The Borneo Post (Sabah)
Sabahan mother works in male-dominated industry
MANY may wonder how a loving mother would choose to leave her children and family behind to pursue a career in a maledominated industry.
However, the need to further one’s career and supplement the family income often leaves women with no choice but to engage in a tricky balancing act.
Veralyn Marcie Ismail, a 32year-old Sabahan mother working with Sabah Shell Petroleum Company Limited, only travels back to her family every two weeks.
She is currently an Offshore Logistics Coordinator in one of Shell’s platforms in Miri, Sarawak.
“I am normally assigned to provide efficient 24-hour telecom services for SSB/SSPC offshore locations. At times, I am away for two weeks or even a month depending on how much work I have to do.
“It was not easy at first, as I need to learn from scratch. I was sent to attend a comprehensive training for two months, and started the job with very minimum knowledge.
“I was struggling during my first year, working onshore and going offshore totally two different environments. However, it was a fun and fruitful experience. I made a lot of friends, and learn new culture. Changing experience was awesome. I love my job very much,” she said.
Veralyn, who is holding a Diploma in Information Technology (Tele-Education) from Multimedia University, said there are a few females on the platform.
They are engineers, operation technician and even rigger.
However, the number of female in a platform is still very low, most could be less than 10 per cent of the personnel on board.
“Although many people think that women working offshore is rare, but it is actually not a new thing. I have met female operation technicians that have worked offshore for over ten years,” said Veralyn, who is currently studying in Wawasan Open University, taking a Bachelor of Business (Hons) in Logistics and Supply Chain Management.
Decades ago, women were seriously limited in the fields they could enter because of the prejudice they would endure.
Today, times have changed. Still though, women on an offshore job should know what they are getting into.
No matter how many women are expressing an interest in this job, there are not too many of them in the field.
The industry is heavily maledominated, and a woman working in the field might be the only female on her team. For some women like Veralyn, this is not a problem at all.
“I could work under pressure, up to the point that if I was sent to hell, I could live with it too.
“Being offshore or living with a husband or wife working offshore need a very high level of understanding and trust. A lot of relationship fails, including marriages.
“To me, my husband and family are like my backbone of success in my career, especially my parentin-law family who is looking after our only son, Isaac Bruno. He is staying with my in-laws when we are not around, because my husband is also working with oil and gas in Labuan, onshore base with four days on and off,” she said.
To Verlyn, Isaac is the most precious gift in her life.
“Of course, I want to be a fulltime housewife, probably not the right time yet. We have a few bills to sort out. We don’t want to end up a broken family due to failed financial planning.
“We sat down together with the family before I commit myself to work offshore. Thanks to my understanding and supportive husband, Rathnos Limon and family, so far, we managed to work this out with less hassle.
“Imagine this, I work two weeks offshore, and my husband works in Labuan four days on and off. Even I will be home in another two weeks, our time together is very limited. So, when my husband and I at home, we will use all the time spending together,” she said, adding that time management is not only applying in her job, but in daily life too, as my time is quite different from others.
To her, working in a maledominated industry requires tough mental and physical strength.
“If you are not tough enough to handle it, you might have ended stressing out managing your family matters. This is why you have to be mentally strong,” she added.
In an offshore life, safety is the top priority.
They have standby vessel to monitor within 500 metres vicinity away from harmful threat and some works if required.
“We have catering crew who cook for us, janitors who clean our clothes and make our bed, medic who looks after our health and medication requirement in case of emergency, safety office, engineers, radio operator and many others.
“All are reporting to the OIM - Offshore Installation Manager, who is our father in offshore. Each room has double bunk bed, some rooms have one bed for OIM and supervisors. We have Astro, wifi and gym facilities. Some say we are like living in a hotel,” she said giggling.
Today, when people are still thinking that women do not belong to offshore, Veralyn has proved that she can do it.
In fact, she encourages more women, especially Sabahans to take the opportunities, especially Sabah is planning to develop its long-term oil and gas industry.
“My message to all the ladies out there, if you have the chance to work offshore no matter what would be your role is, just follow these three simple steps in order to survive.
“It is our Shell golden rules which I kept until today. Comply, intervene and respect, comply to any rules and regulations, intervene to any unsafe act or condition that need attention and please respect anyone you meet.
“Work with passion, be realistic, practise good teamwork and you will enjoy your job. It can be offshore, everywhere. I always love what I do, even I have no idea what will I be today. Because you represent your innerself and no one will able to control you,” she concluded.