Women in charge in oil business

Source: Blic 23 December 2019 • 6 min

Zagorka and Sofia both graduated from traditionally “male” colleges and today are in positions previously exclusively reserved for their male colleagues. A company such as NIS, which is engaged in the exploration, production, processing and sales and distribution of oil and petroleum products, does not at first glance seem like an environment for a lady. According to the views deeply rooted in society, such a rough industry is somehow always intended for men. However, these two courageous ladies have proven that they are both physically and intellectually as capable as men in the same positions.

Gender equality is a topic that is becoming more relevant in our society, but there is still a great misunderstanding of what it really is. Gender equality is not a privilege of the minority, but the right of all to equal opportunities, both in society and at work.

Zagorka Brat
Zagorka Brat

After years of working in the field of inspection, Zagorka has since been employed by NIS as the lead engineer for RBI, that is, the leading engineer of risk-based inspection of pressure equipment. So, she and her team are in charge of risk assessment and planning for about 16,000 equipment units at the Pančevo Refinery right now.

— I graduated from the Secondary School of Mechanical Engineering in Pančevo as a student of the generation and then the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering as one of the best students. After graduating from college, I decided to develop my career in the economy. For the choice of my invitation, I can thank my dad and my professors who realized that I had more inclination for the natural and technical sciences than the social sciences. I listened to the advice, their support was very important to me in my journey to persist in my intention and I think I was not wrong. – begins Zagorka’s story and adds that at the time of her studies, only 10 percent of girls were enrolled at the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering. Now, after years of experience, professional support is not missing from the colleagues he interacts with on a daily basis.

The goal of her business is to provide all 16,000 pieces of the puzzle to the refinery. This highly responsible, demanding and professional engineering work, in addition to developing computer tools, calculations and organization of work, among other things, implies that he has to inspect the condition of the equipment at the plants, enter the equipment and work at different heights.

—I remember, at the beginning of my career, while I was not yet working at NIS, an unusual situation in the field. I inspected the equipment and the workers shouted, “Inspector is not going, woman is going.” This is one of the times when you realize how strong you have to be and accept such situations with a smile, that you have to make extra efforts to prove that you are worthy of a position as a woman – she continues her story.

This determined lady, as she walks us through the Refinery’s facilities, explains that she had to pass the training ground as her male counterparts when employed at NIS. The polygon involves simulating the operation of an indoor – dark and cramped space where you carry an insulation apparatus with oxygen, as well as climbing a scaffold about 12 meters high. The ease with which she presents this information gives the impression that she is absolutely no stranger to working in such a challenging environment.

Another young woman facing the challenges of a “man’s” job is Sofia Šoškić. Sofia works in the NIS department in Novi Sad, abbreviated as GIRL. GIRL is short for “geological exploration and reservoir development”, meaning in practical terms that its business is closely linked to crude oil production.

I graduated from Mathematics High School in Kraljevo and was preparing to enrol in ETF. However, towards the end of high school, I learned about NIS’ Knowledge Energy program, which provides scholarships to scholarships to study in Russia and work at a company. I applied and after testing started my studies in Moscow at the prestigious Gubkin Oil University.

Sofija Soskic
Sofija Šoškić

After completing her studies, Sofia returned to Serbia and started working at NIS, where she first got the opportunity to work as an oil well operator near Kikinda and Zrenjanin, completing her theoretical knowledge gained in college with practical work in oil wells. She lived in Zrenjanin for three months and in Kikinda for five. Because the wells are far from populated areas, she had to travel to her workplace every day.

— I remember the first day of work that the then director of the Central Banat facility told me “congratulations, you are the first female operator in the Central Banat facility”, Sofia said.

Thus, cleaning, replacing and lubricating equipment parts and working outdoors in all weather conditions were part of her daily activities.

— Due to this nature of work, my colleagues initially treated me as a princess. This seems to me to be exactly the biggest challenge. That you are constantly tempted to accept that you are weaker and that your colleagues want to spare you the hard work. You have to deal with this because, until you take responsibility, you cannot master the basics or become part of a team. I was most proud when my colleagues gained enough confidence in me to send me to the field – says this young engineer, adding that her father told her towards the end of high school that programming she thought of as a study choice was not a “women’s job.” With these words, Sofia says, she laughed many times while in “muddy situations” on the ground.

She added that at first she was most afraid of making mistakes, but that she was helped by colleagues who recounted her experiences.

— He who works makes mistakes. All mistakes can be corrected, unfortunately, there are some that cannot, but also, we must not allow this to paralyze us – explains Sofia.