With a job rotation every two and a half years, Ms Ng Ai Vey has had five different jobs in 11 years since she joined ExxonMobil in December 2000. Not that she is complaining.

She says: “I love the dynamism of the job. There is never a dull moment.”

Ms Ng graduated from Queen’s University of Belfast in the United Kingdom with a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering. She started on her career path as a contact engineer.

As a female engineer working in a huge chemical manufacturing plant, Ms Ng’s gung-ho attitude convinced her concerned parents that she could overcome the physical challenges involved.

As a young engineer, she had to climb into pipes and reactors for inspection during equipment turnaround and she routinely visited the site as part of her job.

She says: “At first, my parents were worried about my safety and well-being. But I eventually convinced them that the company has very high standards for safety, and that safety is not just a priority, it is a pre-requisite.”

Employee development

Despite being a new engineer then, she was given lots of exposure beyond training. For instance, she participated in a technical network meeting in one of ExxonMobil’s sites in Canada, within six months of joining the company.

“The company values good leadership and gives plenty of opportunities for employee development. Over the years, I have also had the opportunity to visit other chemical manufacturing sites in France and the United States,” she recalls.  

Her second assignment was as a business analyst. Then she did coordination work at the chemical plant, then the refinery, before becoming a section head in the Coordination and Optimisation Group.

There, Ms Ng headed the Basic Chemical and Intermediates department of eight and was based in ExxonMobil’s Singapore Chemical Plant on Jurong Island. Her group was responsible for ensuring that manufacturing was running at optimal levels.

Dealing with a crisis

In 2009, just after she took on a new role as a coordinator at the refinery, there was a disruption of one of the key units at the refinery.

Ms Ng was under pressure to quickly analyse the impact of the disruption, and work with other units to minimise it.  “It was challenging for me, because I had to ensure that the impact on all the other units in the plant was minimised.” 

Now she is involved in business planning as a basic chemical senior business planner, a new role which she has just stepped into.

This job involves support work on strategic long-term planning and major projects for the region.

Work-life balance

While working at the manufacturing site, Ms Ng and some of her colleagues became part of a regular after-work running group. She not only enjoyed the camaraderie, but it was also through the group that she met her husband, a fellow ExxonMobil employee.

She is thankful that her company values family priorities, so despite the demanding nature of her jobs and the occasional long hours she had to put in, she adopts a can-do spirit.

When she gave birth to her son two years ago, her company arranged for temporary help to cover her work and granted her request for an extension of her maternity leave so that she could look after her baby and make arrangements for childcare before she returned to work.

She says: “I was very grateful for that, as it took a load off my mind and I could then focus on my work when I went back. Weekends are reserved for family, spending time at the park, the zoo, swimming or just reading to my son.” 

With the huge expansion in the petrochemical industry comes bountiful opportunities, but success still rests on fundamentals.  You need a genuine interest and passion in the work to excel, she says, adding a final piece of advice: “Follow your heart.”