Marwa Al-Ansary has always known that she wanted to be an engineer. After seven years at Shell, she’s still living her dream every day and inspiring others to do the same. She shares her story.
Growing up in Egypt as one of three children, Marwa Al-Ansary enjoyed collecting unused old items from around her neighbourhood and repurposing them to make gifts for her family and friends. To her, it was the foundation of what she does today – inventing new uses for waste materials.
Initially, her parents didn’t agree with her dream of becoming an engineer. “I had other plans, though,” she says. “I knew they wanted me to become a doctor or a journalist, so I studied engineering in secret for two years. But when the truth finally came out, I explained my passion to my parents and they understood and surprisingly were very supportive afterwards. They were really proud when I received my PhD from the University of Cambridge.”
Marwa enjoyed the academic process, graduating with first class honours in Construction Engineering at the American University in Cairo. She holds master’s degrees in Construction Engineering and Environmental Science. She also completed her PhD in Geotechnical and Environmental Research at the University of Cambridge, where she also taught before joining Shell in 2007 as a research lead.
She appreciates the supportive culture in Shell. “It feels like a family. Working here, I get a lot of opportunities to travel and interact with different nationalities – it’s made me more sensitive to other cultures. A diverse workspace calls for a high level of tolerance and kindness – professionally and personally. A lot of people also work virtually, leading to a modern, dynamic workplace. The Shell environment allows me to connect with local expertise as well as work on cross-regional and international projects to gain knowledge, share ideas and ultimately move forward together.”
According to Marwa, Shell has always been attentive to employees’ needs and the flexible working policy is just one way in which they stay true to this value. “People work flexibly for all kinds of reasons – some have elderly relatives to look after or want more time at home with their kids. Thanks to the Shell working policy, people can work flexibly, virtually and part time, and this helps them maintain a better work-life balance.”
"The internet makes my life so much easier. It’s great to think that you can be anywhere in the world yet still stay connected to your family and colleagues."Marwa Al-Ansary
However, Marwa admits to not always balancing her personal life and career. “My definition of a workday does not fit into the constraints of 9 to 5. I feel that I can work at any time of the day, as long as I don’t do it at the expense of my personal life. I’ve realised that the best way to strike a balance is to delegate. If you trust others to do their job instead of trying to micromanage it all yourself, life becomes a lot easier,” she explains.
Listening to her speak, it’s apparent that she’s a dreamer – always striving to do more. “I like out-of-the-box thinking. It’s not as simple as going to plan B if plan A doesn’t work – what about plan C, D, E? Had I not followed my dreams when I was younger, I would have had a very different life. I couldn’t imagine living someone else’s idea of what my life should be,” she says.
And that’s also her advice to others: “You need to be who you want to be. Forget about society’s stereotypes. At Shell, the opportunities are limitless.”
"I consider myself a citizen of the world … I was born in Saudi Arabia, grew up in Egypt, studied and worked in the UK, married an Indian man and recently moved from the Netherlands to Qatar."Marwa Al-Ansary
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