Yassmin’s choice to study mechanical engineering was fuelled by her love for motor sport and chassis design. As a teenager, she dreamed about becoming the first black female Formula One driver. She even applied for a Masters degree in motor sport in the UK, convinced that it would be her ticket into F1, but she soon realised that she needed to save some money first in order to pay her fees.
“My plan was to work for a year and save up enough money to go to the UK for my Masters, but after being introduced to someone from Shell and joining the team in Perth as a graduate engineer, I fell in love with the oil and gas industry,” she said.
Motor sport’s loss is definitely Shell’s gain and Yassmin joined the company in March 2014 as a graduate well-site engineer. “From the outset it was all about being trained properly and I knew I had to study in order to pass the first two rounds of training. I was trained in The Hague and Malaysia and really enjoyed the travelling side of it.
“At the moment, I’m helping to design a job process for a well and I’m gradually getting more responsibility.”
Yassmin’s days are quite varied but she enjoys her days on the rig the most. “I like getting up really early to chat to the crew about what’s happening on the rig. I fill in the drill reports and during the day I’ll have all sorts of different jobs including being the drill supervisor’s right-hand person, making sure the operation is being done well and basically seeing if anyone needs my help.
We are all on a small platform in the middle of the ocean, about a three-hour chopper ride from the coast and we’re drilling five or six kilometres out to a target that we can’t even see. The technology never ceases to amaze me. Even though the crew consists of more than a hundred people, there is a familiar atmosphere where people are friends and are willing to help each other.
Everyone has a funny nickname and people get up at the same time, eat at the same time and go through the same drills every day. In a way, it’s like a boarding school but only with more tattoos!”
Yassmin’s onshore team is a diverse group which includes people from Norway, the Netherlands, Zambia, Scotland and Singapore. “I’m honoured to work with people from all over the world who are not only my team but also like my family. I always feel confident to ask questions as everyone has a lot of experience and knowledge to share.”
However, the role also comes with a lot of challenges. “When you’re constantly working in an area where people’s lives are at risk, it’s normal to be nervous. Thankfully the support structure in Shell is really strong and you never have to deal with difficult situations on your own.”
Yassmin also sometimes feels challenged by unconscious bias, especially since she has a passion for diversity in the workplace. “Society has told us over decades that certain people are less likely to succeed due to their gender, the colour of their skin, the education they have or the physical impairment they may be dealing with,” she said.
“But if you realise that and challenge your own thoughts about it, your workplace and community is bound to change. People in Shell are increasingly becoming aware of this and are therefore also starting to challenge it. This can only truly work if it is also supported by leadership, which thankfully in Shell, it is.”
The future looks bright for Yassmin as she hopes to gain more offshore and international experience. “Hopefully someday I’ll be able to supervise a whole rig. I also believe that conserving energy should be the biggest focus of my generation and being a part of this industry means I’m right there in the midst of decision-making. The opportunity to have a positive influence on my community while some of the most amazing people in the world are working alongside me, is a great privilege.”
More about Yassmin
- Yassmin was born in Sudan but her parents moved to Australia when she was two.
- She remembers wanting to be an astronaut or a palaeontologist when she grew up.
- At the age of 16, she started a charity called Youth Without Borders – an organisation that believes in the power of diversity and challenges people to work together for the implementation of positive change. She also sat on the Australian Multicultural Council, the Board of the Queensland Museum and the Design Council, contributed as a member of the Federal ANZAC Centenary Commemoration Youth Working Group and was on the organising committee of the 2014 Youth G20 Summit. All of these achievements led to her being nominated as a finalist for the 2015 National Young Australian of the Year Awards.
- She was recently invited to give a talk at a TEDx event in Southbank, Australia, where she presented her thoughts on unconscious bias.