06/05/2020 - Careers
[Women in [email protected]]
Jolanda Arends is flying the flag for women working in the field in the oil and gas industry: as a VAM® Field Service technician she’s the only woman in a team of 150! Straight-talking and level-headed, Jolanda brings determination and pragmatism to a demanding job.
What is your role at Vallourec?
As a Field Service Technician, I’m one of a team responsible for safe and correct installation of VAM® connections, and for inspections of connections at clients’ storage yards or on rigs. Our team covers every step from mill to well, so that the client is sure of the quality of the VAM® products they install. We start with supervision of assembly make up at our clients’ subcontractors, we do visual inspections of joints and do loading and off-loading supervision. If the pipes are stored in a yard, we support the owner with pipeyard management. And we provide running supervision and deck inspection during installation.
Why did you choose this career?
I grew up wanting to be an air stewardess, and I originally studied tourism as I was keen to travel. But it isn’t easy to find a good job in tourism. I came across the oil and gas industry almost by accident when I got a job via an agency in 2007, and I joined Vallourec a couple of years later. I began working in data management, then was offered the chance to train as a VAM® field service technician while working in the office.
Today, with my job in the Group, I go to places that many people will never see, but they’re never holiday destinations! The great thing about Vallourec is that they give good training: after two years I had more advanced training and have sat several exams. It’s very thorough, as you’d expect. And I like the job because I’m never stuck in one place – we’re always moving.
What is a typical day for you?
I mainly work in Europe, often in my home country of Netherlands. I’m always in the field - either at a yard or workshop or on a rig. Rig jobs last several days. We start early and finish late – or vice-versa, as often you’re working at night. We work in pairs, getting the chopper out on the first day. The job always starts with an HSE induction before starting work. Safety is essential: you have to familiarize yourself with the rig as every single one is different. We always do a deck inspection, to check joints and assembly and make sure everything’s there. Then it’s time to get to work. It’s a backbreaking 12-hour day full of sensations and I don’t like to take many breaks as I don’t want to miss anything. When we get back from a rig job I don’t plan anything for the following day so I can relax at home and have some quality time to myself!
What is your experience of working as a female technician in oil & gas?
You have to be pretty tough. Sometimes the client will send a female engineer, but it’s rare. Most of the time you’re alone, with men who’ve been there for weeks on end. It’s definitely not the place to dress up. And you have to assert yourself – when I’m on a rig, on running supervision, I’m in charge of deciding whether a makeup is good, and that means making sure everyone knows it’s my opinion that counts.
Otherwise I’m not doing my job properly. All that said, it has never bothered me to work in a male environment and in fact I have more male friends than women.
Jolanda Arends VAM® Field Service technician
Have things changed for women in the field in the past 10 years?
You still get some older men who think that women don’t have a place on a rig, but they’re gradually being replaced by younger guys who find the presence of a female technician more normal. In Norway, the attitude is much better. Norwegian women can be roughnecks, it’s accepted and fine for me. We all agree that we’ve chosen to be in this industry – it might be changing, but it’s also up to us to adapt.
What advice would you give to women considering your career?
This is a demanding job. You have to be dedicated. Our trips often get moved at short notice, so you have to be flexible, with a lifestyle that suits the job. And be assertive! No-one will fight your battles for you. But I'm totally thriving in this job and right now I wouldn't want to change it.