A Conversation with Anuli Marshall
Updated: Aug 31, 2019
Anuli Marshall, an Engineering Team Leader with BP, who has worked in operational roles in a number of locations. Anuli, a mother of two who originates from Nigeria, works four days a week and she was promoted into her current role three months after returning from maternity leave. She is a member of BP’s Women in Global Operations Group which focuses on increasing female representation in operational leadership roles.
Anuli has kindly agreed to answer any further questions you would like to put to her. Please email these to firstname.lastname@example.org by 20th October. We will publish her answers by 31st October.
You studied Instrument and Control Engineering at the University of Manchester; what prompted you to come to the UK and enrol on this course?
My first degree was in Electrical/Electronic Engineering. It was during my first degree that I became really interested in the subdiscipline of Control systems. At the time I was studying, I was aware that there were many cases of oil spills from production facilities and pipeline infrastructure. I was concerned about the damage being done to the environment, and I decided to specialise in Control systems because I wanted to be part of the solution to the problem. I chose the University of Manchester because it was highly rated for the course that I wanted to study, and also because a close relative had gone there and he strongly recommended it to me.
What do you think have been the key themes in your career to date?
The highlights of my career have been working on an operational facility onshore, securing a mentor and becoming involved with the BP’s diversity and Inclusion agenda.
Working on an operational facility: This experience was character building, it was the first time I left the cushy world of office work, and engaged with an operations crew, who had a completely different approach to problem solving. Through my three years of working at the oil terminal, I learnt how to manage people and to get the best out of them through relationship building, and influencing others. It represents a key point in my career, and I have become a much better communicator as result of my time there.
Getting a mentor: in my third year at BP, I met a senior engineer while working on a job, and I was very lucky that he asked to mentor me. Up till that point, I had been quite naïve about mentoring, and didn’t understand the power of it. My mentor has really invested in my career and personal life and has been a solid supporter throughout my career. He has encouraged me to take risks, and pushed me out of my comfort zone, which is something that everyone needs in order to develop.
Involvement with Diversity and inclusion Initiative: I volunteered to be part of the D&I initiative when it first started in 2010, and I haven’t looked back. Being part of this initiative has led me to become very aware of the power of D&I and how it contributes to the competitiveness of organisations. Through my involvement, my passion for equality and justice has grown and I have contributed in various ways to creating a culture in the organisation where everyone can bring themselves fully to work, bring value to the organisation and feel fulfilled. I am really happy that I put my hand up back then.
With two children under five, how do you manage your work life balance?
That’s a great question. I have to admit that it can be quite tough, particularly because we have no family living in Aberdeen, however, my partner and I make it work through planning, and communication. I have an all-in-partner who believes that we both deserve to be successful, so we have set up a routine that works for both of us, with enough flexibility that allows us to adapt to any changes that we have to make. It really helps to have great childcare. This gives us peace of mind when we are at work, because we know that our children are getting the best in care. My partner and I also discussed what we would like our children to have in terms of time with us, and we agreed that I would work part-time, to give them the extra time with me on the day I don’t work. This enables us to do fun things and sometimes have lunch with my partner, which is great!
What challenges, if any, do you find working four days a week, pose professionally?
The honest answer is that even though I am working four days on paper, it feels like I am squeezing a five day job into four days. The reality is that the operations environment is not really set up to support flexible work arrangements, at the moment, but I believe that with constant communication and feedback to our leaders, we can evolve our industry to one that encourages flexible working, and does it well. The benefits of flexible working are many, and not just for women. Many people would benefit from work places that enable true flexibility. Like diversity and inclusion, it will result in businesses becoming more competitive and successful.
You are a co-lead of BP’s Women in Global Operations Group; what does the group do and how and why did you get involved?
The Vision of the group is to create an environment where employees from diverse backgrounds can thrive, with the goal to realise material changes in gender representation in leadership positions in operations. We aim to do this through a specific set of development, deployment and recruitment actions over the next 5 years which are informed by best practice and learning from inside and outside BP. I got involved because I am a firm believer in giving people a fair chance, in their particular situation in which they find themselves. I believe that everyone within their own context, should have the same access to opportunities as their counterparts. I got involved because I want to create equal access for everyone in the business, and I am working with this group to achieve that. What is becoming more obvious to me as we progress this work is that what we are doing has benefits not just for women, but for every single member of the workforce.
What advice would you give to others seeking to develop their careers in the oil and gas industry?
I would start by saying, there is space for everyone in this industry to succeed, and it starts by doing the best job that you can do, no matter what you are doing now. Secondly, I would say, find a mentor. Having mentors who care about my well-being, and my career has been invaluable to my progress. They have helped me navigate difficult times, and challenged me to take risks which I might not have taken, if I hadn’t had their guidance. A good mentor is pure gold, find one, find two even, but make sure you have a mentor that is a good fit, and is interested in your success. Finally I would say be clear about what you want, communicate your aspirations to your line management, and ask for the support or opportunities that you need to meet those aspirations. Research shows that women in the work place are less likely to ask for opportunities to broaden their career prospects, or to request support or even ask for promotions, compared to men. There are many reasons why we don’t ask, we may not want to seem pushy, sometimes it’s out of consideration and sometimes, it’s fear that prevents us. One thing is for certain, when we don’t ask, we typically don’t get. The worst thing that could happen is that we get a ‘no’, in which case we can make a decision about if that organisation is the right place for us to grow our career. The next worst thing might be a ‘wait’, or a ‘not now’, or ‘here is something else for now’, which again gives us some data points against which we can make objective decisions. And who knows, it could just be a ‘yes’, which might not happen if we don’t ask. So, go ahead, ask, and prepare to be pleasantly surprised.