponsored by the businesses. In 2012, the NOW group in Pulau Bukom distributed roses to all female employees to show its appreciation. In addition, nursing mothers have access to Mothers‘ Rooms across all Shell Singapore worksites.   

“My job expectations about the job have been met, such as work in the field instead of a desk-bound job. I enjoy facing different challenges each and every day and the systematic career progression. It is also family-like environment where everyone helps one another,” says Ms Ng.

This article was published in The Straits Times on March 16, 2013. Credit to Singapore Press Holdings.

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