With a History, Politics and Philosophy degree to her name, Meredith Prior didn’t consider herself to be a candidate for a graduate position with a multinational oil and gas company. She gained professional work experience at the Department of Premier and Cabinet in Victoria and the Australian Trade Commission as she begun to pursue her vocation to serve the community.
But one year on, and after applying for a Shell graduate position on a whim, the Social Performance Advisor has learnt that, actually, her leadership skills and enthusiasm for community development projects makes her exactly the type of person that the company is looking for.
“My passion is with people,” said Meredith. “I grew up in a family where we were always encouraged to give back or contribute to something greater. I knew I wanted a career where I talked to people every day and worked on projects that made a difference. Shell has certainly offered me that.”
As a Graduate Social Performance Advisor, Meredith works to minimise the social impact of Shell’s operations on communities, ensuring positive impacts are maximised and negative impacts are minimised.
“I think the most exciting project I’ve worked on has been the community feedback mechanism. It involved establishing a 1-800 number that local residents can call if they have a question, problem or need information. It was a massive project and I worked with subject matter experts from across Shell. It was a great feeling when the calls started coming through and we were able to solve real problems. To be able to help people, even in a small way, is fantastic,” said Meredith.
Shell’s dedication to the wellbeing of local people is something which has both impressed and surprised Meredith, she admitted: “Before I joined Shell, I was of the opinion that multinationals were faceless organisations that didn’t care about people. "
"But to come here and see another side to that has been illuminating; my colleagues really believe in leaving a positive legacy and having positive community relationships. The non-technical risks, which include public opposition, can be a fundamental driver to our bottom line, so the topic is taken really seriously. It’s been rewarding to explain to co-workers how to integrate these principles into their work.”
Although Meredith worried that her generalist background would put her at a disadvantage next to those graduates with more traditional technical experience, the full training she received boosted her confidence.
“In the first couple of months, I went to the Netherlands for a month on an introductory training course which explained the company’s structure, the values and drivers. I also went to Malaysia to learn more about the Downstream business - it was absolutely fantastic. "
"Shell can teach you technical knowledge while you’re on the job; what they’re looking for are leadership qualities, and critical thinkers who are able to analyse information quickly and speak confidently in public. A year on, I’m having conversations I’d never dreamed of having, using complex technical terminology I’d never encountered before. The learning curve was steep, but I’m definitely making progress and have felt supported on the journey.
Meredith has always felt well-supported in her own team, too. The cultural diversity of her home office means that she benefits from her colleagues’ varied experience every day, she said: “We’re diverse in gender and everyone brings lessons from their different backgrounds. I think it makes us a really high-performing team; the people here are smart and engaged - there is so much you can learn from them.
Although she might be on an unexpected path, Meredith is really excited for her future with Shell.
“Limitless possibilities are open to me but becoming a technical authority in social performance and subject matter expert in Indigenous Peoples are two of my future career goals,” said Meredith.
“What I do know, though,” she added, “is that in terms of sustainability of oil and gas operators, Shell really is leading the way.”
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