We fly higher together. That’s Nicole O’Neill’s life motto when she’s teaching kids how to build a kite, working at Shell’s Puget Sound Refinery or spending time with friends and family.
Nicole – who lives in Anacortes, WA and works as a contractor in the refinery’s pressure equipment integrity (PEI) department as a database manager – said kite flying has always served as the guiding force in her life through the ups, down and everything in between.
She grew up on Orcas Island, which is one of the San Juan Islands near Anacortes, WA. She was raised by a single mom who put herself through medical school during Nicole’s childhood.
“Watching my mom do it all by herself gave me a deep appreciation for hard work and perseverance,” said Nicole. “No matter how difficult you think something is, you can always find the energy to do more. Even if you might fail, never give up.”
Military service puts life in perspective
After graduating from high school, Nicole joined the military as a translator for Persian Farsi, Dari and Pashto in the Middle East. She spent seven years working in numerous war-torn countries, including Afghanistan and Iraq.
“The hardest part about serving was seeing people’s entire lives destroyed in a matter of seconds…it really puts things in perspective,” she said. “But it also gave me a newfound respect for humanity and the goodness of people. Even when a mother had lost everything, she still wanted to invite me in for a meal.”