Meet the Superwomen of ONGC
In a point of time in history, when civilisation was unheard of, and the terrain was unmapped, grand cities rose from dust in the north-western part of India. This could happen only out of the sheer will of people, who worked in unison towards the creation of possibilities. The Indus Valley Civilization was a concept of human evolution when such ideas were almost nonexistent. Men and women together decided to build on their visions when resources were next to impossible to harness, and technology was archaic. Dreams take shape exactly like that. When perseverance is coupled with courage, possibilities manifest.
The sky then is the limit once opportunities blossom out of hardships. At ONGC, we were proud to reminisce on the women who joined our workforce at the Western Offshore nine years ago today, working hand in hand with their colleagues to establish energy security in India. They passed through unspeakable hardships, battled unexplored terrain, managing constraints which would have broken the strongest of spirits. Yet, here as we look at these Superwomen, we are only inspired to scale greater heights though our pursuits to harness energy.
As cities were envisioned and made into realities centuries ago, we are proud to function as an organization that looks beyond gender, to embolden equity, while we all hold hands to look towards a brighter future that is sustainable and secure for all.
History demands vision. And when visions need icons, heroes emerge. ONGC salutes our heroes working tirelessly towards powering India everyday.
As we complete nine years of women working in Western Offshore, let us look into the stories of our heroes without capes.
When did you join offshore? Which platform? How many years were you posted in offshore?
What were your first thoughts on going to offshore?
Can you share any challenging situation which you faced in offshore?
Did you have to stay back during the first phase of COVID restrictions? How did you cope with the challenge?
What would be your message to the ladies joining offshore?
Offshore posting came our way cause out of 10 GT production only we 2 girls were given base posting. After sitting in office for almost 10 days, we had a meeting with then ED-MHA Mr. P K Gosh. I told him that why were we not given offshore posting like all other. ALso why ONGC had to pick a Mechanical engineer to make them sit in office.
After that ball was in his court and he send us to platform for 2 days within a week only. My collegues got sea sickness and we returned soon.
Scared with the offshore life toughness and the faces of our own friends from our GT batches at offshore, made us realized that it was a bed of roses.
We came back to office and decided not to face ED as far as possible. But after our one month ST at Panvel was completed, we were once again sitting in ED office. He asked about our experience and my colleague told him that we will not be able to do it. I did not say anything but I had a smile spread across my face. We were sent back and this time we stayed for 21 days straight.
This time we came back prepared and ready to go for the challenge in full swing. Soon the ladies were listed who will be joining offshore in 2 batches of 3 each.
The first landing at platform was overwhelming, the chopper trip was exciting and thrilling, each day passes at offshore learning new stuffs. My initial 3 years, I can state that in each shift I was learning something very new.
Offshore challenges: You miss your festivals with families and there is no substitute for that. My first Diwali at offshore - I remember I was standing on a bridge and was shedding tears after having a call at home, where all I could hear was crackers sound and joyful noise of relatives. here, you can not even think of burning a match, the diwali night was as good as any other. The offshore people do make a lot of scarifies on personal front to keep it going.
Behavioral change: Since the officers at offshore had this impression that we will move out of that place with a blink of an eye, initially not much people were interested to teach us the details of job. Initially They never thought that we will stay to learn and then deliver and share their responsibility. Gradually the scenario changed and its been 9 years since girls have been working shoulder to shoulder.
Gender Gap: This was felt more from the same age boys. The seniors never made us felt small, rather they always encourged even our baby steps initially. Though our same level male officers had this issue with us that we were being treated at special and with the same amount of work they would not get any words of appreciation.
This is accepted nature of a human being and that's why no harsh feelings. But I know personally that instead of them working 100%, I had to perform 200% so as to make them count as equal.
Once on new year eve we faced shut down of 2 days, where our main oil line pumps were not working and I was alone on field duty with2 other technicians. It was the most challenging and adventurous shift. We celebrated new year or 3rd jan eve that year.
Once due to leakage and a splash of crude oil, we were covered in it from helmet to shoe. Still we went ahed and isolated the point of leakage.
Once during a major shut down, 16" gas line leakage happened, the condensate was showering in all direction from the leakage point, me and my male counter parts went inside the area and isolated the valve.
The most responsible I felt when I was HSE-M of the platform. One of the night medical evacuation made me realize my capacity as a human being, not only as a human.
Other than the work, we danced a duo where I was a male sardar ji during Ganpati festivals, organized gaming tournament at SHP, anchored many farewells and VIP visits and ganpati celebartions with my other collegues.
Join offshore, It is the best thing u can do in your initial years for yourself. Join offshore in mid of your career life since you see & learn for what we r serving at office & lastly, join offshore as the sectional heads or OIMs cause there are young girls who need more heroes in their life to look upto.
When did you join offshore? Which platform?
In 2015 I was transferred to MH. Even before transfer on knowing my preference for offshore, I was given posting in SHP.
How many years were you posted in offshore?
What were your first thoughts on going to offshore?
Excitement. When I got there, i was awestruck. Majestic structures standing in the majestic blue seas. There was excitement and nervousness mixed. Offshore is a temptation for all technical persons. Although the field is so old, the technology that was installed decades back is still running. It is the farsight of the then Govt and ONGC management that even on this date this technology is still challenging. For us, it was a new arena for me to learn so much. Couldn't be any happier. Today we are facing a new challenge of keeping the aging equipments and lines still running, that too in full throttle.
Can you share any challenging situation which you faced in offshore?
Offshore is challenging in all ways. The amount of risk handled increases many folds as compared to being on the land, where u can flee in small mishaps, but that is not very feasible in offshore. The safety system is a state of the art, that is multifold and very complex, almost foolproof here and yet nature throws new challenges everytime. Other than normal shutdowns and operational shortcomings that we normally handle, the past 2 years have been very challenging for all of us. The cyclones that hit, maybe remembered for papa305, but may it be Vayu or the Tauktae, ONGC operations were not stopped. Being away from family, during those challenging times in itself needs courage and then to answer the call of duty with howling winds growing in knots every minute... It's much more than duty, but patriotism. Not only to our country, but to the 250 other Indians who are dependent on us for safe running of the plant. Being there in the monsoons is also as much a challenge as it is fun too.
Other than these physical challenges, when I started my journey in ONGC, breaking gender based cliche was a big challenge. I personally feel this stereotype thinking was changed after I came back from my ONGC-IMF Everest expedition. People saw that I was a team player and a new era of inclusiveness dawned. Today having ladies in the top management has brought us so much ahead in this race of gender neutrality. We are moving ahead with great place and there is no looking back.
Did you have to stay back during the first phase of COVID restrictions?
I was in offshore during the 1st wave, when there was national lockdown.
How did you cope with the challenge?
At first, it was a genuine understanding that we are the essential services, we need to be there for smooth running of the rest on shore. If we shut down, there will be power crisis in Mumbai, that is beyond imagination especially during a state when the people were already struggling with covid cases.
Then slowly as news from near and dear ones kept coming, people started losing their cool, not because they were working even on those conditions, but mostly because there were no deadlines of getting back home. I kept telling myself that we are safer in the platform, than in Mumbai. I was in a very good place thanks to the harsh and challenging conditions I had faced during my mountaineering traning and expeditions, it helped me never to panic. It is our strengths that keep our team motivated.
Finally management had chartered flights hired and we got back to our homes.
What would be your message to the ladies joining offshore?
I strongly believe that field duty must be made mandatory for girls in the technical field, just like how northeast posting is. A minimum tennure of maybe 3-5years is a necessity for us to build a more cooperative environment and better decision making as we move up the stairs of hierarchy. Being in a male dominated bastion, it is presumed that the girls do not have a hands on experience. This myth must be broken. It is high time we talk of gender neutrality and give more girls the exposure of offshore. Only 3 platforms have women workforce in Mumbai offshore now, one in each of the Assets. It is time to have women workforce in all the platforms.
To the girls already working in offshore, "Cheers to your choices, be alert and safe. Work and enjoy being in offshore, it's an opportunity of a lifetime".
To all that want to enjoy this challenge, please do join this workforce, it is a thrill that cannot to fulfilled anywhere else. An experience for a lifetime, may it be life or technical know-how. offshore will give you all. Hopefully senior ladies will also opt for offshore someday and chalk out q new and different chapter for us all.
Overall it is an enriching experience that is going to stay with you till the end of times. So, do not miss the chance.
Madhuri Kashinath Wankhade
I joined in September 2019 at SHP Platform. I have completed 3 yrs at offshore.
My first thought was about 14 days ON/OFF...means like staying with family for 14 days. And also I am very excited to know How the Instrumention works there as we only learn theory in the syllabus and very less exposure to the actual work.
Challenges: When there is almost no manpower during COVID-19 phase, the PGC shutdown or any other work struck simultaneously and get the work done as soon as possible. Sometimes there is only one officer and two Staff persons onboard for whole shift of 28 days and more. It is really very tiresome.That time other employees were not able to attend the shift as they or there family member gets infected by Covid 19 . We have to wait for other employee to come and releave us.
No I don't have to stay back During the COVID-19 phase of lockdown at platform.
Lets join us to strengthen and encourage the women power by showing the interest in the career that you have chosen and the willingness to do every job.
I joined Offshore in June-2016 at SH platform after my transfer from IOGPT to MH Asset. I was posted there for 2 years and in July 2018 I have been asked to join the Facility Engineering Group of Mh Asset in interest of organization. Being production engineer in ONGC I always have dream of working in Offshore platforms for better exposure and experience to understand the operational needs and knowhow of advance production system. So I have to make an lot of effort to go to offshore as I have to get transfer from IOGPT to MH Asset as special request. So I was very much looking forward to go when I was provided with opportunity for the first time.
I still remember when I landed on SH for first time I was the only lady in whole complex at that particular time as my other lady colleagues on shift were either on tour or was on leave. As girls were posted at SH from 2014 the comfort level in terms of people not getting surprised to see lady officer at offshore was there. Luckily I got two more colleagues who joined at same time to roam around the platform to search our ways from different location to strategic locations like living quarters and life boats etc. I indeed really enjoyed my first shift.
In SH platform I worked in capacity of shift engineer in process control room as well as HSE Manager for one year. Going to and coming from offshore duty itself seemed adventurous for first 2-3 shifts. Tracing of different piping densely netted in different decks and bridge connected platform was challenging as you lose the piping sequence and have to do so many ups and downs and many more learning challenges.
The real challenge I felt was how people perceive women in terms of work at least in production operation team, there was a lot of gender bias visible while assigning the job responsibilities and being considered as part of team. Mere posting and working at offshore doesn't guarantee that you would be wholeheartedly accepted as part of team and being assigned or entrusted with the equivalent responsibilities as of male counterparts. That was the leap which was still needed. I have constantly tried to take that leap and tried to give my 100 % on whatever job I was assigned and even I came forward more like intruded into team jobs myself even I was not asked to do. To break the bias the women are not here just to be on posters of ONGC or just symbolically posted in name of gender equality. There were some intentional systematic exclusion and it took lot of effort from all girls who were already posted and posted later on to be truly part of teams as on date.
I have been entrusted with responsibility of HSE Manager of SH just after completing one year at offshore. Responsibilities of HSE Manager are tremendous in terms of job scope at offshore. It is highly accountable position with limited resources at hand. I along with Jyoti Rana have put lot of effort to streamline the HSE related activities at platform which was very haphazardly scattered. The most challenging situation arose when one minor fire incident took place at wellhead platform in evening and I have to co-ordinate for evacuation of one injured person in night. I have seen the co-operation of all my colleagues from that particular incident onwards. SH platform got OISD best fire safe platform for that particular year.
At this juncture I really want to Thank Shri Subhujit Bose Sir who was Surface Manager MH Asset that time for listening to our concerns, views acting upon them and providing the enabling environment for women employees to truly achieve something not only at offshore but also at office in his team.
My advice to future girls going to Offshore or Onshore field duties.
I am presently posted in 14 days on-off duty at Assam Asset since July-2021.
We have achieved a lot in terms of breaking biases.
In Operation field people are not even accustomed to see lady as their colleagues so getting the job done with your team members, who have spent way more time than you is more challenging for lady Officer in comparison to male counterparts. You have to learn to make the way around and more involved to get the job done. It always required an extra effort and you need to be vocal at times to get acknowledged for your job. Don't anyone to discredit you and your job or many a times you have to suffice the male ego and cultural biases. Don't allow anyone giving you unsolicited advices way too much fix a boundary line for responding to such advices. Speak up for yourself and be supportive to your other women colleagues and try to resolve your interpersonal issues among yourself don't let it be matter of gossip at workplace. Trust your judgments and gut feeling when it comes to have doubts on someone intention and don't lower your guards too early or too much which might result into painful experience for later date. Don't hesitate to take up challenging assignment. Preserve delicately what has been achieved till date. If you want equal opportunities be ready to take equal responsibilities and risk.
I would say there is more of hype or bubble or glass ceiling than actual difficulties in terms of job which has been largely projected to exclude women from field assignment either in Offshore. There is no additional risk for women in ONGC field which is not present in office setting so leave your apprehensions aside ask for field duties free from any pre perceived notion and perform to your full extent and be the change you want to see in organization in long run.
I joined at SHP platform in 2017 as my first posting. Currently we are 7 girls at my platform (Including 1 medical officer). My first thought when I was told that I will be posted at offshore - I was all excited knowing the fact that very few girls are working there and I have got the opportunity to be one among them.
Initially there were many challenges. Major one being the people’s perception that girls won’t be able to do field duty, but as the time passed we were able to change that perception or stereotyping based on gender.
Current challenge- the gender ratio at offshore, even after 2012 (when 1st set of girls were sent to offshore), girls are posted only at 3 platforms and number is so less compared to our male counterparts. And even when the new living quarters facilities have been added at some platforms (which is the major reason management cites for not posting girls at platform), why girls are not given the posting there and why we have to go to other platform when any VIP visit happens at different platform to represent women workforce is the question I can’t get any answer for.
Secondly giving the option to women employees whether they want offshore duty or not is not helping in any way, it’s simply denying them the opportunity which will help them in later stages of their career.
During 1st phase of COVID restrictions we were doing 45-50 days duty at a stretch, and it was exhausting physically, mentally and emotionally. Not letting negative thought enter or reside in your mind has been the key to cope up those challenges.
My message to girls who have not been posted or who are not willing to opt for offshore would be - Go out there girls, especially in initial phase of your career when you have least amount of liabilities or responsibility on family front. There is lot to learn at offshore, the kind of experience and exposure you will get there, you won’t get anywhere else. And the simple fact that you will have to live in tough atmosphere will give you the conviction that you can do anything in life. I think everyone should have that experience because smooth roads never make good drivers.