Winning ways from STEM adventure

​​From volunteering at schools and leading start-up campaigns offshore to competing in adventure races, process engineer Rachel Leong is a woman of many talents and interests. 

​"I love to tackle new challenges and make a difference both at work and in my community," says Rachel. Outside work, she likes to keep fit and continually challenge herself, having completed two half-iron man triathlons and several mountain biking and adventure races. Rachel, the winner in this year's Outstanding Young Woman in Resources category of the Chamber of Minerals and Energy's Women in Resources Awards, has been kicking goals and leaving her mark on the oil and gas industry despite her young age. Since joining the Graduate Development Program in 2010, she has held the role of Woodside Graduate Community's chairperson, and was Woodside's and Australia's first candidate to attend the General Electric Oil and Gas University in Florence, Italy. 

She dedicated four years to the Greater Western Flank Phase 1 subsea tieback project as the start-up lead. "Turning the valve to finally introduce first hydrocarbons into the pipeline was a very rewarding and exciting moment," she recalls. Currently process surveillance engineer for North Rankin Complex, she still finds time to inspire young people to pursue careers they might not have considered before. As part of her involvement with the Women of Woodside community, which promotes gender diversity and inclusion, Rachel has played a leading role in building future talent pool in Western Australia. 

"I've led the development of Woodside's new volunteering program to promote science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) in schools," explains Rachel.  "We've developed classroom material for primary and secondary schools, and we've already trained more than 100 Woodside volunteers." ​  In their first term, term 4 2016, some 40 Woodside volunteers delivered 35 classroom sessions, reaching more than 1000 students across 25 Perth schools. 

In their first term, term 4 2016, some 40 Woodside volunteers delivered 35 classroom sessions, reaching more than 1000 students across 25 Perth schools. 

This year's goal is to repeat that performance over all four terms and to roll-out the program in Karratha. "Whether it's 'drilling' through a stack of sandwiches imitating an oil and gas reservoir or using virtual reality headsets to better picture life on an offshore platform, the goal is always the same," Rachel says, adding: "It's all about breaking down the stereotypes that STEM subjects are boring, hard or uncool. "We simply try to show boys and girls that STEM can be fun and interesting in a practical and engaging way." 

Rachel's main driver was to give primary and high school students a chance to meet the abundance of role models she encounters at work every day. "We've created a pathway for Woodside employees to be ambassadors for their STEM professions," she explains. "We've simply connected an existing supply of passionate and enthusiastic STEM professionals with schools and teachers who are eager to give their students access to real-life role models." 

​Rachel says engineering was simply not on her radar until last-minute university applications. Now, seven years into her journey with Woodside, she says she feels blessed that she has landed a career where she is stimulated daily and works with amazing people on world-class facilities. "Early engagement is so important," she says. "I fell into the field quite luckily, and that's why I'm so passionate about not leaving it up to luck for others."

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Trunkline Q1 2017​​