Karen Agustiawan: Challenges
male domination of oil
and gas industry

The appointment of Karen Agustiawan as president director of state oil and gas company PT Pertamina was has been met with waves of speculation and many questions.

Karen's quarter of a century working in the oil and gas industry are apparently not enough to silence several lawmakers who have incessantly questioned her ability to run the company, which contributes the highest dividends to state revenue. But Karen, a mother of three, is sure to shoot back at the accusations with her trade mark, unwavering self confidence.*

"We (referring to herself and Pertamina's new Vice-President Director Omar S. Anwar) have begun our footsteps and there is no way to look back," Karen said in soft but firm tone. *

A steadfast professional, the fifty-year-old Karen always chooses her words carefully, something that has sparked concern among journalists that she may be a tight lipped source.*

Karen said she was fully aware of the public's great expectations of her as president director.*

"Pertamina is different. It's very complicated, because it has been so important for our nation.*

"This motivates me to do better for Pertamina. Last year we experienced extreme ups and downs in the oil and gas industry. I believe we can do a lot better in the future," Karen said.*

Karen's appointment is a landmark for women in the country's oil and gas industry. *

The highest position for women working in the industry is usually as spokespeople; Karen will be at the very top. Before appointed as president director of Pertamnina, she was also first woman to head the state company's upstream division, responsible for the management of the company's drilling rigs, a job which was once seen as too macho for a woman.*

So, do her male colleagues discriminate her? *

"Well I don't know. Maybe the prejudice exists but I'm just unaware of it. I am too immersed in my job, so I do not have time to care about what other people say about me," Karen said.*

After graduating from the Bandung Institute of Technology (ITB), where she majored in Engineering Physics, Karen initially planned to pursue a career in academia, but advice form her father changed her mind.*

"I was about to apply for a masters degree program. But, my father said that I and my husband should complete each other. He said if one of us had a career in academia, the other should work in the industry. At that time my husband worked as a scholar at BPPT (The Research and Technology Application Body), so I decided to apply for a job at private oil and gas companies," Karen said.*

Karen and her husband, Herman Agustiawan, her senior at the institute, compliment each other in professional and other interests. While she is struggling to pump more oil, her husband is working as a member of The National Energy Council (DEN), which responsible for formulating the country's grand design for energy sustainability.*

"We are both professionals, so we understand each others," Karen said.*

Asked about her biggest inspiration, Karen said it is still her father, Prof Dr Sumiyatno, the first Indonesian envoy to World Health Organization (WHO).*

"My father was president director of pharmaceutical company Biofarma and after that he served as Indonesia's envoy to WHO. This showed me that actually there is no rigid separation between these two worlds *working for the corporate sector and serving the country*," Karen said.*

Karen added that she learned a lot from following her father on his many postings around the world, including to India and Sri Langka. *

"I learned that everything has a positive side. That is also the way I see Pertamina. People always talk in a negative tone about Pertamina, while I personally see many positive aspects in the company and we just need to improve all these aspects to develop the company," Karen said. *

Karen added that she always reminds her staff to leave their departmental egos behind.

"Once we start a drilling project, everybody must have a say," Karen said. *

Her position at the top of the company has sparked talk among Pertamina's younger female employees as to what kind of daughters in law she expects for her three sons. *

"Actually, there are no specific criteria but I think it's very important for us women to have a job. Even it's only running a very small warung (kiosk), women must have a job. Husbands can pass away or even leave us, so financially independence is important for women," Karen said. *

As an executive, Karen schedule is always tight. Luckily, she said that she manages her limited down time efficiently. *

"I can sleep both in the car and on the airplanes between meetings.*

And Karen is an early bird. She wakes up before dawn every day to begin a morning ritual. She hits the treadmill for about 45 minutes starting at 4 a.m. before performing morning prayers. *

"I chose a low impact speed as it is safe for me at this age," the slim-figured Karen said. *

At home Karen may normally set her treadmill speed to about 5 miles per hour, but as Pertamina's new president director, the public and her colleagues will expect her to make a high impact and serve the country quickly.

Karen Agustiawan

Born Oct. 19, 1958.

Studied physical engineering at the Bandung Institute of Technology.

Joined Mobil Oil Indonesia as a system analyst and programmer, promoted to seismic processor and quality controller for seismic projects in 1987-1988.

Moved to Mobil Oil in Dallas, Texas, the United States for assignments including assisting the Corporate Exploration Computing Division.

Returned to Mobil Oil Indonesia as a project leader in the Exploration Computing Department. She took leave to accompany her husband during his doctoral studies in the US in 1993-1994.

Worked for CGG Petrosystems in Indonesia before joining Landmark Concurrent Solusi Indonesia as domain specialist for developing the market for Integrated Information Management (IIM).

Took a position as business development manager at Landmark Concurrent Solusi Indonesia.

Joined Halliburton Indonesia as commercial manager for consulting and project management for all oil and gas accounts.

Joined Pertamina as expert staff for upstream division before being appointed as the upstream director of the state oil company.

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