I came to Shell as an external hire from the container shipping sector, starting in the role of Credit Process Manager. Straight away I was managing ~100 people, primarily in Kuala Lumpur, but over the course of 5 years the role grew to encompass Chennai and Manila too.
It was a very busy time in my life because accepting the job meant several big transitions. It was an entirely new role for me and I went from working on my own to managing over 100 people. I also relocated my family from Copenhagen to Malaysia…and all of this with a new-born baby!
Just this month, I have moved to a new role: Customer Operations Manager for Kuala Lumpur. I’m now managing an even bigger team of ~200 people which is daunting and exciting in equal measure – it is truly a community at this kind of scale. Together we look after the operational aspects of customers for the Downstream businesses across Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia. I’m still learning the ropes, but I’m enjoying getting to know the people and seeing what’s on their minds. My personal satisfaction comes from working out how I can improve things and help them overcome the challenges they’ve been experiencing on the day-to-day.
Leadership & Support
During the rather difficult move from Copenhagen to Malaysia, my line manager was incredibly supportive and understood the sheer number of changes that were going on in my life. As I’ve progressed through the company, I have realized that it wasn’t that I got lucky with this line manager. I’ve now had four different line managers, who have all demonstrated a very high-level of support. This is something that has defined my experience of leadership at Shell and something that I try to emulate with my own team too.
When I reflect back on how I started out as a first-time leader, I realize that I’ve had lot of good line managers across lots of different cultures: American, British, Polish, Danish, Malaysian and Singaporean. I got to see lots of different styles of leadership and take the good techniques that I saw in them and make them my own. But equally as important, I took note of the techniques that did not work for me and made a conscious decision to not take that kind of leadership stance with my own team.
I was able to keep in touch with all the great leaders I look up to, even though some are now retired. They still take the time to catch up and see how things are going with me.
In order to support our strategies in Shell, we need to deliver Operational Excellence and a large part of that is to look out for new technologies that might be able to help us: Robotics, AI, and workflow automation, for example.
In Credit, part of the job involves doing cash applications. When a customer pays, we need to identify who paid us and for which invoice.
While over 80% of these transactions are automated, there is still that 20% that is manual work which has a higher potential for human error. So, we are constantly scanning out to see what digital tools we can bring in.
Last year, we launched a robot we affectionately named ‘Prime’. Now whenever a customer pays it processes the postings automatically through our systems. It felt fantastic to be implementing the latest in Robotic Process Automation (RPA), but like any watershed moment, it came with some challenges.
The biggest barrier I came up against was that people were scared about implementing robotics and its implications for the workforce. Therefore I had to step up as a leader and sell to the entire team on the benefits of RPA - removing the stigma surrounding automation and alleviating their concerns about job security.
I found the best way was to use storytelling techniques to relate this new technology to other existing technologies and put it in perspective. We are giving the team all the tools they need to remove mundane, repetitive tasks so that they can focus on what we really hired them for: their exceptional finance ability.
Now that I have managed to align my team behind this vision, we have a fantastic automated co-worker that operates 24/7. It’s a real breakthrough for the business; allowing us to process a large chunk of our transactions in a timely and error free manner, while freeing up our resources.
Why Shell has worked for me
There are huge opportunities in Shell. I’ve seen people move from being an engineer to working in HR, from Finance to Commercial and Sales. I include myself in this, having moved from Finance over to Customer Operations.
I think this progression comes from Shell providing many courses, as well as access to leaders who care and will spend time mentoring you. Even if you are not directly managed, I have found that they still find the time to help you out. So, it’s more than just opportunities. It’s the right environment that is being provided for you to grow and develop.
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