Loving the challenge of the unexpected

The chemicals, oil and gas sector is a pillar of Singapore's economy and the Economic Development Board has been nurturing it to make sure it remains strong with bright employment prospects for people here. Arti Mulchand profiles some of the people working in it.

In her killer high heels and carefully applied make-up, 39-year-old Justina Ibrahim might seem out of place in the world of oil and gas, but there is nowhere else she would rather be.

She says: "While this industry once wasn't a place for women unless they worked in HR (human resources) or finance, that is changing.

"Women are more independent and aggressive, and are just as capable. I fit right in."

The manager of projects (Asia-Pacific and Middle East) at Cameron Singapore adds that there are three other women in her team.

She oversees the company's clients who buy equipment for the extraction of oil and gas, and leads a team of 12 project managers.

When she joined Cameron in 2000, she found it very different from the electronics industry, where she worked as a planner after getting her diploma in manufacturing engineering at Singapore Polytechnic.

She says: "Things are 100 times bigger, and it is a very dynamic environment. It's very different from electronics where you can make 100 pieces of the same product each day."

In the oil and gas industry, she explains, the products are huge and can take years to make.

The single mother of two girls, aged 12 and 10, decided to make the switch after getting her degree in engineering management from the University of Western Sydney through distance learning.

"I wanted a change from electronics," she says, adding that she had toyed with several ideas, including teaching, before chancing upon an advertisement for a project planner at Cameron.

She spent six years as a planner and then earned certification to become a specialist in improving manufacturing and administrative processes and removing the causes of defects. In 2009, she was promoted to her current role.

She says: "On a typical day, I'm in the office by 7am and I don't leave before 6 or 7pm.

"Things change quickly. A customer who has placed an order might call with changes, and we have to accommodate that. It is not always easy.

"You never know what to expect, but that is the challenge that I love."

This article was first published on May 26, 2014