This blog feels like an attic that I haven’t been to in years!!! Excuse me for a moment while I clean the dust…
There… Much better now!
I’ve been quite busy trying to earn my keep as an MBA Intern. Between June and September, I had the privilege of working with Shell International Petroleum Company here in London. I worked with the Retail Engineering Team – the people that manage the construction and maintenance of Shell retail stations all over the world. During my first week on the job, I visited a station that previously belonged to a competitor but was being converted to Shell standards, what is called a ‘KDRB’ – Knock Down and Re-Build. Suffice to say, there is so much thought and effort that goes into the construction and maintenance of fuel stations that the average consumer neither knows nor sees. All we do is get in, buy fuel, perhaps go into the shop, use the restroom, and then get out. But setting up a retail station to ensure that customers get safety, speed and ease of use – well, let’s just say I appreciate that team a whole lot more!
Working with Shell was a marvellous experience. My first paradigm-altering experience was with the lifts at Shell Towers. You know the story about the janitor/cleaner that tells the engineer (or was it architect) that he could put the lift outside the building instead of inside it? At Shell Towers, the floor buttons are outside the lifts. That first week, I had to consciously resist the temptation to stretch out my fingers to input my destination after getting into the lift, even though I already had done that before entering the lift.
More importantly, I enjoyed the collaborative and consensus-driven culture that operates at Shell. In my mind, the culture is a clear expression of the principle that no single person knows everything. While working at Shell, I had numerous interactions with lots of people within and outside my team – and they were only too willing to help. People thought nothing of spending significant time with me to help me understand not only the project I worked on, but also, the ways of working at Shell. In addition, decision-making processes are structured in such a way as to get the opinions and buy-in of a number of stakeholders, to ensure that there is broad support for initiatives executed. Obviously, getting consensus can slow down the decision-making process, but I guess that’s the trade off you get – speed versus support. That’s one of the core lessons from Strategy & Operations Management – picking a strategy and executing it; it’s about making a choice, prioritising a set of values or system over another. You can’t have everything.
The other thing I liked about working with Shell was work-life balance. Days I would get in by 8.00 a.m, and my floor would be empty. Days when I left by 7.00 p.m, I was the last to leave. In addition, it is possible to work from home (obviously pre-arranged with your manager, and if your physical presence is not required at the office). I did visit the gym in the building on some days, but seeing as I’m still packing pounds on my body, I guess I didn’t spend enough time there!
It wasn’t easy leaving. I felt a good kind of tired on the last day of my internship – like I had put in my all, and my effort was appreciated. I worked with amazingly great people (time to name-drop) – Bernard, Pedro, Graham, Gena – thanks for the wonderful experience!
So what’s next? Year 2 of the MBA begins! But that story is definitely for another time – hopefully not as much dust would have accumulated by then.