Shell Manufacturing Leader Strives to ‘Live Big’
Mar 10, 2016
Shell’s EVP of global manufacturing says her career in a male-dominated industry has shown her the value of persistence, dreaming big and setting her own standards for success.
“There is no passion to be found in playing small – in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.” That quote by Nelson Mandela is displayed on a white board in Lori Ryerkerk’s office and serves as a driving force both in her career and personal life.
Ryerkerk, who serves as Shell’s EVP of global manufacturing, says her career in a male-dominated industry has shown her the value of persistence, dreaming big and setting her own standards for success.
“The definition of success changes throughout your life, and I’ve always viewed career success as being passionate about what I do, feeling excited when I wake up in the morning and knowing that I’m doing something meaningful.”
She paused before adding, “In my personal life, I’ve always asked myself, ‘Am I happy?’ That Nelson Mandela quote resonates with me in so many ways. I want to be as energetic at 53 as I was at 23. Why live small when you can live big? I tell my kids that you should always play to win – don’t play not to lose.”
Lifelong passion for math and science leads to career in energy industry
Ryerkerk is the youngest of five kids and spent her childhood in rural Iowa, where her parents both worked as teachers. She fell in love with manufacturing at a young age. She grew up with a dad who could “fix anything,” and she always knew she wanted to pursue a career in math and science. After receiving a degree in chemical engineering from Iowa State University, she went on to work at ExxonMobil, then Hess Corp. and now Shell.
She started working in the industry when she was 21 years old and has served in numerous roles at refineries, including process technologist, technical team lead, technology manager, engineering manager, refinery manager, chemical plant manager, production manager, global manager for public affairs and government relations, crude buyer and more. She has also lived in numerous countries, including the U.S., the UK – where she’s based now – Hong Kong and the Netherlands.
“I just love knowing how things work and find the technology fascinating – it only gets better over time. I enjoy the challenge of trying to identify how to be more competitive and raise our game.”
Love what you do
Ryerkerk is the mother of two children, and she said the industry wasn’t a very friendly place to women when she first started. She hopes her work – along with the work of other female executives – has moved the needle forward for her daughter’s generation.
What’s her advice to young women everywhere? Find something you’re passionate about, and go after it with your whole heart. Life is too short not to love what you do.
She said Shell empowers women across the business and provides an atmosphere with a wide range of styles so everyone can maximize their full potential.
“We’re a global company with many unique cultures…but we also have a strong Shell culture. At the end of the day, it’s all about providing a level playing field.”
Success requires staying true to yourself
When she looks back over her career thus far, she can say with confidence that throughout the challenges, disappointments and many achievements, she has always stayed true to herself – and to Ryerkerk, that’s the best measure of success.
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