FIFO….what images and stereotypes do those 4 letters conjure for you??
I am sure the exact details are different for everyone but I bet it doesn’t involve young, professional women dressed in high vis clothing and steel cap boots. Well the truth is it probably should as more and more women enter into, and are succeeding in this challenging and once male dominated environment.
In blog entry #6, Women in FIFO: Part 1, we had the absolute pleasure of getting insight from the fierce lion cub…a young and extremely proficient engineer who has successfully navigated for her way through the storms that are Oil and Gas mega-projects.
Through over ten years, multiple sites, various countries and project offices, her enthusiasm and passion for the profession and industry is unwavering.
Well, this time we get to hear from another seasoned female FIFO professional who is excelling in an extremely demanding role. This time…it’s not a technical role but a leader in her given department at the coal face during an extremely tough stage of a project.
In general chit chat, she mentioned “I wouldn’t mind writing a blog”.
So as you can imagine, I jumped at this opportunity as I’m positive people would much rather read her insight than my borderline drivel. Plus, the aim of these blogs is to bring some perspective to this lifestyle and woman are often the overlooked success stories of these projects.
With so much negative press around the organisations and conditions associated with FIFO work, I believe some accurate perspective into the positives and negatives that come with this career choice is a good thing…and will hopefully create some great discussion.
So enough from me, lets see what wisdom this diamond in the rough has to impart:
Ok, so I was asked to write a blog on my perspective on FIFO work/life. My initial response was, “who’s going to want to read that?” and “I have nothing to say!” But hey, I’m open to new experiences, so here goes!
Let me set the scene. I work on Barrow Island; a remote location off the coast of North Western Australia. It is a two hour flight from my home of Perth.
I have been working on Barrow Island for over 4 years in a managerial role. I work a 26/9 roster, live in a camp accommodation and work an average of 12 hours a day. I’m young (ish)…… and female.
So what is my perspective on this thing called FIFO?
“Twenty six days!!??” people exclaim when I tell them. Yes, 26 days; I actually don’t mind it.
FIFO has given me opportunities I never would have had otherwise. From travelling the world to spending quality time with my friends and family when I am home. I’ve made memories that will last me a lifetime.
I remember I was out shopping one time and the sales rep asked me what I did for a living. When I told her she said, “Oh, you don’t look like you work FIFO”. I laughed it off and took it as a compliment. But it shows there is a misconception about the type of people that work FIFO.
Most of my friends were also shocked when I told them I was going to work away; and to this day they still tell me that at the time they thought I wouldn’t last more than 12 months. I don’t think it was that they thought I wasn’t strong or capable, but more so that FIFO just wasn’t “me”, based on their perception of “FIFO”.
These projects are not just cashed up bogans out to make some quick cash that can be splurged on cars, boats and motorbikes.
Don’t get me wrong, some do fit that mould (and then some!!) but there are so many more fascinating and genuine people in this line of work. From educated professionals with a wealth of industry experience to expats from all over the world; these projects are extremely interesting places to work.
Most are up here to provide for their families and set themselves up for their future. They set themselves a goal, hit it and then get out! Some of us are lucky enough to make long lasting friendships with some amazing people.
I still remember the day I landed on this island in early January 2012. I never would have thought that the chick that picked me up from the airport on that day would become one of my closest friends; even if we do live on opposite sides of the country.
Another question I get asked is “are there many women up there?”
While I don’t know the exact ratio off the top of my head; there are plenty of women that work on this site, and indeed many other sites that I have visited throughout my time in this industry. From tech to professional roles; hospitality and support services to trade positions; we chicks are taking over!
Though, I have found myself at times eating dinner in the dining hall only to look around and realise that there is not a single female in sight!
My boss, who is male, once asked me if I ever felt uncomfortable walking around camp/using the gym etc. At the risk of sounding egotistical, there are times when I notice men stop what they’re doing and stare as I walk by.
I’ve had guys whistle. I’ve even had a love note left in my dryer on Valentine’s Day by some stranger accompanied by his number! I have learned to ignore it. If I were to allow it affect me, I would be confined to my room, going without dinner each night.
Besides, twenty six days on site is a long time for these guys – any chick walking past would no doubt put their gears into overdrive – so I don’t take it personally.
I’ve never felt unsafe on site. There is a police presence as well as security personnel plus the camp community is just that; a community.
Camp is always busy and on the nights where I struggle to sleep, it’s extremely peaceful with everyone tucked into bed. I have the whole camp to myself where I can wander around listening to some tunes and unwind – just me, my thoughts, the stars and some friendly local bandicoots!
There is a female gym, plenty of programs and support groups tailored to the female population and overall it is quite an inclusive environment.
So there you have it, folks; One woman’s very brief perspective on FIFO.
Is it for everyone? No. Do we need more women in on these projects? Yes!
If I can do it, anyone can!!
So obviously the above is one woman’s perspective on FIFO life, on her particular project on that particular day… But I do hope it gave you something new to build into your FIFO stereotype.
Like any workplace, the success of these mega projects depends on team work. As you can see from the insight of our diamond above…and the lion cub before her; we have some amazing woman in this industry who will hopefully inspire more to join the ranks.
As always, drop me a message on FB or email on firstname.lastname@example.org for any feedback or suggestions for blogs posts…I’ll try to write about anything you want to read.
Until the next installment…keep safe and stay connected!!