I am excited to bring back the Women in Engineering Interview Series this month, especially because I’m featuring an engineering manager for the first time! I met Gracel through our husbands, who work together as engineers. Our husbands are friends at work, so we started to get our families together occasionally outside of work for casual dinners. I’m happy that through our husband’s connection Gracel and I have become friends too.
Gracel is a Petroleum Engineering Manager at Shell Oil. She is also a mom to two bright kids, and a sweet friend. She worked her way up from chemical engineering undergrad and MS in petroleum engineering to working as an engineer for many years until she was promoted her current role as manager.
She is one of the amazing women engineers breaking the glass ceiling and making it into management, and I’m proud to share her story with you today. I hope you enjoy getting to know Gracel by reading our interview below.
Engineering Emily (EE): How and when did you decide to become an engineer?
Gracel Diomampo (GD): For my university application, I had to choose a college and a major. I knew I liked math, chemistry and physics in high school, so engineering seemed like a logical choice. I was actually not accepted by the engineering department first. I was accepted in physics instead. After one year in physics, I switched to engineering.
EE: What was your college major?
GD: I majored in Chemical Engineering and mastered in Petroleum Engineering.
EE: What was your university experience like as an engineering student?
GD: It was a lot of hard work. Since I transferred from pure science, I needed to take engineering classes in two summers to catch up and be able to graduate on time.
EE: Did you do any engineering internships during college?
GD: Yes, my internship was as an operations field engineer in a geothermal plant. I sized pumps, planned the layout of water condensate lines. It was a good experience to see how things work in the field, following P&ID, seeing separators, pumps, control valves for first time.
EE: How did you find/get hired for your first engineering job?
GD: A few months after the internship, before I graduated, the same company offered me a position in their Graduate Engineering Program.
EE: What industry do you currently work in?
GD: I work for the oil industry.
EE: What has been your career path from college graduation up to today?
GD: I started as an operations engineer. Then, I realized to switch from field office to working at headquarters, the fastest route was through a masters degree. That is why, I got my masters in Petroleum Engineering. Then I got hired by Shell Oil and started again as a graduate engineer. It took 17 years and five assignments before getting to this level.
EE: Have you travelled for work, and if so how often and to where?
GD: In my work at Malaysia, I traveled to the field office every month for a duration of a week. This was required, because the work was to improve operational standards in the field.
EE: Have you had to move for work?
GD: The moves were a mixed of me requesting the move and the company needs. Shell accommodated my request to move to Denver when my husband (fiancée at that time) got a job there. I moved from Denver to Pittsburgh due to company needs. Then, I wanted to experience working outside of US and moved to Malaysia. With the oil downturn, I moved to Houston.
EE: What has been your best experience working as an engineer?
GD: As Petroleum Engineer, you get to work with different disciplines like geology, geophysics, petrophysics and integrate the data to understand the possible productivity of an oil or gas fields. It is quite a good experience to be part of a discovery of an oil field. It is memorable to be part of the team that convinced Wyoming State Government to change winter drilling policy. It is a good feeling to be appreciated by field operators when they recognize you are helping and lessening work load by bringing lean processes and proven technologies.
EE: What has been your most challenging experience working as an engineer?
GD: The biggest challenge always is finding the balance between work and family life. This has been especially true after I had kids.
EE: Do you feel women are treated equally to men in engineering?
GD: I think the path towards high level positions for women engineers is not as easy or as direct for men of same capacity. This can be company or cultural or self induced.
EE: How do you balance career and home life?
GD: It is still a challenge for me. I try not to work at home and on the weekends. I make time for family vacations. I give my team and my boss early notice of my family vacation plans. I try to be transparent of my time restraint. In my outlook calendar, you will find pick-up time in the afternoon. It means no meetings on this time for me for I leave to pick-up my kids.
EE: What do you consider the challenges and advantages of being a working mom?
GD: Challenge: to accept you cannot be the PTA mom. School involvement during office hours is terribly hard to do. At times when I’ve volunteered I found out that there was already a group of moms who knew each other because they volunteered more often. They set the rules, clicked together and knew what they were doing.
Advantage: the dual income gives us better financial stability that helps with saving for kids’ college, retirement and vacations. The other big advantage are the hugs and kisses that I get from my kids the end of a tiring day.
EE: What advice do you have for girls interested in becoming an engineer?
GD: Go for it. It is a very rewarding career. Choose a job that you enjoy. I believe in the saying that successful people are those who gets paid for doing what you love.
EE: What advice do you have for working moms?
GD: Don’t forget your husbands. Make your husband your partner at keeping your house a home you like to live in and in raising kids you both are proud of. Keep the romance in the marriage always.
EE: Would you still become an engineer if you could do it all over again?
GD: Engineering is a good paying career. If I am reborn to a rich family, then maybe I will do something that touches humanity more, like being a teacher.
Gracel is one of the growing number of women engineers breaking into management. I hope that as more women become managers in engineering it will make it a more inclusive and comfortable environment for everyone.
Gracel is very open and honest about the challenges of being a high achieving working mom. She misses a lot of volunteer opportunities and time with the kids during the week, but on the evenings and the weekends she makes it a priority to spend time with her family, including her husband.
She is an inspiration to me, and I’m sure by sharing her story here she has inspired many of you as well. If you’d like to share your story about being a woman engineer here on the blog, contact me today.