Struggling Parent Seeks Her True North

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Christina Smith–Team Leader (Production), Shell Deer Park, Houston TX

Christina Smith's life changed drastically in 2005 when Hurricane Rita hit the Gulf Coast. She was forced to evacuate from her hometown of Orange, Texas to Houston. Starting over was difficult enough, but Christina faced yet another challenge.

Three years after moving to Houston, she was laid off from her job at a diving company due to a struggling economy. This left her with no paycheck, no benefits, and a young daughter who had just undergone brain surgery. Those were among the darkest moments of Christina’s life.

But she was hungry for change and wanted a better life for her and her daughter. Her former employers encouraged her to pursue a career, even offering to pay for her first semester of college because they believed in Christina. So, she enrolled in a two-year Process Technology program (PTEC for short) at the College of the Mainland in the Galveston area even though she had zero interest in science and math as a kid.

“I looked at the programs online and saw a picture of an operator wearing a uniform that looked like my Dad’s growing up. I called him and said, ‘Are you an operator?’ He laughed and told me yes, and so is your Uncle -and your Pops. I thought to myself, okay they all have houses. They all could take care of their kids. Okay, I’m going to be an operator.”

Christina realized in college that she had made the right decision with process technology. It really intrigued her. It was during this time that Shell came into Christina's life. “I received a Shell scholarship and then was blessed to get an internship with Deer Park.”

Sowing Resilience and Reaping Success

The internship at Deer Park allowed Christina to apply what she had learned in college and exposed her to opportunities available to her. After her internship, she successfully landed her first full-time role as an Operator in the Aromatics Department, a line of business in Shell that provides chemical products for clothing, packaging, adhesives, and computers. The work consisted of monitoring equipment such as pumps and towers, permitting maintenance work, and learning to sample the products produced for quality control. It wasn’t easy, but she was determined.

Christina continued to progress to various field and console jobs until she landed her current position as Production Team Leader (PTL) role. She has worked at Deer Park for nine years now and loves what she does.

“I work directly with Operations to provide them the resources they need to be successful. They are the experts and I am here to support them in any way I can. I am responsible for providing assurance that we are meeting our daily plans, working safely, and not impacting the environment.”

She believes that it is the people that make the job. Her team is like family and it is important to her that they know she cares. She values their safety and their success.

An Advocate for Women in Petrochemical Careers

Besides leading a production team, Christina also takes time to help guide women who are looking to pursue a petrochemical career. “I love to volunteer and grab opportunities to share my story with other females who may not know the possibilities available to them,” she said. Christina “pays it forward” sharing her journey with high school students and undergraduates. She also partners with the Shell Recruitment team at various events including “Women Veterans Empowerment” and “Date with Destiny” to introduce, educate and increase awareness of oil and gas and petrochemical careers among women.

“I really enjoy talking to people. I don’t sugarcoat the job. It’s hard work. But I 100% believe the pros outweigh the cons. Women in particular need to hear from someone that these opportunities exist for them. As a women, I feel a responsibility to support other women in their journey the way so many people supported me.”

Celebrating Life and Her Authentic Self

Life has changed for the better in Christina’s nine years at Shell. She now has a loving, supportive partner and they have five children between them. When she’s not working or spending time with her family, Christina can be found working on her house, an interest that has grown from the operator mindset she attained at work. When it comes to tapping her creative side, Christina also writes and paints. In fact, she’s written two books that teach simple, good manners to children. As a parent, she values being able to balance her work and personal life.

“Through-out my nine-year journey in Shell, I value with all my heart that the organization allows me to be my true, authentic self. This job changed my life and my children’s lives with competitive pay and benefits. I feel grateful that I was given a chance to learn and grow within such a massive company. And that so many people have supported me along the way.”

“Life is a gift. Providing my kids with a better life than I ever could have imagined is a priceless one."

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