Alison Goligher OBE
Travels during her study years whetted her appetite to broaden her horizons, and over the years she’s worked in countries ranging from Brunei and Indonesia to the United States.
She spent 17 years with Schlumberger Oilfield Services, reaching the role of vice president and general manager for cased hole services at the organisation’s wireline headquarters in Paris.
Alison then joined Shell E&P Europe and has held several corporate-level roles, latterly responsible for the growth of its international unconventionals business. Her contribution to the industry was recognised in 2005 when she was awarded an OBE.
Think beyond the conventional. At school, I spurned the standard advice to think about a career in areas such as medicine and the law.
I actually harboured ambitions to become an astronaut. I liked the idea of big problems without answers, and to my mind astronomy offered that kind of a challenge. The concept of pursuing something different has probably been a theme throughout my career. I didn’t always know what I wanted to do or to be, but I knew what I DIDN’T want to pursue.
At one point I applied to the RAF to study aeronautical engineering, but discovered they didn’t accept women at that time…
To earn respect, you need to get your tactics right. When I was a wireline engineer in the United States, the work took me to a wellsite run by someone who reminded me of an old ranch hand. He asked me: “Where’s the engineer?” Well, that was me. He was initially reluctant to have a female do his well-logging work but relented after I told him it would entail a three-day delay. We ran the job, and everything went well.
“It’s important to find new ways to motivate yourself, whatever your role.”
I’m quite impatient and sometimes miss being at the coal face. I’ve always enjoyed seeing the tangible results from my work and it’s not always easy to find the same motivation sitting in an office within a big, complex organisation.
Elsewhere in a business – if you’re a senior engineer at the rig site or the operations manager, for example – you know the wheel that is spinning is YOUR wheel.
Be clear about your work-life boundaries. I think I’m naturally an introvert but my role requires me to lead from the front, and that can be draining. As an antidote I’ve been known to stay in and do jigsaws at the weekend and I do have projects outside work – renovating properties, for example.
There are times when I work 24/7, but then I switch off and put the phone away. I set the conditions when I work; it’s important to be clear about your boundaries. Often senior management aren’t good about this, and don’t think flexibility and balance apply to people at that level. But the example you set is reflected in your wider organisation.
“Think about the best tactics to use in any given situation, and be straight with people.”
Advice to your 15-year-old self? Work hard, be flexible and stay resilient. It’s up to you to make the best of any situation.
A moment of inspiration? Driving home from a job in Indonesia, underslept and uncomfortably hot. The work had been so rewarding, though, and the sun was coming up through the trees – a stunning sight. I recall thinking ‘I never imagined I could do this’.