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Oil & Gas Australia

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‘Anything is possible’ for the mother and grandmother of all valve coordinators

Feb 17, 2022

For 30+ years, EnerMech’s Wendy Scholes has been a living embodiment of the International Women’s Day 2022 theme, #BreakTheBias

Mobilising the most skilled and experienced personnel to tackle and best deliver campaigns efficiently, reliably, and effectively is at the heart of EnerMech’s global success story. The mechanical, electrical, instrumentation and integrity services organisation employs a wealth of talent across its 40 international bases, ensuring the right team are deployed to suit each campaign’s requirements.

Having launched its first Australian facility in 2009, EnerMech has since grown and developed across the country to ensure it delivers the best, integrated solutions on some of the most complex challenges across pre-commissioning, commissioning, shutdown, and maintenance in the region.

Recognising the important contribution its Australian workforce provides, this International Women’s Day, EnerMech is celebrating one of its female leaders whose accomplishments throughout her 20-plus years in the energy industry prove that anything is possible.

A mother of four and a grandmother of 14, Wendy Scholes is a valves coordinator who has lived her life fulfilling her dreams regardless of operating in, what is still in 2022, generally considered a predominantly male orientated sector.

Based in Gladstone, Queensland, she joined the company in 2017 as part of her 30-year working life with more than 12 years’ prior valve experience to EnerMech in 2005, including completing a fitter and turner apprenticeship at a mature age.

Juggling her busy home life alongside a demanding career, Wendy may plan to retire in a few years, but she has been a beacon of inspiration and a shining example of a woman breaking bias in the energy industry. Firmly establishing herself and setting a path for other women to follow: her daughter is a crane driver in Gladstone, she is currently supporting other young women interested in entering the industry through workshops and apprenticeship schemes.

What first encouraged you to proceed into this line of work?

My father was a fitter for a leading international construction manufacturer and, as a child, I would often go out to work with him. One of my brothers was a carpenter, and the other a truck driver so having grown up surrounded by mechanics, my progression into the industry felt natural and I decided to follow in the footsteps of my greatest mentor, my dad.

What does your typical day involve as a valve coordinator?

In my role, I handle many duties – managing the quoting for repairs and overhauls, developing client reports, and invoicing, and assisting valve techs on site. Within the team, I also take on the mentoring role, particularly with newer members. I work closely with them as they attempt to identify problems and strategize effective solutions. I truly enjoy mentoring the newer generation moving into the mechanical industry at EnerMech, through workshops or apprenticeship schemes, particularly nurturing new female talent.

I have recently completed a large project out west which involved removing 245 valves, overhauling and replacing them. It was a three-week job, and I oversaw all the reports, labour, communication with the client and walking the plant for a final check with the client on all flange bolting.

Another project we complete every year is four shutdowns. We have 150 valves to overhaul in just four weeks. I am responsible for liaising with the client, labour, checking all testing, quoting, invoicing and transport.

How have you found managing a career in, what is seen to be a typically male-dominated industry?

It has been difficult at times; I’ve often felt the need to prove myself and my knowledge. However, once I have engaged with the crew I will be working alongside, I can instantly recognise by their facial expressions that they understand that my knowledge and background makes me the perfect person for the job, despite any preconception based on my gender.

Do you feel that as a woman, you’ve had to work harder than male counterparts to get to where you are in your career?

Absolutely. Particularly during my early career stages, with the responsibility of being a mother to four young children alongside trying to pursue a meaningful career in the mechanical industry, it was difficult at times to receive recognition from both my bosses and peers. However, as I have progressed into newer roles, particularly at EnerMech, I have been lucky to have supportive managers who are incredibly inclusive.

One EnerMech manager who was particularly memorable would constantly ensure that I felt safe and secure while on site for projects, often at times being the only female. He would also ensure I was shown the technical respect deserved for my position in the field.

Given you are in such a high-profile position with EnerMech, do you think your career progression has incentivised more women to join the company?

I am passionate about mentoring the younger generation moving into the energy sector. Recently, I was proud to recommend a young female apprentice whom I’d taken under my wing throughout several mechanical workshops within our valves division, she will soon be joining the company permanently.

I have noticed a lot more women entering the industry since I began with EnerMech 4 years ago. When I did my apprenticeship in 2010, I was the only female. I believe that with more of our key clients forging ahead with diversity in their workplaces, it has set a precedent for EnerMech to continue creating more diverse, inclusive opportunities and job roles outside of just the corporate sphere.

What has been your career highlight to date?

I was honoured to become the first Australian female to receive a Farris PSV certificate in 2008. This is a coveted safety certificate awarded to those working with high-pressure valves. Farris Engineering has a 70-year track record in designing and manufacturing a wide range of spring-loaded and pilot-operated relief valves. It is my hope that more women across the valves division of EnerMech will also be accredited with this prestigious certification.

What would you say to other women thinking about a career in the industry?

Anything is possible. Current industry trends are making the energy sector an increasingly diverse and accommodating space, making it easier than ever for women to have both successful home lives and careers. This is the advice I have tried to impart to my own children and grandchildren.