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People in Energy

People in Energy


  • Madeleine Harkestad Dømbe, Lead Project Engineer, Bergen, Bachelor’s Degree Subsea Technology Engineer
  • Veronica Moberg Horne, Design Engineer, Bergen, Bachelor’s Degree General Mechanical Engineering

What sparked your interest in engineering?

Veronica: My Dad is a mechanic and I have family friends that have worked offshore, so I’ve been interested in engineering since I was little. At high school, one of my teachers had a brilliant career working on offshore platforms as an engineer; she inspired me and many others. She said “If you ever have the opportunity to work offshore, don’t say no!” and it’s something I’ve always remembered.

Madeline: It’s a funny coincidence because like Veronica, my father is an engineer. He’d often tell me about his work as a construction project manager and the different subjects he needed to understand. He said he never had a boring day at work because his days were so varied.

I have the same experience at Halfwave; I am involved in mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, purchasing, logistics, workshop assembly, data analysis and reporting. It would be impossible to have a boring day here, as there’s always something new to learn!

How did you get into the industry?

Madeline: I was working part-time in another industry but the schedules for my different jobs clashed and it was becoming unmanageable. I realised I wanted a change, that I wanted to study again, so I took a pre-class in math and physics. Lots of my classmates planned to work in energy and it sparked my interest to do the same.

Veronica: At school I was really into physics, math and hydraulics so studying mechanical engineering was a sound next step. During my Bachelor's, the professors were great at explaining the different fields you could work in, and energy stood out for me, given that its influence spreads around the world. And today the drive is to create better energy solutions, all of which I find very interesting. Now I’m in this industry, I couldn’t imagine anything else.

What is the role you do now?

Veronica: I started at Halfwave as a graduate, today I am a Mechanical Engineer on our design team. I am involved in the development, calculations and mechanical design of the tools that we make – as well as analysing pipeline information to make it specific to each client.

I’ve not worked at Halfwave very long, but I can already see it’s very unique in its approach. Team members are involved in projects from start to finish, which means I’ve already learnt so much more than I expected to while I’ve been here.

Madeline: I joined Halfwave as a Project Engineer, now I’m a Lead Project Engineer where I oversee the entire project from concept and design, through to assembly and operation at client’s sites. Previously I was a field engineer, but I wanted to be more involved in the project planning phase. As Veronica said, Halfwave is quite different; every aspect of a project is delivered in-house, so we can offer both bespoke and “off-the-shelf” solutions. It’s fascinating to get to see a project all the way through.

What has been the high point of your career so far?

Veronica: I love seeing drawings that I’ve been working on for months finally being built into real products. We get to follow the progress of the tools being built in our workshop from start to finish, these are then used for inspection at the client’s site. There’s a sense of pride in that and it’s really satisfying seeing something I’ve done “on paper” come to life.

Madeline: My high point is similar. I love going out to client’s sites and seeing the results of all of our hard work being used in reality. From the workshop to launching the tool and downloading the data – when you see that everything is working properly, it’s a great feeling of achievement. It’s like, our job isn’t just producing drawing after drawing, we’re part of tangible outcomes.

What would be your advice to other women/graduates looking to enter the energy sector?

Veronica: Don’t be afraid to be the only woman in the class or workplace, and don’t be afraid to speak up. There weren’t many women in my class, and while it’s a really exciting field I think hesitation remains about entering a male-dominated industry. But I never regretted it – it has only ever been a positive experience for me.

Madeline: I agree with Veronica and add that my advice is to take the opportunities that come your way, don’t hesitate to jump right in. I was asked if I wanted to work on a project in Peru for three weeks – I didn’t know what it was going to be like, I didn’t know the language or the culture but I took the opportunity anyway and it was the best three weeks of my working life.

I got to experience Peru not just from the “glamorous” tourist perspective, but also from a work perspective. People I met found it really cool to have a female on-site, and I think that helped inspire a positive image of women working in the industry and make it more acceptable. I was always treated with respect and a lot of people were just interested to find out how I got to where I am today.

Have you had to face any challenges?

Veronica: The biggest challenge for me was the transition from being a student to working full time. It was a real period of growth for me, a personal challenge, but it also helped me learn how important it is to be curious and learn from your mistakes.

Madeline: I experience the same challenges as my male counterparts. In my line of work, it’s often all hands-on deck – if I’m not doing engineering work, I am working on documentation, purchasing or presentations. It’s really important to be adaptable and open to completing whatever task is needed.

Is there anything you would like to see change in the energy industry?

Madeline: As a female working in the oil and gas industry in Norway we’re seen as equals, but I don’t think that it is the same around the world. I’ve worked offshore in the UK, US and Australia and had great experiences, but I have heard some negative stories about countries where women do not enjoy the same equality standard.

Veronica: I’ve never been treated poorly for being female in this industry either; I do get questioned a lot about how unique it is. Norway has a higher percentage of female oil and gas workers than other European countries so while it seems normal here, it’s more unusual elsewhere.

Madeline: What we’d both like to see is for more females to feel confident about pursuing a career in oil and gas. We’ve both had positive experiences working in the industry in Norway, and it would be brilliant to see this level of equality and acceptance globally.

Veronica: We also think it’s important for young women with an interest in STEM to hear first-hand about experiences in the industry, so we were excited to be interviewed and do just that.

From your experience, what are the key skills/attributes to success in a senior role?

Veronica: I believe that to succeed you need to be open to challenges and remain curious. It’s also important to stay diligent in your work while learning as much as you can along the way. If you are aiming higher, stay humble and respectful of the people around you, both above and below.

I also think having a mentor can be useful – my mentor at Halfwave has more than 30 years’ experience in the industry and is great at sharing his knowledge and experience, preparing us for any challenge that comes our way.

Madeline: I think that’s a great point Veronica raised, being humble and fair is a big part of what I see in senior leaders. And I also think sharing your knowledge with others can be part of your own learning process. Being successful relies on continuing to learn and being a good example for the people around you.

How do you achieve the work/life balance?

Madeline: I think the work/life balance is really good – when I want to relax, I relax – whether it’s with friends and family or biking, and if there is a pressing deadline, I work.

Veronica: We’re both very interested in work, sometimes we’ll do overtime work if urgent tasks come along but also out of interest for the job. I can go home and switch off with my husband but sometimes I actually want to go home and study new interesting subjects. In the evenings I also like to train, be with my husband, family or friends.

Madeline: I actually find working offshore really relaxing! Offshore you only have work on your mind, there are no chores to worry about and all your meals are prepared. In the evening you can go to the gym and enjoy your free time.

Published: 26-11-2019

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