I Hope To Be A Leader By Example – Says Eman Sayed Shahin

Posted on September 1, 2023

Within Egypt’s pivotal position in Africa’s energy landscape, Eman Sayed Shahin, Performance Lead and Senior Petroleum Engineer at Dragon Oil Egypt, epitomizes the influential role of women in this sector. Her achievements and contributions serve as a testament to the growing presence of women in the energy industry, breaking barriers and shaping its future. Shahin is featured on the African Energy Chamber’s list of 25 Under 40 Energy Women Rising Stars.

Please share a brief overview of your journey in the energy industry that led to your current role? What are some key achievements or milestones that you are particularly proud of?

I got My Bachelor’s degree in Petroleum Engineering in 2011 as one of the top 10 graduates, I started my career back in 2012 as the first female petroleum engineer in one of the top 5 national oil and gas companies in Egypt where I played multiple roles as a part on the subsurface team resulted in better management for company reserves that impacted positively on the company performance through applying new practices and initiatives, after six years I relocated to have a short term assignment in one of the Canadian companies that operates in Egypt during this period. I worked between Egypt and Canada as a part from the newly formulated subsurface team in Egypt hub and my role was establishing a new methodologies data center while handing over the data from Calgary main office as well as being part of reserve estimation team.

In April 2020, I joined Dragon Oil Holdings as a Senior Petroleum Engineer. After a short period, my role was expanded to cover the performance lead duties, where I am responsible for all planning and performance management technical aspects besides being the commercial tag within the engineering department for all budgeting and forecasting-related matters. My current role opened a new horizon in my career, and in order to enhance and polarize my capabilities and skills, I started to pursue my MBA degree just afterwards in 2020. In 2023, I will get my MBA degree in Strategic Management from the Arab Academy for Science and Maritime Transport and Autonoma de Barcelona universities, besides a diploma in strategic management from Missouri University.

Striving for excellence in every role I have taken is considered my greatest achievement, as my target is always to leave a great fingerprint wherever I work. It wasn’t easy to go through all of it because of all the challenges and obstacles I have faced as a solo female engineer in a male-dominated environment, with the main target being to keep my identity as an Arabic-Islamic hijabi engineer. I was able, at a very young age, to represent the organizations I worked for in multiple international conferences and exhibitions, showing the success stories and great outputs from the technical work, besides presenting and moderating multiple events in the industry. The extracurricular activities played a great role in helping me in mingling and making the way through the journey not only to take but mainly to give. As a volunteer active member in the Society of Petroleum Engineers since graduation, I played a great role in sharing experiences and knowledge with younger and elder generations and helping others to strive through their journey. Sharing technical experiences as a technical instructor for the junior students was also one of my greatest achievements “It is the true meaning of giving back”.

The energy industry is known for its complexities. What were some significant challenges you faced along the way, and how did you navigate through them to achieve your goals?

Well, the journey so far wasn’t easy; it was full of challenges, ups, and downs. But I will highlight only the most common challenges I have faced. Acceptance was one of the major challenges I have faced during my journey. Being accepted among my colleagues as the only female without doubting my skills wasn’t easy, and to make them believe that I can do the job wasn’t easy either. It required a great level of confidence, hard work, self-motivation, a high level of engagement, and positive energy to make it through.

Drawing a clear career path with a well-defined development plan was another challenge to overcome via always seeking great guidance and mentoring in every career stage, besides adapting the continuous improvement mindset either on the technical competences or the soft skills side.

But let me say that being highly motivated, diligent, and proactive is the secret key to not only overcoming the challenges but also driving perfectly to achieve all your goals.

What advice would you give to young females aspiring to excel in the energy sector? Are there any specific strategies or mindsets that helped you overcome obstacles and reach your current position?

The main advice that I always give to any female in the energy sector is to work hard, do your best, and always be herself. There is no easy route, but we have to learn how to maximize the benefits from the ups and don’t let the downs affect us, and we have to always believe that whenever you are doing your best, regardless of what the job is, be sure that something great will come out of it. Another main piece of advice is to don’t hesitate to ask for guidance, mentoring, or support if it is not there; this is your life, your career, and you have to fight for it.

The main strategy I have followed throughout my career was always trying to excel at what I am. I periodically conduct personal or technical self-assessments, either personally or through a 360-degree feedback with either assuring or redirecting. This feedback helps draws personal benchmarks and key achievements. I am always competing with myself only because I want to be a better version of myself than I was yesterday.

A career in energy can be demanding. Could you describe a typical day in your life?

Well, this one is a bit tricky; the energy industry is very critical, and some days might become very overloaded, but we will talk about a normal day. As I live almost an hour’s drive from work, I have to wake up early in the morning, start my day with prayers and get ready in the formal dress code. I then start my ride to work but first get coffee, and after arriving at the office, kick off the daily work activities between emails, meetings, and finalizing tasks to always meet the deliverables and deadlines. During the day, some catching up among family and friends is an essential part of the day. Afternoons vary depending on whether I have a networking event, technical session, friend outing, or home sweet home with family. My night is always and forever preserved for family time. One thing that I am always trying to maintain is ‘me time,’ even if it is only for 10 minutes. Thinking of having this time has a great reflection on my character and state of mind. I am an early bird, so going to bed early as well is one of my regular traits.

Looking ahead, what changes or advancements do you hope to see in the energy sector, and how do you envision your role in shaping that future?

Since I joined the energy industry in 2012, I have witnessed a great revolution in the visions of all the partners in promoting diversity and inclusion that resulted in a very positive working environment that is full of encouragement and support. Besides paying great attention to the impact of the environment, lots of initiatives and CSR activities have been adapted. Another one of the major changes, especially after COVID, is highlighting the importance of creating a work-life balance environment by introducing new methodologies for handling tasks, meetings, and work in general. I really hope there is continued progress for all.

As a person who believes in equity, not quota, I really hope that all energy sector partners standardize the processes, eliminating any bias or preferences, as it is not about gender, color, or race; it is all about qualifications and potential. We are shaping future leaders, so make sure you are choosing the right ones.

Establishing several communities wherever you work aiming to share and exchange knowledge besides networking is something I really hope to see well populated among the sector in all countries. I really hope to be a leader by example. As whatever I have faced or seen during my journey, my aim is to make it much easier on the upcoming generation. As I would like to end my talk by saying, it is all about the journey, so make it worthwhile.

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