Victoria Allan

Mechanical Engineer - CNOOC International

Victoria Allan

Victoria’s interest in engineering began from a young age and after winning the PetroChallenge business challenge in her fifth year of high school, she applied to the MEng Mechanical and Offshore Engineering degree. She won the Alexander Carnegie Award for academic performance and outstanding contribution to the School of Engineering. Find out more about Victoria’s career.

Could you tell us what sparked your interest in Engineering and about your experience studying at RGU?

My interest in engineering began when I was at school, where I developed a particular interest for maths and physics. I really enjoyed problem solving and collaborating as a team to come up with potential solutions. I was fortunate to have close family members within the energy industry, so I was able to observe the opportunities within specific job roles and use this to educate myself more about the various types of engineering available. In my fifth year at Kemnay Academy, I took part in a competition called ‘PetroChallenge’ with the main goal being to run a successful, profitable virtual oil company. This provided exposure first-hand from the exploration phase through to production which provided a measurable return on investment figure. Aside from the huge perk of winning the competition, I found the whole concept and challenge of locating the oil through to production really fascinating which eventually led me to accepting my offer for an MEng in Mechanical and Offshore Engineering.

My experience of studying at RGU was a very positive one and I have many fond memories during my five years of studying. The absolute highlight was the staff within the School of Engineering, who were all so helpful, thorough with their explanations and very supportive. RGU is exceptionally lucky to have such outstanding lecture staff for both the academic and practical aspects of the course. The modules were all interesting and adapted with the times however I won’t lie and say it was all very straight forward! In the latter years, it was challenging to manage the course content at times with many deadlines approaching at once on top of the exams. However, the skills, experiences, and knowledge that I gained from my course have been invaluable as I moved into my career. A few highlights to mention would be gaining the Repsol Sinopec Scholarship in my first year, which led to an excellent placement opportunity within the Tartan Team in my penultimate year at university. I was also an Engineering School Rep which I really enjoyed as this allowed me to be able to contribute to the successful running of the School of Engineering and to meet other engineering students across other year groups.

Having worked four years in the energy industry how did your course prepare you for the workplace?

I would say undertaking an Engineering course at Robert Gordon University is excellent preparation for the workplace. All the skills you develop during your time can all be taken directly to the workplace, regardless of what specific industry you go in to. For example, communication, project management, problem-solving, time management all help you prepare for any workplace. The knowledge gained within my course has provided an excellent foundation for my further development since I have started working and learned more specialist knowledge about the specific systems offshore, particularly when I worked offshore as Offshore Operations Engineer on Golden Eagle and Buzzard. 

Have you encountered any challenges working in an industry that’s traditionally male-dominated?

Overall, I haven’t experienced too many challenges as most people I work with are very inclusive and I have never been made to feel my gender is a barrier.

I am proactive in the sense that I quickly correct people if certain comments are made to just treat me the same as anyone else and not to expose me to preferential treatment. Since a female stands out enough as it is, particularly offshore, small comments that are made to bring attention to the fact you are in the minority are not helpful and everyone is very receptive to this feedback and quickly take it on board. The culture at CNOOC International has been a huge part of my overall positive experience. CNOOC International are actively involved within OGUK’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee and are very committed to continue to deliver and continuously improve their inclusiveness and diversity within the workplace. 

As an active STEM Ambassador, what can schools do to encourage more girls to take up a STEM career?

I have thoroughly enjoyed being a STEM Ambassador since I started working, as I would love to be able to help inspire the next generation of engineers in some capacity and highlight how exciting the energy industry is and will be in the future. I had multiple STEM Ambassadors come and speak to my class at Primary and Secondary school level, particularly with TechFest. So to be able to support TechFest as a STEM Ambassador through CNOOC International is definitely a full-circle moment.

I think it is important to encourage all genders to take up a STEM career since each mind analyses problems differently and comes up with new and effective solutions. I think one of the most important ways to breakdown the stereotypes that exist within the energy industry is to provide the knowledge of the opportunities available and how important oil and gas is to the energy transition. Unfortunately, the media portrays a negative narrative of the oil and gas industry and my role as a STEM Ambassador allows me to open young people’s eyes to the reality of the industry. I find being able to have honest, open discussions to educate young people, dispel rumours and generate excitement really inspiring.

How can engineering graduates contribute to solving energy transition challenges?

Oil and gas are essential to managing the energy transition; what this will look like going forward is an ever-developing landscape with some unknown challenges. Engineering graduates possess and develop a unique range of skills that will be required to help combat some of the problems such as communication, project management, time management and the one of the most crucial skills, problem solving.

Graduates also bring an excitement and enthusiasm to companies which help to challenge the way things have been done previously. These ideas are listened to, evaluated, and hopefully implemented, which is something I have been able to experience at CNOOC International. Since joining CNOOC International, I have felt very supported to share ideas and collaborate to help provide feedback in order to continuously improve various systems or processes within the company which has been really fulfilling and highlights to me how valued I feel at this early stage in my career. 

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