Pakistani female takes male dominated field by storm

Pakistan born Hala Hashmi has become the first female petroleum engineer in primarily male dominated context, using her success to try and inspire other like minded females.

In a field dominated primarily by men, Hala Hashmi makes her mark as the first female petroleum engineer in Pakistan. Hailing from a small village in Pakistan where literacy rate was high, she attended a competitive all-girls Catholic school, moving on to attend the University of Engineering and Technology at Lahore. “My parents and siblings were very supportive of my academic interests in technology. I have two sisters and one brother, and we all have established different career paths. My father emphasized to us the importance of education and I realized that in order to be successful, I needed to get my education and decide on my own profession,” she said.

Pakistani women generally find themselves having to choose one of two career paths- teaching, or becoming a physician. Hala Hashmi decided to defy norms by settling on petroleum engineering, despite shocked looks and resistance. “I was the first ever woman who declared petroleum engineering as my major, but I was not afraid,” she said. She was the only girl in her classroom, and experienced feelings of loneliness and isolation, however, she was determined that such circumstances would not deter her from her career path. Doing so, she was able to become independent and form friendships with students from other majors.

As a reservoir engineer, Hala Hashmi is responsible for estimating how many oil reserves are underground, how long it will take for them to produce them and how much they are worth. She looks for ways to produce them cost-effectively, works on simulation modeling, monitors their daily production and tries to come up with optimization opportunities. She uses surveillance data to mitigate risks, make field development plans and gauge the environmental risks of producing oil from a reservoir.

“Most of my work is office-based but I will occasionally go to the fields because when I am working on a project related to a certain field, the field is my responsibility,” she said. “When I’m doing simulation and studying on a field, just as I am getting close to finding a solution, I feel a lot of excitement and that is what I enjoy the most about my job. I actively look for challenges and seeing the hard work pay off at the end is always worth it.”

However, her career success was not without its challenges. Having started from Pakistan, she did not experience a robust training program, and she started doubting whether she was doing enough. “A colleague encouraged me to keep learning and not to stress myself out and never give up because success would come in the future. I now realize that it was good advice,” she said.

She moved from Pakistan to Abu Dhabi, Oman and is now in Canada. “Now, the advice I give to others is not to feel discouraged if you are not performing well in one area because this does not mean you are not capable. A change in environment or leadership may provide you with exactly what you need to excel,” she said.

In university, Hala Hashmi had a professor who gave her tips that are still with her, aiding her. Hence, she too, makes it a point to not only offer her advice to female students in Pakistan studying engineering, but also reaching out for help and advice when she needs it. She hopes to be an inspiration to other females in the future. Moreover, she focuses on the importance of networking- since that was able to help her learn and grow at a time where she felt lost.

“If you have a passion for something, just go for it. I believe that if you are motivated, a path will create itself and everything will work out. There are certainly struggles and challenges because nothing is easy. I imagine if I would have stopped pursuing Petroleum engineering when my university admission officer advised me to choose some other degree. If I had switched, I would not have been as successful as I am now and it would have been my biggest regret,” she advised.

Source: Technology Times PK