Frogner House

Diversity as a business concept

Text: Trude Refvem Hembre
Photo: Heidi Rimereit/BITMAP

Oil-Service giant Schlumberger thinks that gender balance is important in order to strengthen the company and be competitive in the oil and gas industry.

This is important in regard to facilitating new career opportunities. Diversity is on the agenda and implemented within the company. Rosenkilden met with Michelle Hjelleset, one of the employees who has experienced the opportunities provided in this international environment. She is a project manager and has worked for Schlumberger for 15 years.


Schlumberger is present in 85 countries, employing 100.000 people representing 140 different nationalities.

The Norwegian Head Office located in Tananger covers all the Scandinavian operations. In addition to the head office in Tananger, there are offices in Oslo, Kristiansand, Gjøvik, Trondheim and Bergen, as well as bases along the coast. In addition, there is an office in Copenhagen and a base in Esbjerg.

- How would you summarize Schlumberger?

- The company was founded in 1926 when two brothers, Marcel and Conrad Schlumberger, invented wireline logging as a technique for obtaining downhole data in oil and gas wells.

Schlumberger supplies the industry's most comprehensive range of products and services, from exploration through production and integrated pore-to-pipeline solutions for hydrocarbon recovery that optimize reservoir performance, Hjelleset says.

She continues by saying that one of their major strengths is the diversity among employees. Men and women with different nationalities and different experiences. These people collaborate and share a common goal. Schlumberger does not have one predominant ´nationality´ to describe the working culture, but operate with a global mind-set all over the world

- The company encourages fair employment terms all over the world, and offers the same opportunities for all employees.


- How has your career developed within the company?

- After I finished my degree at NTNU in 2003, I chose to work for Schlumberger for many reasons. Among these, the possibility to travel, and to participate in the extensive development programs as well as practical experience in the business. I started as a trainee and worked both on- and offshore in West Africa and West Texas. After many years of technology and management training, I moved to Wyoming in the US where I led a team of 110 people, mainly men.

Hjelleset is grateful for the role she had as a manager for well services in the Midwest. She considers this a vote of confidence from the executive team. After the assignment in Wyoming she moved back to Europe, and had operational as well as management roles in Germany and Norway. Now she works as a Project Manager and has her office at AkerBP, where she coordinates all the services from Schlumberger for one of AkerBP´s mobile rigs

- I have never felt at a disadvantage because I am a woman. I have always felt supported by my colleagues and by management, she emphasises.


Schlumberger´s vision is to be the world's leading provider of technology for reservoir characterization, drilling, production, and processing to the oil and gas industry.

Customers, suppliers and shareholders are increasing worldwide, and becoming more demanding.

- We have to attract and retain talents globally. This means we have to accept and meet the needs our workforce demands in terms of professional development, career expectations as well as life/work balance.

Hjelleset says that Schlumberger has focused on many different aspects, such as gender and culture, in order to inspire creativity and innovation

- Three important conditions are at the core of our diversity work: 1) We are a profitable company listed on the stock exchange paying out shareholder returns. 2) Meritocracy (talent and ability) is the driver for our actions, decisions and career advancement. 3) Good internal procedures, and English is the common language of internal management communication.

All trainee engineers, regardless of where they originate, go through a three-year  fixed training program at their location as well as attending one of Schlumberger´s four main training facilities. These facilities are like a university campus with well organised laboratories and operative environments.

Professional Development

Training and development never ceases in Schlumberger. Throughout her career in Schlumberger Hjelleset has had opportunities for professional development.

- I was recently part of the Career Development Program through Norsk olje og gass. The program focused on leadership, working as a board member, marketing and networking. In preparation for my current role, I spent four weeks at our Project Management academy in Paris.

- How do you distribute people in practice?

- We have committees working with gender balance, networking events, workshops, round table meetings, video conferences, internal systems sharing information and other physical and digital bulletin boards. We also have a competence sharing network called "Connect Women". When we celebrated the networks 10-year jubilee last year, we had events at 100 different locations.

Core Values

In order to support the company ambition to be the world’s leading provider in the energy sector, Schlumberger focuses on three core values: People, Technology and Profit.

- Our people thrive on the challenge to excel in any environment, and their commitment to safety and customer service worldwide is our greatest strength. Our commitment to technology and  quality is the foundation of our competitive advantage. Our resolve to produce superior profits is the cornerstone of future independence and growth.
- How would you describe the work environment?

- During my 15 years at Schlumberger I have experienced a fantastic work environment. No-one works alone. Everything we do, we do as a team.
She explains that when she thinks back to her first day at work, she was worried about how she would fit in as a Norwegian woman working in Africa. However, she felt very welcome from the very first day at the base in Douala in Cameroon.
- We work together highly motivated and with the focus on work, without thinking about our different cultures or genders. I believe that working in a diverse team with competent motivated people helps us function to the best of our ability.
Top and middle management in Schlumberger have experience in working in the field and can quickly provide support if needed.

Competitive Advantage

Schlumberger sees the employees, men and women all over the world, as its´ most valuable asset. Therefore, they have many initiatives to facilitate a good work/life balance, especially for the people in the mobility group.
- I am very pleased to have a flexible working schedule. I have two small children and I try to be home at 16.00 every day to spend time with them. In the evening I will log on and continue working if there is something urgent that has to be done. It is important to have the relevant tools and the ability to tune out when not in the office.
- What is your secret to success do you think?

- We are confident that our financial security, and our geographical footprint as well as our technological portfolio will continue to put us in the position as the world’s leading provider within the oil and gas sector.
Our technology gives us the competitive advantage, and every year we invest in research and engineering programs in order to develop leading edge tools and services to maintain our position in the industry. We have 125 facilities covering research, engineering, production and maintenance all over the world. In addition, we have 18500 active patents.
- Do you have any advice for companies wanting to boost diversity and female leaders?
- In order to succeed, diversity has to be imbedded at management level. Within Schlumberger, we have initiatives for diversity. We have gender balance committees focusing on recruitment initiatives, and who organise management workshops and online learning. We have, as I mentioned before, the competence sharing network ”Connect Women” , as well as mentor programs, guidelines for duel career and parental leave. In addition the Schlumberger Foundation supports women who educate themselves within sciences, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM)



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