01 March 2019

Helena Wu

Helena Wu

MBA 2018, WiMBA
Team Leader New Development, Santos Ltd
At Large Director, Society of Petroleum Engineers International

When Helena Wu was introduced to the world of petroleum engineering in her mechanical engineering honours year, she was hooked. A love of the challenging roles within the field blossomed and she became fascinated with decision making under uncertainty for capital intensive projects.

Fast forward to 2008 and Helena joined the graduate program at Santos where she spent two years in the middle of the Cooper Basin desert in the regional northeast South Australia and southwest Queensland as a Field Production Optimisation Engineer.

“The time I spent in the field was invaluable as a young engineer learning about operations and working alongside people of all ages, backgrounds and disciplines,” she says.

Over the next eight years, Helena took on a variety of roles at Santos supporting gas and oil fields, and developing hydrocarbon network plans or analytical models for the appraisal and development of onshore and offshore fields.

In 2016 she joined the Corporate Planning and Strategy Team, which has led her to manage new developments for Santos within the Papua New Guinea Asset Team.

Now Helena is tackling a mixture of petroleum engineering, strategy, planning and project management, and revels in the real world transformations her work provides.

“Access to clean and affordable energy is linked to a society’s standards of living.”

“I enjoy seeing and contributing to the difference our industry makes to improving people’s lives,” she says about what motivates her work.

Helena Wu

This desire to better the lives of others and create opportunities may have come from her traditional Chinese family’s humble beginnings. When Helena was young, her parents made the difficult decision to leave Hong Kong and escape the country’s growing concerns for future political unrest.

Helena’s parents were regretful they were unable to give her and her sister the same opportunities that other children had when it came to education. Because of this, she has worked tirelessly to show her parents that, with the right attitude, growing up in a low-income household does not have to be a drawback.

“My parents have had amazing influence in my life. Following the 1989 Tiananmen Square incident, my parents made a selfless sacrifice. They sought a brighter future for my sister and I, and left their lives in Hong Kong behind to immigrate to Australia.”

“My sister and I are the first, from both sides of the family, to complete high school – let alone university,” says Helena.

To honour their selflessness, Helena has chosen to live her life seeking to make a difference in everything she does. As she moves into more senior leadership positions, she has developed a passion to help others do the same.

As a result of her tenacity, she excelled through the ranks at Santos, spending time as a Senior Reservoir Engineer and then a Group Planning and Portfolio Analyst, before her current as Team Leader of Development.

It was when she commenced with Santos’ Corporate Strategy and Planning team that Helena decided to take the chance and complete an MBA.

“The skills and experience would complement my role and it was a fantastic opportunity to learn about something in the classroom and immediately be able to apply it in the real world,” she says.

Helena was encouraged and supported by her leaders at Santos to apply for the UniSA Women in MBA (WiMBA) scholarship program. The UniSA WiMBA actively addresses leadership inequality and champions women with leadership potential to advance their career into senior management and executive roles.

In order to maximise success, employers are required to provide flexibility in working arrangements to support study in the program, a career mentor and supportive career pathway options.

“I am very thankful for the opportunity and support I received to complete an MBA,” says Helena, who was supported by Santos and the UniSA Business School as part of the scholarship’s matched funding requirements to cover the full MBA tuition costs.

Helena found the skills and experience she developed through the MBA have better equipped her for future leadership positions, whether it be managing a team, stakeholders or thinking strategically.

“It has also given me a greater appreciation for how executives and boards think and what is important to them,” she says.

Helena Wu

With the myriad of opportunities education has opened up for Helena, she truly believes in its role as an enabler to solving many issues we face in the world today.

“If I could change one problem, I’d raise the global population’s general knowledge of science.” she says. “I believe this would help people assess problems and solutions using their own judgement and on individual merit.”

She also suggests finding mentors from a variety of backgrounds, “I’ve found the support they provide whether it be practical advice or acting as a mirror for self-reflection, to be invaluable”.

“Be open, positive and back yourself! Your attitude drives how people see you and what you think you can do,” she says.

“Attitude is really important. It’s not something that can be taught or acquired like skills or experience.”

Ultimately, Helena aspires to lead within the energy industry, where she can influence and drive change in sustainability, community education, diversity and inclusion.

MBA info sessions

If like Helena, you are an experienced management professional, driven to create new solutions, lead innovative teams and deliver exceptional results in a context of disruptive change, the UniSA Business School’s MBA may be for you.

Attend one of the UniSA Business School’s MBA Information sessions and learn more about our 5-star MBA experience. Attendees will hear from academic teaching staff, current students, alumni and industry.


Date: 12 June 2019
Time: 6.00pm - 8.00pm
Location: Executive Education Space, Yungondi Building, UniSA City West Campus

For more information on the sessions and UniSA Business School, visit: http://bit.ly/2WhcoNL.

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