Ana works as an Industrial IT Product Manager for ExxonMobil Business Support Centre Malaysia Sdn Bhd and has been with the company for nearly 20 years. It’s a career that has taken her across countries and continents, exploring different cultures while taking on new challenges and experiences.
But it was a move from Malaysia to the U.S. – with a family in tow – that was her biggest professional and personal challenge. One, she says, would have been almost impossible without the support of her family and ExxonMobil.
“I had mentioned wanting a strategic transformation role just before an IT transformation project was about to begin, so it was an opportunity I couldn’t miss when I was offered the role,” Ana says of the catalyst for her challenge. “It felt like it was the right place and the right time.”
Ana initially transferred as ExxonMobil was carrying out an Agile Transformation of its IT organisation and would benefit from a workforce with diverse backgrounds, capabilities and skillsets.
But as she prepared to move with her family, which included four children ranging from six months to eight years old, life threw her a curve ball.
“We can laugh about it now but at the time, we weren’t,” she says.
“When we applied for the visa for my husband, they told us it could take up to two months before he could join us. Little did we know it wouldn’t be two months but a whole year.”
Ana was left having to start a new job, move to a new country, set up a new home and look after four small children, all of it practically solo. “It was a real one-woman show. I don’t know how I did it, looking back.”
“It left me thinking ‘what just happened?’, I am not prepared for this,” – Ana Sani.
Luckily, she had a built-in support network, with ExxonMobil providing a strong foundation for her to start this new chapter of the family’s life.
“Outside of family, the biggest support I had was from the company. My manager was super supportive, saying ‘if you need to take hours off just do it’. That trust from him helped me a lot.”
– Ana Sani
“We had catch-ups not just on work but also life, and it wasn’t just my immediate manager but also my peers who helped. The whole support system at ExxonMobil eased the transition for all of us.”
Ana says the move, and motherhood, have taught her three valuable skills that she brings to work every day: patience, resilience, and the importance of empathy and emotional intelligence.
Does Ana have any advice for other women looking to build a career in energy or STEM? If she does, she says, it would be that with the support and flexibility that companies like ExxonMobil offer women – allowing them to combine career and family – now is a great time to come into the industry.
“I would encourage women to join the energy industry, the old days when it was only men are long gone,” she says. “It’s not even a question if women should join the energy industry – my advice is just go for it.”