Siti Sulaiman grew up in Kuching, Sarawak in Malaysia, toying with the idea of becoming a doctor. But in high school she developed an interest in engineering and applied for a Shell Malaysia Scholarship, which she got in 1990.
The scholarship led her to London where she studied mechanical engineering from the Imperial College of London and spent her holidays back home working as an intern for Shell.
Upon graduating in 1994, she returned to Malaysia where she started her career as an Operations Engineer at the Sarawak Asset in Miri.
Since then, Siti has built an interesting career, even exploring areas like human resources corporate planning and economics. In 2001, she was cross-posted to Shell Expro (Exploration and Production) in Aberdeen, Scotland as Development Planner and Economist supporting the exploration team after which she went back to Malaysia in 2004 to manage the Economics and Planning group in SMEP (Shell Malaysia Exploration and Production).
She is currently the General Manager for Sabah Asset, managing more than 300 people in various offshore and onshore locations as well as looking after the upstream operations of all Shell-operated production assets in Sabah, Malaysia.
For Siti, the main challenge of managing so many people, is keeping communication clear and open and making sure they stay motivated. “It’s hard because everyone communicates and works in different ways. I want my team to feel valued and cared for – if they do, it’s so much easier to ensure they are working towards a common goal,” she shares.
“I use my experience as a mother to relate to my team at work – my children want to feel listened to and they appreciate honesty and structure. The same values count at work.”
Siti believes the greatest visionaries have two key characteristics: passion and dedication. “Self-confidence comes from enjoying what you do and the ability to do it well. Confidence breeds confidence – when people come up with great ideas to the advantage of their team and the business, it inspires others to do the same,” she says.
“Shell focuses on your abilities, not your background, gender or age,” she shares. “I believe that what I have achieved to date are results of my true performance and capability as an individual. It is a fair game at Shell and everyone is awarded based on merit,” she says.
Siti’s values align with Shell’s focus on employee welfare. Work-life balance is important in the company and employees are able to work flexibly, allowing them enough time for personal interests. “Shell has such a diverse portfolio,” Siti says. “It offers plenty of opportunity and flexibility. Thanks to new technology, you can always stay connected with your team, no matter where you are.”
Shell’s flexible working policy has meant a great deal to Siti in the past. “My husband Feisol also works for Shell and there was a time when we did not have domestic help at home. I was able to work from home while looking after our three girls Elliza (17), Erinna (13) and Emylia (8),” she says. “Had it not been for this flexibility, I would have struggled to balance my family with my career. I’m proud to work for a company who knows and understands that my family comes first.”
Quick quotes from Siti
- “Women should just go for it. Don’t let society tell you what you can and can’t do. My experience with Shell has been so rewarding – the company has shaped me into the person I am today.”
- “I don’t know what I’d do without my iPhone and iPad. I record all my meeting notes on my iPad because it’s so easy to find everything I’m looking for when I need to refer back to it.”
- “As a family, we enjoy travelling. We’ve been fortunate enough to travel Asia and Europe. We love outdoor activities too – hiking and climbing mountains help us to de-stress.”