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Raising The Bar With Shell’s Rising Star
Published on: Friday, March 08, 2024
By: Sherell Jeffrey
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Raising The Bar With Shell’s Rising Star
Pic left: Zahira Zaharudin and Zahira (third from left) with teammates and partners Timi’s topside fabrication site.
Shell has made great strides in terms of gender representation and is committed in fostering the growth and advancement of women within its organisation, particularly in areas where they are under-represented.

In 1997, when they set their first global diversity goals, only 4 per cent of their senior leadership roles were filled by women.

Today, they continue working towards reaching or exceeding 40 per cent women in senior leadership by 2030, and then progressing towards achieving gender balance. 

Highlighting the impressive accomplishments of women in honour of International Women’s Day, Daily Express featured an interview with Shell’s Project Engineer, Zahira Zaharudin, who was recently recognised at the Offshore Technology Conference Asia (OTC Asia) 2024 and was honoured the Emerging Leader Award. 

Zahira with her award at OTCA 2024

The award recognises young professionals who are making key contributions in the energy sector.

Zahira, a dynamic Sabahan who hails from Kota Kinabalu was born into a family of four girls. During her younger days, she travelled across the country due to her father’s role in the oil and gas industry.

Journey with Shell

She started her career at Shell in 2015 through the Shell Graduate Programme after completing her Petroleum Engineering Degree at Universiti Teknologi PETRONAS. 

Upon completing the programme, Zahira became a project engineer in the Maintenance Project department. She completed numerous complex brownfield projects for onshore and offshore assets in Sabah and Labuan. 

At the jacket fabrication site for the Timi development

“After acquiring hands-on experience in construction engineering and interface management, I obtained my Project Practitioner certification and was acknowledged as a construction supervisor. 

“In 2018, I became a part of the Non-Operated Ventures Projects team, where I gained valuable experience in stakeholder management and delivering value,” she said. 

“I am currently a construction engineer, overseeing the outside battery limit (OSBL) scope of construction for an onshore gas plant.

As a young engineer, Zahira took on the role of field engineer and company site representative for ageing facilities, overseeing site construction activities, and overcoming challenges as one of the few women on-site.

“I frequently notice that I am one of the few women engineers on site, whether it is offshore or onshore. 

“When tackling challenges, it is important to demonstrate courage and resilience to overcome obstacles. 

“I utilise mentorships with other women leaders at Shell who have experience in similar roles. Furthermore, I am driven to excel by gaining practical experience, exposure to different technical tasks, and attending training sessions,” she said. 

Braving through work and challenges with confidence

In 2018, Zahira began working as a project engineer on the Gorek development project. Zahira’s exceptional skills were evident as she efficiently handled contracts and provided guidance to the procurement team to ensure timely fabrication delivery.

Zahira’s most recent role was as a project engineer Timi, Shell’s first wellhead platform in Malaysia.

This ground-breaking project stands out for its use of a solar and wind hybrid power system, showcasing Shell’s dedication to sustainable energy solutions. 

She spearheaded the project from its initial design phase to its first gas date, demonstrating her proficiency in overseeing intricate projects and her commitment to promoting cleaner energy solutions in the energy industry.

Despite facing challenges due to the global pandemic and supply chain disruptions, Zahira encouraged collaborative engineering within the project team for this delivery.

“Being a project engineer, the main challenge I face is always dealing with people.

One of the most significant aspects of my job is managing people, also known as delivering through others.

This implies that I will need to adapt to different working styles and personalities. 

“Surprisingly, I am an introvert in a role that demands extroversion. How can I overcome this obstacle?

Recognising that diversity within a team is a key factor in its strength.

Only when we can effectively utilise everyone’s skills and unite the team towards a common objective,” she said.

Upon finishing the project, Zahira joined a construction project team and will be moving to Bintulu as a construction engineer.

Valuable experiences

She views participating as a panellist in a discussion to commemorate International Women’s Day 2022 as a highlight of her career. 

She values the opportunity to participate in a significant conversation and offer her perspectives and experiences as a woman in the industry. 

The panel discussion focused on promoting equal opportunities for everyone to succeed and develop in the industry. It was organised in collaboration with PETRONAS, ExxonMobil, and Shell, and featured five distinguished panellists from each company. 

“The discussions were crucial in questioning the foundations and assumptions of gender equality in the industry and play a vital role in advancing the #breakthebias movement,” she said. 

Zahira is thrilled with her career path at Shell and welcomes challenges and opportunities with open arms, seeing each experience as an opportunity for growth and learning in her career.

“My career path has been truly inspiring. Upon joining Shell through the Shell Graduate Programme, I was given a fast-track opportunity to delve into the project’s world. 

“This is definitely what I want to pursue as my career,” she said, having witnessed the project phases from the front end to the first gas date. 

Source of motivation

Zahira holds her father, Zaharudin Sarbini, in high regard as her inspiration.

She admires his ability to conquer life’s challenges with grace and bravery, finding motivation in his perseverance and strength.

“My father is my role model. He perseveres through all the challenges that life throws at him with such grace and courage.

While working at an onshore plant, my father pursued his MBA part-time while raising four children. 

“After working in the oil and gas industry, he motivated me to pursue a degree in petroleum engineering. After graduating, he helped me move to Miri on my own and has been guiding me ever since,” she said. 

Zahira’s family

Her family is her biggest source of motivation in life. They motivate her to put in the effort and reach her goals, understanding that her hard work will have a positive impact on the family.

“My family is truly my biggest source of inspiration in life, even though it may sound like a common sentiment. My husband is incredibly supportive and always keeps me energised. 

Zahira is happily married to Shafiq Noordin and is a proud mother to her son Rumi Ali. She finds joy in baking bread and cookies.

“I am a self-proclaimed home-baker who makes bread, pastries and cakes. My husband loves my experiments in the kitchen.

I am also a mother to one very cheeky 1-year-old boy,” she said. 

Zahira with her son

Drive to inspire

“What drives me in my career is my unwavering passion for my work,” she said, expressing her passion for her work. 

In terms of her future career plans, she intends to keep making a positive impact and motivating others to develop and succeed in the industry. 

For young women interested in entering the technical field, she encourages them to go for it. 

“Find support from other women in the technical field and you will never feel alone,” she said.

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