Teo Mui Poh is Senior Manager, Operations at the Shell Middle Distillate Synthesis plant in Bintulu, Sarawak, Malaysia. She explains why she’s been so happy to work for Shell through her 20-year career.
Growing up in Singapore, Teo Mui Poh was surrounded by a hub of Shell activity. The Shell brand was instantly recognisable to her and, upon graduation, it seemed only natural for her to apply for a job at Shell. She joined the company as part of its graduate scheme in 1994 after obtaining her degree in Chemical Engineering from the National University of Singapore.
During her Shell career, Mui Poh has worked in a variety of roles across several countries. She began as a process engineer in the Base Oil Manufacturing Plant in Pulau Bukom Refinery in Singapore and subsequently took several positions in areas that spanned technology, Health, Safety, Security and the Environment (HSSE) and Change Management.
In 2004, Mui Poh took an assignment in Australia, working in operations management in the Shell Geelong refinery. She returned to Pulau Bukom Refinery as a Production Unit Manager in 2007 before moving to Bintulu, Sarawak in 2011. She is currently based there as Senior Manager – Operations at the Shell Middle Distillate Synthesis (SMDS) plant, which was the world’s first commercial Gas-to-Liquids plant.
But what is it about Shell that has encouraged her to continue her career with them for over 20 years? Mui Poh’s favourite thing about working at Shell is the opportunity to move around within the company.
The fact that she works in a production environment means that she has to balance many different roles and priorities at the same time, always being aware of the wider implications of her actions, with safety being the top priority. “People can get hurt in our environment, so it’s imperative to ensure people’s safety.”
A career highlight for Mui Poh was when she was involved in managing a project (between 2009 and 2010) in which there was some construction work in a live plant environment.
As a young graduate, she felt that there was a stereotype about operations not being for women, but Mui Poh believes that has changed in the 20 years since she joined.
“There are more females in technical roles than at the start of my career and we’re constantly looking out for new candidates. It’s not just about the company’s attitude though, it’s also about breaking down society’s stereotypes and convincing the candidate that this could be the right role for them.” Teo Mui Poh
Mui Poh likes to encourage other women to join Shell. “Women are often self-limiting about the type of role they could do. I think they should explore the possibilities – there are many options out there. There’s never been a dull moment for me at Shell. I can’t get bored because there is always another opportunity that comes along. Every job is different and I’ve been lucky enough to build on the strength of previous experience I’ve gained in each position.”
And she’s also passing on what she’s learnt over the last 20 years at Shell. “I’m mentoring two young chemical engineers. Mentoring sessions don’t just help the mentees, it’s great for us as more experienced people to be able to gain insight and understanding about how young people think. It’s good to see things from a young perspective – it might just help you figure out your blind spots.”