Anoosheh Oskouian • President & CEO | Ship & Shore Environmental
Growing up in Iran, Anoosheh Oskouian was always challenged by her junior high chemistry teacher, sparking a genuine interest in the subject. When Oskouian came to the United States to attend high school, her passion for chemistry grew and continued through her university studies, where she majored in chemical engineering. Because her home country was “full of refineries,” she knew that she wanted to apply her education to the oil & gas sector.
While working as a chemical engineer at Fluor Daniel, Oskouian met John Von Bargen. His technical knowledge of pollution control technology inspired her to pursue the environmental engineering side of the field, and she eventually founded Ship & Shore Environmental — as the current VP of Engineering at Ship & Shore, Von Bargen is still someone she says she regularly turns to for technical advice.
Oskouian feels that women can bring a different perspective to engineering than men.
“Our tendency to assess the overall picture, ability to multitask, problem-solve as well as provide solutions from a macro point of view allows us to offer multifaceted solutions. After all, engineering is all about providing solutions to the unknown,” she said.
And she thinks that it is important to have more engineering technical programs available at an earlier stage of the learning process (such as in high schools).
“Let young women know that it is cool to be an engineer and even cooler to be one of the only females in such a male-dominated field,” she said, “because intelligence is attractive!
In her current role, she says that it is imperative to adapt in order to stay relevant.
“With the ever-changing industry of Pollution Control Technology, our Ship & Shore technical and engineering team is constantly spending time and effort on internal R&D,” she explained. “Sometimes people need a challenge in order to find out that they in fact are capable of much more, and fortunately I like to challenge people. I always tell them that growth is essential to success — and in 2019 alone, we have already successfully launched three new technologies for the industry.”
She also thinks that making mistakes is an important thing for engineers to do, because they learn from these errors.
“Those who are new to engineering should know that making mistakes is not only inevitable, but it is essential for advancement,” she said. “Engineers should be taught that a mistake does not mean failure, but rather the contrary — a mistake means a lesson learned and one step closer to success. At my company, our engineers work as a team where they feel comfortable enough to share ideas, technical information, and calculations with one another.”
Leadership and the future
In the beginning stages of Ship & Shore Environmental, Oskouian was in a meeting with several males that mistook me for a secretary.
“They were quickly put in their place the moment I introduced myself as the President & CEO of an engineering company,” she said. “Women engineers may be perceived as less capable; however, if you have the confidence in your skills and intellect, no one can bring you down.”
Oskouian lists several things that have helped her advance in her career and helped her become an effective leader:
- Have confidence in what you do, in your expertise, and your team’s skills is key. That way you can encourage them to do more and accomplish great things.
- Have a vision as well as effectively communicating that vision to your employees so that they share that same vision allows for growth.
- Be adaptable and flexible — it’s essential in an industry that revolves around technology and fields that are constantly changing.
- With any business, there will be individuals that seem to not want you to succeed. As a role model to her company, she likes to make sure that they are always putting their most positive image out there, despite what others may doing in the industry.
Ship & Shore Environmental has an Engineering Mentorship Program, where Oskouian and her employees invite students from any high school or university to visit the company’s manufacturing site. There, they are able to speak with the engineers, take a tour and see how pollution abatement equipment is made, as well as hear some technical talks with the corporate VP of engineering.
In her personal time, Oskouian has also participated in several youth programs and given talks to students in the STEM field. Recently, she was invited to speak at an event at Sage Hill High School called, “Wonder Women: A Women Empowerment Seminar.” There, she told the students how she was able to pave her way through such a male-dominated field.
And to that young girl, sitting in that junior high chemistry class in Iran all those years ago? What would she say to her now?
“I’d tell her don’t ever take no for an answer and stay on your path,” Oskouian said. “Do not be discouraged because you can do everything you put your mind to, regardless of your gender.”