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International Women’s Day – Pat Thomson

Every year on the 8th of March, people all over the world celebrate the progress and achievements made by women. This year, Precise Consultants interviewed 7 women from the Oil and Energy industry who are all at different points in their careers. Although it is commonly perceived as male dominated industry, many women have accomplished rewarding careers in Oil and Energy.

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Meet the Queen of the Oil Rigs: Pat Thomson, one the UKs oldest offshore workers.

Pat

 
It’s been more than 30 years since Pat quit her job as a primary teacher to work offshore as a materials engineer in locations such as the Falkland Islands and Gabon. Her first offshore job was with BP in 1984.

 

Pat tells us how she ended up working in oil and gas
Prior to having a family, I worked in research after leaving school. After a while I went back to college to gain a teaching diploma. It took me years to find out that teaching was not what I really wanted. During that time, the Oil industry were starting up where I lived in Peterhead, Scotland. There appeared to be opportunities so I visited base and knocked doors of personnel departments offering my services. I gained a post on a Brown and Root project team responsible for building BP’s first offshore Forties platforms.

 

Pat on what her family thinks of her career offshore
My grandsons were in awe. It was a talking point with schoolmates who were sometimes difficult to convince. There was a humorous time when one of the young one’s teachers told my son that my grandson was doing really well at school but had developed an imagination. He had written that his granny worked offshore and travelled to work by helicopter!! Imagine her reaction when she discovers it was true.

 

Pat tells us about a moment that will always make her smile
We had a fire in one rig which was reasonably serious. We were all in a safe area while the fire crew tackled the blaze. It was extinguished in half an hour but flared up again. It was really frightening. I honestly thought I was going to die until the announcement came that the rescue helicopters were on the way. My fear turned to panic then. We had to leave all our belongings in our cabins. I am fairly fashion conscious and suddenly horrified that I would land in Aberdeen dressed in my offshore gear with no credit cards to purchase more!! The fire was successfully put out and we didn’t need to leave the rig but I always have a chuckle when I think of what my priorities were.

 

Pat tells us about the difficulties she faced while working offshore
The problems were mainly in the early years. We then had to use the communal showers. As you can imagine this could turn out to be quite embarrassing. I overcame this by having a steward posted at the door to checking no one was using the urinals. I then undressed in the shower, hanged my clothes on the hook and I’d leave a pink towel over the door so that the guys knew not to come in and made female type noises before coming out. I also often forgot to bring my essential toiletries and there was no other female to help me out.


Pat on her greatest accomplishment
My greatest accomplishment is gaining the post in Gabon as Materials and Logistics Supervisor with all male engineers, Drilling Supervisors, Coordinators and other staff. I was in charge of a team of men, many of whom had never had a female boss let alone a woman of 72.


Pat tells us about essential characteristics for a successful career offshore
You need to be prepared for all eventualities. Be flexible as things change without notice regularly. Be able to assert yourself only when necessary. It is important to gain trust and earn respect as there are so many crew members needed to help make your job easier. Living 24/7 together means you must try and fit in with everyone. As there are no shops to go to if things are forgotten and often no communications to beach for assistance with problems so planning and competency is essential as well as being able to us ones initiative.


Pat’s advice for people considering a career offshore
Definitely give the career serious consideration. It is such an interesting career with every day bringing new innovations and challenges. Unfortunately you will need to prove more than male colleagues for you to earn respect but you will firm it a most challenging career and I defy you to say it won’t get obsessive.