Aspiring to a career in oil and gas
She is a 25-year-old Mozambican and a Total scholarship student at IFP School, a French institution of higher education specialising in energy innovation and sustainable mobility.
Xiluva Mondlane is a young woman open to the world and cultures, passionate about the energy transition, who aspires to pursue an international career in oil and gas and to contribute to the development of her country.
From Mozambique to France, passing through Malaysia, discover her journey in this interview.
How did your academic venture start?
I was born and raised in Maputo, where I completed my primary and secondary education. In 2013, I applied for a scholarship in Malaysia offered by Petronas, having been selected to pursue a degree in petroleum engineering. Therefore, my training is in petroleum engineering and my main interest is the energy transition.
What motivated you to choose your field?
During my final year of high school, my parents and I started researching potential courses based on my strengths and future career opportunities in Mozambique. At the same time, new gas discoveries had been made in Mozambique and we predicted the need for more professionals in this field. So, we decided that I would study petroleum engineering.
Why did you decide to specialise in Reservoir Engineering?
Between the 3rd and the last year of my degree, I needed to complete an internship as part of my course. I wanted to experience two sectors of the oil and gas industry: upstream and downstream. Knowing a bit about both would give me a bigger picture of the oil and gas world before choosing a specific field. I wanted to see the macro before going to the micro. So, I began with the downstream sector at PETROMOC and Puma Energy and then the upstream sector at Anadarko Mozambique Area 1. In this last internship, I was inspired by the teamwork of geologists and reservoir engineers. They made me realise that this was the field in which I wanted to work.
How was your experience in Malaysia?
It was great. Malaysia is a land of different cultures: Malaysian, Indian and Chinese. The country welcomes many foreign students, including Mozambicans, so it was less difficult for me to adapt. I was lucky to meet people who introduced me to a new lifestyle. Malaysia also gave me the opportunity to learn English. I had no command of the English language when I arrived, but I made the necessary efforts to learn thanks to the intensive English course and to the films and social media.
As a sports lover and because sport is an excellent way to integrate into a new environment, I decided to join sports activities. In my final year of studies, I was awarded the best female futsal player of that year! And, my team was the 2nd runner up for the competition. It was a great way of ending my extracurricular participation at Universiti Teknologi PETRONAS.
I have a responsibility as a female energy student to inspire many young women to pursue their roles in this field. The advice that I would give to other Mozambican women is to have courage and confidence to learn new things and enhance new skills.
You’re studying in France now. Why did you choose IFP School?
Looking for a course in reservoir engineering was not an easy task, especially during the pandemic. I applied for some American universities; however, they were not providing scholarships and I was looking for financial support. I was also interested in the IFP School. As Total is operating in Mozambique and the IFP School is a French educational institution, I decided to contact the company. Then I went through the selection process and here I am.
How do you feel about your experience at IFP School?
It has been amazing. The IFP School has exceeded my expectations in terms of pedagogy and I get lots of opportunities for field trips, internships and networking possibilities. We are in contact with professionals from the energy sector and we can also join professional associations. The IFP School gives students exposure to the professional environment and an opportunity to take part in the energy transition process. I believe that we young people play an important role in finding alternative and sustainable solutions to develop oil and gas fields with low carbon emissions. For me, energy transition not only means switching to renewable energy sources, but also finding other possible and sustainable ways to explore the existing hydrocarbon fields.
What are your goals and dreams when you finish your degree?
I want to pursue an international career in the oil and gas sector. I would also love to help young people, especially women, to pursue a role in this field. Then, with all the experience gained internationally, I would return to my country to contribute to its development, particularly in this field of oil and gas.
Any special company you would want to work for?
I do not have any formal bond with Total after being awarded the scholarship, but I reckon I can recognise myself in the company. I am very interested in energy transition and integrating climate awareness in our daily lives, and this lines up with the Total strategy. I also found that the Total values are like my personal values, for example, concerning safety. The company promotes safety inside and outside operations, everywhere and every time. As I learn more about the company, I see myself in it and it is probably the best company for me right now.
What does your scholarship cover?
Well, the Total scholarship is a great way to support education around the world. It provides the essentials for a comfortable life in France. The tuition fees and living expenses are covered, as well as housing. Total also conducts follow-up sessions for scholarship holders to share experiences and discuss any difficulties they are facing. At the end of the course, the company provides an industrial internship to each scholar, which is mandatory for every student. It means an internship opportunity in any of Total's locations, which is around 130 countries.
In addition, I remain in contact with Total's subsea team in Mozambique, which has always been available from the first moment to help me and provide the necessary support for my academic and professional growth. So, this initiative demonstrates commitment in developing young people in TOTAL’s locations, in this case Mozambique.
As a Mozambican, I am very proud that Total, as the leader of the Mozambique LNG project, is investing in my education. I truly wish that more Mozambicans will have the same opportunity in the upcoming years. So, I was very pleased to learn that Total, in partnership with the French Government, will offer 40 scholarships for Mozambicans to attend higher education in France starting this year.
Mozambique and France are two different countries with two different cultures. Was this a culture shock when you arrived?
When I arrived in France, I didn’t experience a culture shock. In fact, I was very surprised and amazed when I realised that people here are more aware about climate change and its impacts. I can see a lot of small actions in daily life that really make a difference, for example waste management. Even in public spaces, I can see people thinking about waste management. These are the small sustainable actions that make a positive contribution to the environment. I hope that we can increase climate change awareness and sustainability and integrate more of these actions in Mozambique.
At 25 years old, you have chosen an interesting path, which can be inspiring for others. For you, what or who are your sources of inspiration?
My family is my source of inspiration and my safe place. My father is a sociologist and my mother is a retired credit analyst. Although my career pathway is not related to theirs, they always provided me with the support to maximise my potential and become the best version of myself. They taught me that I will only create a better world by becoming a better person.
I also look up to Michelle Obama; she is one of my female role models. Her strong character, perseverance, and strength to fight social issues are admirable. She has shown that to make what we believe a reality, we must first believe in ourselves and in our dreams.
You are somebody who has invested in social engagements. What have you done?
Well, I do believe that social engagements are the key for a better world. During a semester of my university years in Malaysia, I was the project director of a charity program, which aimed to renew the houses of disadvantaged families. I have also been a part of a cancer awareness campaign, which involved going to the markets to talk about breast cancer to make sure people knew about its existence.
A few words to conclude?
I would say I have a responsibility as a female energy student to inspire many young women to pursue their roles in this field. The advice that I would give to other Mozambican women is to have courage and confidence to learn new things and enhance new skills. At some point, they will be where they deserve to be.
I was very lucky to be mentored by very brave and confident women in my professional path. This shows that Mozambican women are less and less afraid of learning new things and of owning and creating space for other women.