Agan Balangalibun is the youngest of four children in a very close-knit family originating from a small jungle tribe in Borneo called the Kelabit.
“My grandparents are rice farmers and had no formal education,” explained Agan. His father became a civil servant and met his English mother when she moved to Malaysia to teach. “For my father’s generation and mine, there has always been a big emphasis on education and getting a good job.”
Agan’s potential talent as an engineer was spotted by Shell when he was still at school. He won a Shell scholarship to study chemical engineering outside Malaysia. He chose Australia as it offered a high-quality education in a culture very different from his own, while only being a five-hour flight away. A successful assessed internship with Shell as an undergraduate then inspired Agan to apply to join the Shell Graduate Programme. He quickly discovered there were many ways of using his talents and making an impact. Agan’s first assignment was offshore, as an Operations Engineer on a Gas Production Platform in Sarawak, Malaysia.
“It was an amazing experience and such an exciting opportunity for me as a new graduate,” said Agan. “The offshore platform was a lot more comfortable than I’d expected – it’s like a little city.
“Straight off the bat, I began working on real challenges. I spent a lot of time with the operators learning how to run the platform safely and efficiently. They are really passionate about their work and know the equipment inside out.”
Their encouragement and support inspired Agan, and he loved being part of an inclusive, truly international team: “Malaysia is a multi-racial country and this is reflected within Shell, where we have a diversity of people who work well together no matter what their backgrounds are.”
In May 2015, Agan moved to his current role, as an onshore-based Production Engineer with the Sabah Asset. In this role he is striving to develop his communication skills, which he has found to be essential for the job, as well as continuing to develop his technical expertise.
“I’m very much the link between my colleagues offshore and many of the specialists onshore. It really helps that I’ve been offshore and spent time with operators. Building that trust and familiarity has been key.”
Agan added: “In the short time I’ve been with Shell, I’ve developed so much and realise there are so many more opportunities than I’d ever imagined. I’d love to get international experience at some point, as seeing how things are done in different cultures teaches you a lot about your own.”
Agan plans to continue developing and progressing within the company, and said: “I want to be really competent at what I do. I still have a long way to go but with Shell’s commitment to my development and the real-world opportunities that are open to me, I’m looking forward to seeing how I progress.”