[Women Leading Change at TotalEnergies Marine Fuels] Yvonne Siow: I changed my mindset to speak up and lead
Blog Article - Jun 5, 2023
Finance Manager Yvonne Siow does more than look after the purse strings of TotalEnergies Marine Fuels – she ensures the sound and efficient management of its resources just as the entity expands rapidly into new ventures and products, transforming itself into a multi-fuels bunker supplier.
Yvonne has spent the past 15 years working for some of the giants of the commodities world including grain trader Cargill, U.S. refiner Phillips66 and the world’s largest oil company, Saudi Aramco. So, she knows a thing or two about working under pressure and is acutely aware of how change can be difficult to bear.
When TotalEnergies Marine Fuels decided to expand its fuel offering to LNG, biofuels and eventually e-fuels, a tonne of questions raced through her mind.
“Do we have sufficient manpower and expertise to support the transition? Is my team ready and are the processes and systems sufficient to drive this change?” she recalls. “It was not easy. The team was young and the activity very new.”
Yvonne knew there was no magic formula to solving these challenges but understood instinctively that a strong team spirit with a mutual understanding was critical.
So, she organized after-work walks and runs to the nearby Gardens By The Bay and regular lunches as a way of building up the team’s confidence and engagement. And for her own wellbeing, she began gardening which brought her unexpected pleasure and joy as her flowers bloomed. A supportive family who understood her work and constantly provided positive energy was also a blessing.
This gentle focus on her and her team’s spirit boosted the tremendous amount of work the finance team put in to ensure it was ready to absorb the new business model. Through relentless internal efforts within TotalEnergies, with strong management support and thanks to numerous meetings, the team optimized accounting, IT, legal and business processes in a way that enabled the department to support the transition.
This was critical as the entity conducted a slew of biofuels trials in Singapore last year that led to the offering of biofuels commercially and the commencement of a term contract with Hapag-Lloyd earlier this year. More biofuel trials have begun in France as TotalEnergies Marine Fuels looks to expand this lower-carbon solution to key hubs across Europe.
Meanwhile, on the LNG side, the entity has now conducted about 120 bunkering operations in Rotterdam and Marseille, and a third LNG bunker vessel, the Brassavola, is due to kickstart operations later this year in Singapore.
Yvonne is upbeat about the Company’s climate ambitions and changes to achieve its transformation strategy. She said training and workshops that delve deeply into the decarbonization plans of TotalEnergies and reasons behind them has made her proud of the Company’s direction.
“It has allowed me to visualize what it will be like in a few years’ time and what my role in those projects may look like.”
Like many of her female peers, Yvonne says she has seen more women in leadership roles in recent years and that has provided for her something relatively new – female role models.
“I have learnt so much from them – how they are with people, how they are decisive, what their management style is like and how they bring varied experiences and viewpoints to enhance their decision-making. That has helped a lot,” she said.
Being elevated into management – as she was at Saudi Aramco’s Singapore office where she was head of finance – caused her to change her mindset and assume responsibility for her team which meant not just cheerleading but also representing it and giving it a voice amongst other leaders.
“When I took up the role of finance manager, I realized that I needed to speak up to make myself heard so that people would understand our perspective as well,” she says.
“For some people, speaking up in the workplace doesn’t come naturally, so it’s important to develop healthy respect between one another and to observe and listen to what others say,” she continues. “For me, at the beginning, that was difficult, and I am still learning. But overall, we can avoid surprises, resolve conflicts and collaborate better with open communication.”