“I’m unashamedly passionate about technology,” says Selda Gunsel, General Manager of Products & Quality in Shell’s Lubricants business. “My favourite subject in school was mathematics and I liked problem solving,” she adds.

It was this interest in all things technical that led her to study a chemical engineering PhD, and later to join Shell and develop a rewarding career.

“I’ve been very lucky to work for a company where technology and innovation are seen as ways to provide meaningful solutions to the problems we face – now and in the future,” she continues.

Today, Selda is a multi-award-winning lubricants engineer and one of the most recognised women in her field. But throughout her career she’s held a committed approach to her development: “I think it is important to have passion and love for what we do, and to feel that it matters.”

Selda Gunsel delivering a speech at a Shell event.
Selda Gunsel has always searched out roles that have allowed her to develop and expand her skills.

Engineering a path

Selda joined Shell in 2002 as a Regional Manager for Automotive and Transport Lubricant Technology in Houston, Texas after spending 16 years working in technology and innovation elsewhere in the energy industry.

Moving to a company as large as Shell was initially daunting for Selda, but having the support of colleagues made the transition a comfortable one. “Having a mentor made a big difference,” she says. “That has continued to be the case no matter how much experience I’ve gained. It’s a great opportunity to be challenged from another point of view, to gain insights into your personal capability and to sharpen your understanding of your own role.”

Despite joining Shell as an experienced professional, Selda immediately felt that she could see her own role in the organisation, but also understand the company’s values and vision.

Shell’s culture of nurturing talent quickly fed Selda’s desire to develop her skillset, and when new openings presented themselves, she jumped at the chance. “I’ve always looked for roles that would give me opportunities to continue to learn and expand my skills,” she says.

She soon took on a role that saw her join the leadership team for the American lubricants business, where she worked on both the technical and commercial sides of the industry. “It combined all my passions into one: people leadership, technology leadership and business leadership. Plus, I was interacting with customers,” she says.

For her latest challenge as General Manager for Products & Quality in Lubricants, she looks forward to overseeing the development of superior quality products with increased responsibility for how this fits in with supply across Shell’s global network.

Personal vision meets opportunity

Selda’s enthusiastic approach to challenges like this has made her a pillar of personal and professional achievement.

Selda’s most recent distinction is the election to the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) in the USA, in February 2017. This is in recognition of her distinguished contributions to engineering, “for leadership in developing and manufacturing advanced fuels and lubricants to meet growing global energy demand while reducing CO2 emissions,”. Being elected to the National Academy of Engineering is amongst the highest professional distinctions accorded to an engineer. Her induction took place on 8 October 2017 at the NAE General Meeting in Washington, DC.

With a number of publications and patents to her name, in 2013 Selda was appointed as an Honorary Professor at Beijing’s Tsinghua University. This appointment coincided with a temporary move to Shanghai to oversee the development of a new Lubricants Technical Centre for the Asian market: Shell’s first R&D centre in China.

And the endorsements didn’t stop there. Not only has Selda won a string of internal awards for leadership and innovation, but in 2015 she also took home the Society of Tribologists and Lubrication Engineers’ highest honour, the STLE International Award.

Of all the impressive achievements she’s made in her career however, perhaps the most rewarding is raising a family while also leading a meaningful career. “It’s not always been easy,” she says, “but thanks to the incredible support I got from my family, including my husband, my parents and my sister, and from Shell, I’ve managed to lead both.”

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