Improving gender diversity at James Fisher Nigeria

Engineer and forklift driver Precious Amarachi Arinze tells all about her role with James Fisher Nigeria, and what it’s like working in a typically male-dominated environment.  

What interested you in pursuing a career in the oil and gas industry? 

My success story is not far different from every woman in the oil and gas industry, and we all know that they say that charity begins at home. Growing up with engineers in my family, my aunty and brother opened my eyes to the world of engineering. I graduated with a distinction in mechanical engineering back in August 2019, and, given the fact that I was excellent in my science course, it made it very easy for me to find the determination to pursue a career in oil and gas. 

Having mentors like Gwynne Shotwell, Katie Weimer and Christian Koch, who I’ve always looked up to and given me a sense of assurance over the years, conveyed to me that I was going in the right direction pursuing an engineering career.  

I love taking on new challenges within my role and I like to stand out and prove my abilities, especially when considering that the oil and gas industry is a typically male-dominated environment. I saw every obstacle as a challenge.  

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Precious has worked on a variety of engineering projects for James Fisher Nigeria

What would you say is the biggest challenge you have faced at work?

The major challenge is gender stereotypes. Women have to work harder to prove themselves capable in this industry, and I think that has to change. Coming to work on days when there is a visitor or someone coming to perform an inspection, when they see that I’m a woman, they immediately draw a conclusion that I can't handle certain tasks. Because of that, I find I have to prove myself more than my male colleagues.

I’d like to pay thanks to the management team at Scantech Offshore for giving me the opportunity, courage and support to continue my career in the oil and gas industry.

What large-scale engineering projects have you been involved in?

Since starting my engineering career, I’ve been involved in a variety of projects. I did my industrial training (IT) in Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) Nigeria where I was given the opportunity to work in the mechanical workshop, electrical workshop and instrumentation workshop. 

I worked on a palm oil processing plant project in Abia, Nigeria, where I was involved in designing and developing AUTO-CAD software for the drafting of the plant layout.

I was also involved in plant optimisation and evaluation processes in order to attain an efficiency rating of 94 per cent. As for the plant optimisation, I performed operating range analysis (FORA) to examine the operational performance of a palm oil mill, and study the utilisation and flexibility of the palm oil milling process. Data was also collected for performance indication in order to determine the pressing and crushing forces. 

On a separate project, I acted as the project technician in waste management and environmental engineering, where I was involved in the design and fabrication of a series of waste management buckets for the Abia State Environmental Protection Agency (ASEPA).

Together with the skills I’ve acquired during my career so far, I’ve really built up my level of experience and expertise, giving me broader knowledge and capabilities in engineering.

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Precious is also a qualified forklift truck driver

What have been your biggest achievements in your career to date?

Overcoming the challenges of gender stereotypes while ensuring I remain the best at what I do is my greatest achievement. My philosophy in life has always been to never let anybody define you. Facing the challenges of gender stereotypes pushed me to always strive to be outstanding in order to achieve the best. I take the energy to learn, focus and grow. I’m a woman with dreams and that’s all that matters to me.   

Being able to drive and operate a forklift is another one of my proudest achievements. To become a qualified forklift operator, I didn’t attend any special training, but I showed genuine interest and an eagerness to learn. I was taught by my elder brother, as he was already qualified, so I took the advantage to develop myself in that area. Just like operating a compressor or a steam boiler, there was no special training but simply the motivation and interest I demonstrated to learn more.

Having a team that believes in me is my greatest achievement. When I’m assigned a task there is no hesitation or doubt from my team or supervisor that I can do the job. I’m always trusted to deliver at all times and that gives me the confidence to perform the task at hand. Working with my team, there is no discrimination as to whether you’re male or female, as we work together as a team to achieve a given task.

Would you recommend other aspiring females to pursue a career in the oil and gas industry?

According to a recent study conducted by MC Kingsley, women make up just 15 per cent of the world's oil and gas workforce, 17 per cent of the power and utilities sector and 32 per cent of the renewable energy workforce. In Africa, women make up just 9 per cent of senior management positions in the energy sector.

Given my experience so far in the oil and gas industry, I think there is enough room for both male and female engineers. Women show determination and motivation in the workplace, and that’s why I recommend and encourage females to pursue a career in oil and gas. Women need to further embrace engineering as a career so we can achieve a more even gender balance in the oil and gas industry.