Hello From Senegal: Lauren Malaxos

Lauren has had an exciting journey since leaving Santa Maria. She’s currently working in Senegal in West Africa as a Completion Engineer. We asked Lauren to share her story with us since graduating in 2012.

Tell us about your journey from leaving school to where you are today?

After graduation, I went straight into studying chemical engineering at UWA. I was at university for six years. Although it felt long at the time, it allowed me to go on multiple exchange programs (to Norway and the UK). Plus, it allowed me to travel before and during my thesis in my final year. During university, I did a few short, unpaid internships with IBM and INPEX. This helped me practise my resume writing and interview skills and gain experience in a work environment. I attribute these small bouts of experience early on to helping me secure a 12-week internship at Woodside at the end of 2016. I absolutely loved Woodside’s people, culture, and work. I was lucky to be offered a part-time position there whilst I finished my degree.

I began working as a full-time graduate Completion Engineer with Woodside in 2019. At the start of 2022, I was given the opportunity to move to Senegal in West Africa to support operations on one of their international projects.

What does your position with Woodside involve?

Completion Engineers work in the Drilling and Completions Department. The primary purpose of this department is to design and construct wells. 

My first few years in this role were heavily design-based, which included lots of modelling, calculating, analysis and reports. It did, however, also involve working with many different people across the business to ensure the designs we came up with were suitable for the project requirements. Teamwork and working with others are a large part of my role. My current role in Senegal is execution based, where we are taking the design and making it a reality. Day-to-day, my tasks are focussed on reviewing and implementing procedures, managing contractors, and working with our offshore team. There is a big focus on safety and addressing risks to ensure that every person goes home safe to their families at the end of the day.

Lauren (R) and friend at a Safari Park

What is it like living in a place like Senegal? 

Senegal is very different to Perth in every way that you can imagine! The country is full of contrast, from the people and religion to the buildings and landscapes. It is a beautiful culture centred around the concept of ‘Teranga’, which means ‘peace’ in the local language of Wolof. The predominant religion is Muslim (over 90% of the population), with the remainder being Catholic. Despite this mix, the people accept and welcome people from all backgrounds. Despite the beautiful aspects of the country, there is an incredible amount of poverty. It reminds me constantly how blessed we are in such an economically and politically stable country like Australia. Living in such an isolated location from home means that colleagues become your family. I have formed very close friendships with Woodside colleagues (and their families) who live here. 

A big highlight of living here is that it is much closer to Europe than Australia. I’ve been able to sneak in some incredible holidays too. 

What have been the highlights of your career so far?

When I first started at Woodside, I got the opportunity to travel to an offshore drilling rig. Seeing the scale of it and its isolation in the middle of the ocean was nothing I had ever experienced before. To travel there, we had to fly in a helicopter, which was cool. A memorable part of those early days was the training required to fly in the helicopter. The training is called BOSIET, which stands for Basic Offshore Safety Induction and Emergency Training, where we learn (and practise!) escaping from a submerged helicopter.

The biggest highlight has been the learning curve after moving to Senegal. The role is different to anything I have done before, and the entire experience of moving to such a different location for work is something I will never forget.

Lauren and friend at Goree Island

What do you do in your spare time?

Aside from the usual relaxing on the couch with Netflix, exercise, yoga and socialising take up most of my spare time.

The suburb I live in is on the coast (the most Western tip of Africa). My friends and I spend a lot of time exploring restaurants and cute tucked-away places around the city. I also spend a bit of time tending to my plants without being able to have any pets over here. I love hiking and travelling, and although not so much a day-to-day thing, I try to get out on weekends and explore the region. There are safari parks just one hour away from the city, which are really cool, and many nice villages within a two-hour drive.

Do you have any future plans you’d like to share with us?

My current contract in Senegal is for another 1.5 years. I am keeping my options open. I would love to take another international opportunity if it arises, or perhaps take the time to travel and see other parts of the world.

In the longer term, I’d like to support the transition from an energy mix predominantly based on fossil fuels to one where the primary energy source is cleaner. Many exciting technologies and developments will continue to pick up momentum in the coming years!

Lauren, thank you for sharing your story with us. We can’t wait to hear what’s in store for you next.

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