As the first female employed in LOR, I encourage diversity in our industry
By Carol Pickard, published on December 10th, 2018
I arrived at the refinery as a new graduate in 1991 and was the first female engineer to be employed by Lindsey Oil Refinery. The refinery didn’t do psychometric testing and selection centres to assess candidates, as other companies did, they just got you a coffee and sat and talked with you. It didn’t feel like a job interview at all ! Over the years I have conducted many interviews and I am still very proud that this is the way we approach things, treating candidates as humans and not numbers. We want people who will fit in with the team and not just progress their career to the detriment of others.
At school I intended to study A levels in chemistry, physics and maths but didn’t have a clue what to do with them. An engineer came into my senior school and gave us a talk on chemical engineering. At that time there was a lot of prejudice about girls entering engineering and I was also the first in my family to go to university; my dad was a bus driver and my mum worked in a shop. So whilst my parents and one or two others were very supportive, the majority of people advised against it or told me that it was a ‘man’s job’. The school put me in touch with a local chemical engineer and he encouraged me to continue and took me on a tour of the site where he worked; that helped to make my mind up. I left school with eleven O levels and four A levels (maths, physics, chemistry and general studies) and went on to do a BSc in Chemical Engineering at Loughborough University.
I felt incredibly lucky to have the opportunity to work in the industry with my ultimate goal to become a chartered engineer. I moved between technical roles, economics and found my perfect job in process safety. I achieved my ambition to become a chartered engineer and now I interview engineers for chartered status. Throughout my career LOR has always provided whatever training I needed to fulfil my potential. I have had the opportunity to work for, and with, some very good and experienced people who have always had time for me, no matter how busy they were.
My career moved to specialise in process safety in 2009 and LOR paid the course fees and gave me the time off to do an MSc in Process Safety and Loss Prevention part time at the University of Sheffield. This year, at my request, they have supported me to attend a four module course on human factors to develop my expertise in this area. You spend a big part of your life at work. I tell my daughters that the goal is to find something you enjoy doing, which pays enough so you can live comfortably and gives you lots of opportunities. I think that the refining and chemicals industry is something which ticks all of those boxes. With the right attitude it can give you a very rewarding career.
We need diversity in all industries so that we don’t have the blinkered perspective you get when you have a collection of very similar people, which is why encouraging women into the industry is so important, they can bring a fresh perspective. A lot of my school activities such as ‘Children Challenging Industry’ targeted primary school children. In the last few years I think we have done a good job of getting girls to stand up against the pink/blue stereotypes but we need to do the same with boys.
Process safety as a subject has moved on so much since I was at university but I don’t see this change reflected in the university courses on offer today. A relatively new area is human factors and understanding how we inadvertently set people up to fail. This is fascinating so I’d like to do more work in this area.
A company survives on its people and I am most proud to work at LOR because of the dedication of the people who work there.