Tobenna Emecheta

Meet Our Pro

Tobenna Emecheta

Team Lead Instrument and Analyzer

As the construction of its new polyethylene plant in Monaca, Pennsylvania continues, Shell Polymers has been hiring a team of industry experts, aka Polymer Pioneers and Polymer Pros, with proven track records in polymers. In this article, we talked to Team Lead Instrument and Analyzer Tobenna Emecheta to learn more about her global industry experience and the work she is doing at Shell Polymers.

Here, There, Everywhere

Tobenna’s career began after she received her bachelor’s degree in electrical electronics engineering. She started as an Instrument Engineer for Nigeria Liquid Natural Gas (NLNG) Limited and worked her way up to Head, Instrumentation Engineering at the same company over 16 years.

During that time, Tobenna went on an international assignment with Shell in the Netherlands. She also traveled all over the world including Germany, France, England, Norway, Denmark, Russia, and Japan. Her globe-trotting career was made all the more challenging by the fact that she has two children. Managing a 1-year old and 5-year old while succeeding in her career was challenging but Tobenna had friends and family to which to turn.

“Supportive friends helped during those situations, as well as a nanny.”

Her international assignment with Shell was Tobenna’s first experience with Shell, but it wouldn’t be her last.

"Turning gas into plastic was interesting and changing substances in that matter was exciting. Plastic is so valuable and the work is meaningful because it affects everyone in some way.”

Tobenna Emecheta

When the opportunity to work with Shell Polymers came about, Tobenna saw it as one she couldn’t pass up. The role itself was new and exciting, but there was a more profound benefit to the position. With the role being in the U.S., it would mean that Tobenna, her daughters, and her husband would be able to live together for the first time in years. Becoming the Team Lead Instrument and Analyzer was a success in its own right, but reuniting her family was an even more significant achievement.

A Career Change to a Thriving Industry

Before accepting the role at Shell Polymers, Tobenna had spent the bulk of her career as an instrument engineer in the liquified natural gas field. The chance to work in the plastics industry was something she saw as an exciting opportunity. Tobenna cites the value that plastic has in everyone’s life as a reason for the career change. She also applauds Shell Polymers’ efforts to make plastic more sustainable and more recyclable.

“Young professionals should look for a mentor and create a career roadmap with them, that is so important.”

The transition also came during a time of remarkable progress in diversity and inclusion. Tobenna says that some aspects have certainly improved in the industry, while other things still need work. She thinks back to her previous company and how she was one of the very few female engineers. During her time there, Tobenna experienced the challenges of being a working mom as she looked to friends and family for help with child care. Now, that company offers a child care facility on-site. Tobenna was also on a team that lacked female representation, though that is now changing as more women enter the field.

“Those are big first steps in terms of progress,” Tobenna says.

Tobenna’s experience with Shell Polymers is still in its infancy, but she is already proud of the work she has seen. She cites her appointment as the first external regional subject matter expert for Shell as one of her most significant accomplishments. This appointment was considered external, as NLNG is a non-operated Shell joint venture. She saw it as a testament of her expertise in the Functional safety space. That kind of recognition was important for Tobenna when she decided to make the switch and work with Shell Polymers.

A Roadmap for the Next Generation

Tobenna urges all new professionals to seek out mentors whenever and wherever possible. In her early career, mentors were not as common as they are today. In fact, since Tobenna was the only woman on her team and the first female head of instrumentation at her previous company, there were no other women to turn to for guidance.

Today, Tobenna looks to remedy that by providing guidance whenever she can. By working alongside a mentor and creating a roadmap for the future, young professionals can have a more actionable plan for their careers. Tobenna adds that having someone who can build up the skills needed to thrive outside your direct line of work is equally important.

“Having a mentor is important. It wasn’t common when I started but it is now. Having someone who speaks up for you is crucial.”

Four Pieces of Advice from Tobenna to the Next-Generation of Female Engineers

  • Find a Mentor

    Since this is more common than it ever has been, it’s important to find someone who can guide your career.

  • Create a Career Roadmap

    Know what your next career move is and understand what skills you need to achieve them.

  • Build Skills Outside Your Space

    The skills that help you do your job are important, but so are the skills that will help you thrive outside your immediate job role.

  • Find Balance

    Work/life balance is difficult, especially if you have children and a job that requires travel. Surrounding yourself with people who support you is what will make it all possible.