Yassmin Abdel-Magied AMIMechE, Well Engineer, Shell
Why did you decide to become a mechanical engineer?
After seeing a film about racing as a child, I wanted to be the first female, black, Muslim F1 driver – so it was my love of motorsport that got me interested in mechanical engineering initially. And I’ve always wanted to make a contribution to the world. I was born in Sudan, so know that people need solutions to real world problems so they can improve and empower their lives.
What course did you study, what degree type, and where?
I studied Mechanical Engineering at Queensland University in Australia. For my thesis, I designed and helped build the chassis for the car we entered into IMechE’s Formula Student competition.
How has your course helped you?
You really learn the basics when you study mechanical engineering. It teaches you how to think and solve problems. Really importantly, you learn how to work with people from lots of different backgrounds.
Describe a typical day for you as a mechanical engineer?
The cool thing about a job in mechanical engineering is that there is no typical day. Generally, my current role has two sides to it; onshore and offshore. When I’m onshore, I spend my time helping to prepare for drilling projects, working with geologists to understand what’s under ground and then figure out the best rig for each hole.
When I’m offshore working on a rig, I’m supporting the Drilling Supervisor, organising people to get the job done right and designing solutions to make things happen. It’s hard work but definitely fun and exciting to see our plans turn into reality.
What’s the most exciting thing you’ve ever done in your career?
A couple of things stand out. For one particular project, where we were drilling for gas, we needed to drill 3,000 metres underground to hit a 16-inch target. It took four months of long days, and a big group of people, but we managed it in record time. The sense of achievement within the team was awesome.
My involvement in the Formula Student competition was also very satisfying. It was great to design and build the car, and then see it actually raced!
What do you like most about your job?
I never know what’s going to happen next. Even with lots of planning, drilling is unpredictable by nature, so you often get interesting problems to solve. I also like getting to work with lots of different kinds of people from all corners of the world – from Trinidad & Tobago to Houston, USA. You get to hear some amazing stories!
Do you get to be creative?
I’d say creativity is the basis of engineering. It’s about design, albeit underpinned by physics, and needs creativity to take it from an idea to reality.
Have you worked overseas? If not, do you have plans to?
Even in my short career, I’ve had lots of opportunity to travel in my job. So far, I’ve been to Malaysia, Houston, the Netherlands, Brunei, and Australia.
What are your plans for further professional development?
At the moment, I’m focussed on being the best Well Engineer I can be. After that, who knows? I might move into more of a management role, or consider government relations. I’m planning to become a Chartered engineer, because Chartered status is recognised everywhere in the world.
What do you like most about the profession?
There are lots of things. No two days are the same, you get to work with all kinds of people, do that in all sorts of places, but above all, you’re solving problems to create a better world for people.
What contribution do you think mechanical engineers make to society?
Mechanical engineers already make a big contribution to society, and I think that contribution can only get bigger. It will be mechanical engineers that debate and solve the most significant problems the world is facing. From tackling climate change, to overcoming water and food shortages, I believe we have the mix of creative, analytical and practical skills needed to meet these huge challenges.
What advice would you give a young person considering a career in mechanical engineering?
Do it, do it, do it! Studying mechanical engineering gives you the foundations on which to build a career that benefits both you and the wider world. The first couple of years are tough because you’re learning so many new things. But push through that because the rewards are so worth it. And don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do it – believe in yourself and then others will too.