Elaine Solomon Pakinathan, a well intervention engineer with Shell, says she has always been interested in engineering even as a young girl. Her favorite pastimes in those days included watching documentaries and reading about engineering accomplishments around the world.
While she briefly considered a career in economics, Pakinathan admits that engineering won because it captivated her interest more. “I loved finding out about the design of the Aldar headquarters in Abu Dhabi. I knew all along that I loved engineering. In the end though, I decided to follow my passion and choose engineering,” she explained.
As a current wells engineer, she is in charge of the design and maintenance of wells used in the production of oil and gas. A normal day for her includes time in the field ensuring that the work is done smoothly and efficiently.
“When I was offered a job as a completion and well intervention engineer, I had no clue what my work would entail. But I was told that I would have to do ad hoc work offshore and I immediately knew this was something I wanted to do.” Pakinathan said.
While there may be many challenges in her career, Pakinathan says that she receives support and camaraderie from her team. “It is true I am often the only woman among my team on the offshore rig … but there’s a buddy system and we are always looking out for each other.”
Her perspective is like that of many others who find themselves in engineering. Women bring a different perspective into the field and are able to approach situations differently and with a separate set of strengths.
While many would see her career as difficult, Pakinathan clarifies that the difficulty does not lie in the career itself but more on having to be away for extended periods.
She says, “What I also enjoy is watching heavy lifts of rig equipment on site. This to me is like a dream come true because I get to watch with my own eyes what I used to see only in documentaries.”
Much like others who have pursued careers in engineering, Pakinathan attests she has found inspiration and support for her career from other colleagues and female role models. She advises young girls to find a path that excites them and to follow their dreams. The industry is ever-shifting and slowly becoming one that not only allows women to become engineers, it celebrates the diversity both groups can bring when they work together.
“Think about whether you would still love your career if you have to wake up at four every morning to get to work. For me, this path excites me. Every well I work on is different. Each has its own challenges and I enjoy the day-to-day work because of the challenges. I am living my childhood dream,” Pakinathan said.