Interview with Eliza Habna Lana, Olefin Hot Process Engineer, PT Chandra Asri

Industrial romantic

Eliza explores gender diversity in the oil and gas industry and how the current climate has affected opportunities for women in oil and gas.

Please introduce your role at your organisation. What does your typical workday look like?

My role is Production and Process Engineer at PT Chandra Asri Petrochemical. I have been helping the company to maintain production ability by evaluating and improving process operations day to day and optimizing costs and navigating energy efficiency are the key challenges in this role. I am also responsible for the development of new equipment, and procedures across all operations. A typical working day for me involves delivering evaluations and solutions and I am also involved in discussions with my team to troubleshoot problems and spend my time observing maintenance activities and maintaining relationships with vendors to improve business.

How do you think the oil and gas industry compares to other industries when it comes to gender diversity?

When we compare the oil and gas industry and especially petrochemical industries to other industries regarding gender diversity, I think it’s become more challenging especially in the field area, because many things must be done “like a man” should have done. However, I think nowadays representation of women holding positions in business, and technical fields in oil and gas is increasing. And I think diversity is good for business, not just for women.

Do you think that the current climate has affected opportunities for women in oil and gas at all?

I think the first challenge is always that you need to stay strong to ignore this label that you are something just because you are a female. The most difficult part, I think is to be really good in operations because there aren’t many females in operations, especially now. And when you come into the room, it’s really difficult to get people to hear you because they’ve seen you as “not experienced”, because you are not a man. That was the difficult part for me because I had to blend in somehow, I had to build a good relationship with the guys on site. And it took months and months but I picked it up and managed to create really good working relationships with them. And that works well both ways. I learned the process, how we overcome the challenges, the opportunities that we have on site.

How have things changed within the industry during your career?

Step by step our company is moving to digital transformation. And it’s presented more challenges for example, we implemented advanced process control to control operating parameters, we’ve developed operator training systems to provide a virtual plan or a program to train the workforce and plan the operation lifecycle. And furthermore, about diversity: our company is recruiting many female engineers to establish gender diversity.

How do you see that industry continuing to develop over the next five years when it comes to gender diversity and opportunities for female leadership?

It’s about increasing the representation of women in oil and gas, and especially the petrochemical industry. This is a business imperative: economic success and competitive advantage is dependent on retaining female as well as male talent in the industry. I strongly believe this industry should look to better address the issue of attracting and retaining more female professional leaders in order to better face and overcome the competitive challenges which we expect to face in the future.

And how do you think that oil and gas businesses can do that? How do they make an encourage more women into leadership roles?

I think a growing awareness about the female representation, and more opportunities given for training.

What would you say has been your biggest success story/a moment you’re particularly proud of in your career?

My biggest achievement in my career is that I can be involved in and lead a project to reduce cost savings and build profitability. I get this opportunity and I’m so proud because I think a great thing about the project is the freedom to explore any research subject that you are interested in. These projects so excite me because I get opportunities to work with many great people. I feel so proud to work with these professionals and contribute to solve any problem in the industry!

Are there any mentors/female role models in the industry who you look up to?

Of course, there are some female leaders in my company that have inspired me so much because they are admired and respected by everyone from their bosses to their team mates and known for their ability to motivate people and get projects completed on time.

The industry is going through an energy transition at the moment. How do you think growing awareness or sustainability will most impact the industry and your organization?

Growing awareness of sustainability is very important I think especially in my company because petrochemical products and plastics are commonly used in humans’ lives from food storage, construction, electronics. But we must manage the life cycle so that the negative environmental and social impact can be reduced and I think PT Chandra Asri has sustainability as a key principle. Profit, Planet, People: three ‘P’s to contribute to sustainable development: for example, initiatives to reduce plastic waste.

What does innovation look like at your organization and how does this impact your customers?

Innovation, I think is a key component in the company and impact to customers’ satisfaction because PT Chandra Asri are always trying to meet the needs of the customers, suppliers and the shareholder, while at the same time being able to reduce negative environmental impact, in particular through energy saving programs and initiatives to resolve climate change, so it is very, very important to use innovation to resolve climate change.

How do you see the role of the Industrial Internet of Things in refining, petrochemicals, & chemicals? What are the key benefits and opportunities of using IIoT solutions in downstream operations?

In my job I mean, almost everything is connected to the internet. And for example, in my company, we have advanced process control that I mentioned, which improves process profitability by enhancing quality, increasing throughput and reducing energy usage. So these are a few of the good things I think about the Internet of Things.

What are the current challenges and hurdles that affect the spread and deployment of the Internet of Things in your organization?

The most challenging I think is to adapt and apply new technologies for all employees: from the engineer to the technicians because sometimes they don’t have enough education to implement that and then set up new infrastructure and management of change. I think this takes a lot of effort and time because a lot of equipment in the field requires continuous monitoring. We need to provide the best response to this and other maintenance needs. And today there is a lot of aging equipment and latency monitoring systems, therefore upgrading them, to connect it with Internet of Things requires money and manpower. I think these are the most challenging things.

“Developing diversity across a company isn’t a quick fix but is a long-term business imperative” – please elaborate from your perspective

Sure, developing diversity is a long term business imperative I think especially in the petrochemical and chemical industry: not only to better understand what is contributing to encourage female representation in this field, but also to find solutions to prevent female professionals from leaving in the first place. I think the petrochemical industry needs to help lower the barriers, for example, helping women back to work during and after maternity leave. I think it can be solved by leveraging technology much more to create more options for mothers to keep in touch with their work by working remotely like this pandemic has shown is possible, and helping women to maintain their skill and capabilities to make sure they are adequately prepared to take up the more challenging roles.

And finally, what advice would you give to women considering a career in the downstream industry and is there anything that you wish you’d known when you first started?

I would like to say to them if you are love engineering, feel free to choose it! You do not need to listen to others who might say girls cannot work in the engineering field, you are smart, strong. And you have the power to shape the future of engineering, especially in the petrochemical industry, or the oil and gas industry. You can help it begin to become a more encouraging and supporting field. If a certain experience is bad, that doesn’t mean that engineering is not for you. It’s like trying on a pair of shoes. If the shoes don’t fit, it’s not a problem with you. Don’t stop until you’re happy and find your fit. I think that’s all!