Being told that working in oil was just for boys, only made a young Nayrim Buchan more determined: “I’m a farmer’s daughter from Venezuela – a rural place where girls don’t go in for higher education. But I was slightly different: always looking at the moon and the stars and asking ‘How do we get there?’.

Her ambitions led to her gaining a master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering before she was 19.

Then came the challenge she took in her stride: “Towards the end of my master's I was sitting in a session about the oil industry, and I asked how I could get a career in oil. The man replied: ‘The boys, can come and apply’. So I applied too. I did all my tests and interviews, and I won an internship and then full-time employment.

After five years in a full time job, Nayrim returned to academia to complete a Master’s in Petroleum Engineering and, although she could have done a PhD, she surprised those around her by deciding to do an MBA instead.

Nayrim discusses her varied career with colleagues.
After a varied career, Nayrim now does what she loves every day with Shell.

Take ownership of your career

“However, it was such an interesting time for engineering due to the number of mergers and acquisitions happening that I then realised I wanted to go back to it,” she said. “I thought that a career in the oil industry for a woman would be tough. But I wanted to get on. So I took ownership of my career and started working as a consultant. I wanted to be free to follow my own interests.”

Nayrim’s interests included heavy oil, HPHT (High Pressure High Temperature), deep water, the long reach wells in Denmark and more. Seeking out her own opportunities and letting clients know what she could offer meant she was kept busy. 

Having acquired this basket of skills, experience and achievement, Nayrim was ready for the next step in her career. “I wanted to make use of my experience and look into my future,” she recalled. “I wanted to take ownership of the things I do, to manage my own career direction and I wanted to be in an innovative environment that would get me out of bed every day. I felt a sense of responsibility that my career would, and should, make a real contribution to the world. And so, I chose Shell.”

“Shell asked me where I wanted to be, where I wanted to take my career and I liked that. I wanted to be in charge of my own path and make sure that, if I progress, it’s because I’ve earned it.”

She began in the Netherlands as a Wells Engineering Team Lead and quickly progressed to Wells Engineering Manager. She said: “It’s a great place to be. I’d always said I would retire at 40 and I now realise I don’t need to plan a retirement because I’m doing it now – I wake up and do what I love every day. One of my three children once asked me ‘Mummy, you look so happy – do you go to work to play?’.”

Clarify objectives and go!

Nayrim’s varied career has led her to the realisation that it’s up to the individual to make her own career path: “It is there before you. It’s so obvious that sometimes you don’t see it. Make sure you know what your career objectives are, short term and long term, and go for it. Nobody can stop you doing that – sometimes you will only stop yourself.”

To hear more from Nayrim listen to this podcast recorded for International Women’s Day 2016.

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