“I Don’t See Any Glass Ceiling. I just believe that, it’s the value you portray that determines your remuneration…” – Essiet

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Charlotte Essiet is the Director of Corporate and Regulatory Affairs at AOS Orwell. She is also the Publicity and Business Director, Board of Directors and Board of Trustee member of the Women in Energy Network (WIEN).
Charlotte is a highly motivated and knowledgeable professional with several years of experience, and a successful track record for taking on cross-functional leadership roles in global conglomerates like Baker Hughes, Halliburton in addition to successful indigenous companies. 
Her professional experience spans Business Strategy, Project and Process Management, Supply Chain Management and Business Consultancy and Analysis. Her Problem Solving skills fuel her result-driven orientation and constant willingness to learn.
With over 18 years in the Oil and Gas industry, She brings professionalism and extensive experience to the table.
She holds a Bachelors Degree in Mechanical Engineering, from the Lagos State University, an MBA in Engineering Business Management from Manchester Business School and an Executive Certificate in Strategic Marketing Management from Stanford Business School as well as an Executive Certificate in Leadership, Excellence and Corporate Governance from London School of Economics.
Charlotte has worked on several pipelines in the Niger Delta as an Engineer and sold various solution-oriented offerings in the Industry at large.
 In this interview with Majorwaves Energy Report’s Editor, Margaret Nongo-Okojokwu, she speaks about the trending Energy transition, the role of disruptive technology in business and life, and key issues of national and global importance. Excerpts.

What informed your choice of working in the Oil and Gas Industry?
After my first degree in Mechanical Engineering, I was modelling in South Africa and had just returned. One day,  my mom said to me: “You’ve done all the engineering, you’ve done your majors in Power, Electricity, Turbines, just go into the Oil and Gas Industry. You will be taught how to manage your time and be a well-structured person’’. That’s how I found myself here.
 

A recent report says it will take over 200 years to realise gender equity in terms of workplace remuneration; do you see this glass ceiling as psychological or cultural? How do you handle it?
I don’t see any a glass ceiling. I just believe that it’s the value you portray that determines your remuneration. It’s either you earn because you deserve it or not. Gender issues exists in terms of positioning to sit at various boards or at leadership levels but for remuneration or wages, I don’t see any.

What’s your take on the Energy Transition?
Energy Transition is a pathway towards transformation of the global energy sector from fossil-based to zero-carbon by the second half of this century. In Africa, we have Oil and Gas in abundance. I think Energy Transition is what we can embrace for tomorrow especially when we look at the various ESGs (Environmental, Social and Governance) and of course Sustainable Development to give us a safe, reliable and affordable Energy Future alongside the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) we have at hand. Energy transition exists, but you need to learn, to master research and development, and position yourself for the near future.
 How does this now come in terms of Africa for Energy Poverty?
We need to focus on infrastructure to help us scale up with the rising demands in the continent because the game changers will be power generation with the growth of renewables and natural gas and perhaps electric vehicles for transportation. In Africa, we are blessed with all the major elements, we should have different agendas for infrastructural development and the most crucial–Research and Development (R&D). Without this, you cannot transform gas, hydrogen, renewable or solar.  Investors, Government, Energy Companies etc. should jointly create a playbook that shows immediate, medium and long terms SMART achievable goals on how we can tackle the energy poverty in Africa and I believe in Lighting up Africa. Once we have electricity (power generation) in Africa, half of our problems are gone.

Do you think the narrative for renewables and hydrogen is moving the discussion further away from gas as a transition fuel? How does it sit with you as regards energy poverty in Africa seeing it’s directly related to economic indicators?
Renewables and Hydrogen are obviously under the new Energy today. In the Nigerian economy, Hydrocarbon is a major indicator. We have Gas in abundance. What we need to scale up capacity in our sector is Infrastructure as it is the biggest game changer for Power Generation with the growth of Renewables and Natural gas. Today in the North, with a lot of sunlight, we can scale up our solar capacity. This focus will deal with a lot of social economic concerns like poverty, lack of infrastructure, clean water etc. In the country’s South, abundance of Gas and sunlight can both be managed. when the rains are gone, you jump into a ready-made infrastructure for gas and continue with gas and solar because there is plenty sunlight coming in.

I don’t see any a glass ceiling. I just believe that it’s the value you portray that determines your remuneration. It’s either you earn because you deserve it or not.

Does AOS Orwell have its own Local Content target? If yes, where is it coming from and what are the future targets?
AOS Orwell is one of the major indigenous companies which takes a lot of strides with our local content target and we have demonstrated that in our various services. We’re first for many things: 1st ICSS assembling shop, 1st Machine Shop, 1st Oilfield Service Company with API & ISO 9001:2008 Certification in Port Harcourt, Nigeria in 1996, 1st Conductor Casing Threading and Welding Shop in Onne, Nigeria, 1st HE/NOV Drilling Jar Service Shop in Port Harcourt, Nigeria, 1st  Emerson Licensed Process & Automation Training School in Port Harcourt, Nigeria, 1st EXIDA Certified Cabinet manufacturing Plant in Port Harcourt, Nigeria, 1st  to launch Casing Drive Systems in Nigeria,  1st  Fisher approved Valve Servicing Center in West Africa. We’ve been able to provide services with a lot of manpower training and all our facilities show for it. Take for example, our ICSS workshop, machine shop, Valves Shop, LVMV workshop, Wells Construction, Drilling, Wireline, Coil Tubing- the entire value chain. This is what we will continue to do. The future target is to transit into manufacturing, machine shopping, etc.  Don’t forget you will build your future target as you foresee what the industry is going through.

 In Africa, we have Oil and Gas in abundance. I think Energy Transition is what we can embrace for tomorrow especially when we look at the various ESGs (Environmental, Social and Governance) and of course Sustainable Development to give us a safe, reliable and affordable Energy Future alongside the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) we have at hand.

Where is your company when it comes to community content development?
Before Covid-19 and the lockdown, we cleaned up our environment, sponsored children of the Indigenous Communities for University, did a lot of training. We have different projects where we operate in Eket, Ibeno,down to Rebisi / Elekahia; we’ve conducted training in Electricals where we brought the students to the facilities to be trained.
So, in terms of CSR, we continue to do a lot. We are currently in Bonny now for the NLNG Train 1-6 Operations and Maintenance (O&M) project which we won and  have started conversing and liaising and doing a lot for the Community. So I think its plug and play- where you live and work is where you chop.

What is the big thing we are expecting from AOS Orwell in the nearest future?
(laughs) It’s big, so it’s still cooking and I’m not permitted to say it yet until we clear all contractual conversations. Then, we’d announce fully.
What is the biggest lesson you are taking from Covid-19?
Personally, it was “double bumper” if there’s a word like that. As the Covid-19 lockdown restrictions commenced, I lost my Dad, Aunt, and a few good friends. Work wise: Our sector was hit badly. A lot  of discounting with Contracts, Travel Restrictions, Motivating, and encouraging colleagues etc. I spent a lot of time listening to webinars on the different Economies, Oil Price analysis from EY, McKinsey etc.
And then we eventually started having in-person meetings. That we are able to come out of all this just taught me that there’s really nothing in this world. We should aspire to do everything we can and be the best that we can be at what we currently do; be it your relationship, be it your career or occupation because COVID-19 just leveled everybody to zero, be you a minister, a janitor, an engineer, or a teacher; it just taught us life!
The key things I learnt: be resilient, be courageous, care for people, “CARE”. We don’t have that again; we have lost that value as a people, and take life one day at a time. Today you might be the Minister or Head of State, tomorrow morning you might be 6 feet below. Those are the major lessons I learnt from COVID-19.
COVID-19 taught me the vanity of life. Sharing, the key things I learnt include, resilience, courage, care for people and taking life one day at a time.

We need to focus on infrastructure to help us scale up with the rising demands in the continent because the game changers will be power generation with the growth of renewables and natural gas and perhaps electric vehicles for transportation. 

Parenting is a full time job. For a career woman, how have you managed it thus far? What’s the life hack you deployed?
Parenting is a full time tough job. Chasing my dreams and aspirations, it’s been a tough job for me so I try to strike a balance. I have support systems around me. And I’m also grateful for technology that makes work easy. My support system consists of my fantastic home manager and my family in short. it’s easier these days because all you need to do is plug. I deploy technology and monitor my son’s progress in and out of school. Parenting is tasking and overwhelming; some days you win, some days you lose. I have also learnt not to be too hard on myself when things go out of plan.

 Investors, Government, Energy Companies etc. should jointly create a playbook that shows immediate, medium and long terms SMART achievable goals on how we can tackle the energy poverty in Africa and I believe in Lighting up Africa. Once we have electricity (power generation) in Africa, half of our problems are gone.

What’s your thought on Work-Life balance?
This is not as realistic as it sounds. I have meetings weekdays and have to do things over the weekend. Where is the balance? Some Mondays I’m yawning because I haven’t really slept, dealing with stuff at work, and dealing with others at home and with my kind of job, no matter how proactive you try to be, some things will give. I just take one day at a time. I just cover both ends; home, and work and if you call that balance then it is okay.

What do you make of disruptive technologies like Blockchain, Big Data, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and general digital literacy?
I am 100 percent for Blockchain network updates, there is a difference to duplicated digital ledger of transactions for the Blockchain Wallets and like I did say to you I am technology savvy. For me, technology is it. I am very much into big data. I think AI is the best thing that has happened and I’m looking forward to the full blown technology stage where all I need to do is click on my phone and organise my house therein. Thanks to technology, everything I need is in my phone; booking tickets, making transfers, etc. This makes life easy, so I’m happy with disruptive technology.

If you weren’t in Oil and Gas, what would be your profession? Would you do same if money wasn’t a factor?
I would still be possibly working for maybe an FMCG. Or in the hospitality or medical field, even as an engineer because I have learnt different skills. I am big on corporate governance, frameworks, playbooks as I learned to understand Contracting, Negotiating, Conflict Management etc. One time in my life I learnt to read Contracts, understand the clauses and interpret them effectively. If I took that skill and I ran so far, you could say she’s a lawyer but I’m not one. I just think that you learn skills and develop it to the next level. Money has never been the main factor. Love and passion are. I like interfacing with people, networking, and troubleshooting; either operational troubleshooting or just clarifying different terms and conditions for easy understanding. When the skills and experiences you have acquired is EXPENSIVE and valuable, money comes with it, like in my case.

What’s that passionate pet project you are nursing for the future?
 I’m not nursing for the future, I do it every day. I go to different hospitals especially where there are children and try to clear their monthly hospital bills. Sometimes, for just N20, 000 or N15, 000, the children are kept in hospitals. I also care for the Eyes by catering for balance of operation costs for children and sometimes, adults. These projects complete me. The joy on the faces of the person(s) that you assisted can’t be traded for anything.

We have Gas in abundance. What we need to scale up capacity in our sector is Infrastructure as it is the biggest game changer for Power Generation with the growth of Renewables and Natural gas.

Who was your role model while growing up?
I had a few, my Aunts, Mom etc. As I grew in my career, I picked and studied Indira Nooyi because she basically came from Asia, entered into the career world in the United States and conquered. Ngozi Okonjo Iweala is Strong, Fierce yet gentle. Like I always say, where you think is the height for you, that’s your limit. This, for me, is key.

 How tall are you? Kindly narrate a scenario where you leveraged your intimidating height?
 I’m 6ft tall without my shoes. I practically wear a lot of high heels and few times you’d see me wear sneakers and flat shoes. I literally don’t intimidate folks with my height, you might feel intimidated but I doubt. In secondary school, I learnt that regardless of how tall I was or I am, I must stand up tall. So I took that courage, confidence and ran with it. When I stand close to you, you’d say I’m intimidating so I have just learnt to accept and work with everything I have to my advantage. I’m not sure I can come up with a scenario that I leveraged my intimidating height. I get compliments- “oh you’re so tall and you wear high heels” and I just crack up when I hear it.
Very interesting. What is the guiding philosophy of life that you hold close to your chest?
Live life as it comes. There are a few others I have but COVID-19 humbled us all.  
So live life everyday as it comes.
What’s your biggest fear and how have you managed it thus far?
 Failure. A few times I have failed and I understood that perhaps that wasn’t my place hence the failure. Failure makes me understand that I have to strive to be better than I was.
Also Excellence. I must be top notch in everything. I’m a perfectionist so excellence just comes right behind. Lastly, accountability; I have to be accountable for certain things; I should boldly own up to my acts and explain why I felt it was necessary.

AOS Orwell is one of the major indigenous companies which takes a lot of strides with our local content target and we have demonstrated that in our various services. We’re first for many things:

What ways do you support gender inclusion?
I deliberately work around this because it’s not about gender inclusion, there must be value. I support gender inclusion by making my team more gender sensitive so  that everybody I work with or has worked with me in the past understands that everyone is equal, every skill is equal. You must be able to assist each other irrespective of gender. Ask what basically is the culture, the value the entire team is bringing. Once you have managed this, you would have dealt with gender inclusion, because you are with people who abide with that organizational culture that you have set aside. There are certain must-have values in my team as this is important for gender inclusion. When I started with AOS Orwell, I had more guys on board and so I changed the  narrative  by being an example and started making deliberate effort by training certain females to a certain level so they too can come up as that’s the only way. It is very imperative that we have to do a lot to intentionally support gender inclusion so as not to have a dearth of female executive talents.

in terms of CSR, we continue to do a lot. We are currently in Bonny now for the NLNG Train 1-6 Operations and Maintenance (O&M) project which we won and  have started conversing and liaising and doing a lot for the Community.

What’s the Nigeria of your dreams?
 I am one of the major fans of this great country, Nigeria. The Nigeria of my dreams is where we have no concerns whether a woman can lead or head a position in any Sector; where I do not have to lock my doors when I am going to bed, where we have young people who are able and placed in certain positions because they can deliver at work and have leadership skills.
The Nigeria of my dream is a Nigeria where corruption is flagged and not worshiped; where your values tell me who you are and not how much you have; and until we start to understand that actually corruption brings poverty, we are not there yet. I am very enthusiastic that Nigeria will be a different place and a better place tomorrow. Thanks.

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