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Embracing your authenticity
As a child, Peny had dreams of becoming an interpreter in her native Greece. But her interest in technology soon took over and after joining the Shell Graduate Programme she found herself working as a Business Analyst in IT at Shell’s Bank Street technical hub in London. We spoke to her about working in IT and what it’s like being a woman in a male-dominated environment.
What brought you to IT and Shell?
Having started learning languages from a young age, I thought I wanted to be an interpreter. But when I turned 15, my interest in STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) took over. When I got to university, I studied management of information systems, which meant that I did a bit of programming as well as a lot of business analysis. During my master’s in Technology Policy, I had the opportunity to learn about several different topics within the energy industry, which led me to apply to Shell.
I joined Shell three years ago via the Shell Graduate Programme. Now I’m a Business Analyst in Technical and Competitive IT (TaCIT), working on a real-time marketing project. In this job I can actually see what the impact is going to be on the end customer, and that makes it really exciting.
What advice would you give a young woman who is just starting her career in IT?
Coming into a male-dominated field or discipline like IT may be off-putting. But I think that once you establish yourself and you start delivering, you realise you don’t have to question yourself. At that point it gets much easier.
Embracing your authenticity as a female in a technical area is something that is important. I think women come to a technical discipline with different traits: being more empathetic and being able to build very strong networks can make a real difference. On top of your technical competence, that can be quite a strong differentiating factor because it can create a very strong team. That makes a huge difference in a technical area.
Do you think that women are well represented within technical areas in the industry and within Shell?
I think we could get better female representation in IT, but Shell does provide a supportive environment and it does help. From what I’ve seen, Shell is helping many of my colleagues with things like flexible working and providing mentors. Plus there are the female networks that let you meet and network with other like-minded women. I’ve been really active within the graduate network and the women in IT initiative.
I’ve met a lot of my peers in the business through these, and I learn a lot about what’s going on from them. It creates a very strong sense of community.
What would you say are the most exciting things that are happening in IT at Shell?
We’re following most of the current trends in IT; we are developing our own mobile applications to interact with the customers, we are utilising the cloud for our applications and doing a lot of work around big data and analytics, which are all things that characterise the IT industry. We have put a lot of complex IT systems in place to streamline our processes.
Shell is an exciting place to work, as we’re not doing technology just for the sake of it; we’re looking to make sure it’s technology that’s useful for the business. But we’re doing some pretty cool stuff.
What do you think the future of IT holds for Shell?
It’s all about using data to make better business decisions – staying compliant with privacy laws and maintaining information security at the same time. I can see that happening all across the supply chain, from defining where to drill in the exploration business and how we can make our reservoirs more efficient, to what commercial deals we do with our products, and how we understand and target the end customer. I am involved in this journey as part of my role, which focuses on customer data analytics, and it’s very exciting!
Do you feel like you are being challenged at work?
So far I’ve been given enough stretch, but I’ve also had the necessary support to be successful. I’ve always had a good balance, which is important because it means I am constantly learning. Sometimes when things get a little bit too comfortable it’s good to put up your hand and ask for the next challenge. On the other hand, if it gets too difficult it’s good to reach out and ask for support.
When do you think you will be ready to raise your hand for that next challenge?
I’ve just started this role, so I’m still trying to find my feet before I think about doing that again. I know I want to stay in IT, and I know I want to stay close to the business. After that, I just want to keep my options open for the next challenge.