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An Engineer Looks to the Future at ExxonMobil

a person wearing a hat and smiling at the camera

It was an internship in modern manufacturing that changed Bobi Simonsen’s view of the industry—and gave her a sense of how many different kinds of opportunities were available.

“I remember school projects where I would just picture an engineer with a hard hat doing calculations,” said Simonsen. “I didn’t realize how much creativity and collaboration is involved in engineering. There is way more complexity than I had ever realized.”

A new path: Shortly after that internship, Simonsen got connected with ExxonMobil through the University of Texas—and she hasn’t looked back since.

  • Today, she’s a technical supervisor at the largest polyethylene site in the world, leading teams of engineers, chemists and technicians who perform experimental commercial-scale trials and improvement projects on the tough synthetic resin used in bags, containers and other packaging.

A sense of purpose: Simonsen is particularly interested in opportunities to support sustainability and sees manufacturing as the perfect place to make an impact.

  • “I know young people are really passionate about sustainability, making a difference and having a purpose, and all of those are things you can do in manufacturing, especially at a place like ExxonMobil,” said Simonsen. “We are global, we are integrated and we have the resources and scale to impact an entire industry. That’s the reason I came to work here.”

A push for parity: Simonsen also sees how the lack of women in science, technology, engineering and math feeds into a shortage of women in manufacturing, and she’s eager to see more young women find their way into the field.

  • That’s why she leads industry meet-and-greet events on behalf of ExxonMobil at the University of Texas, volunteers at “Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day” events for K-12 students in Austin and Houston and hosts lunch-and-learn sessions with UT’s Society of Women Engineers and the American Institute of Chemical Engineers.
  • She also leads ExxonMobil’s SWE conference team, who recruit, share sessions and lead “Invent It Build It” outreach activities through SWE.
  • “We do a good job of recruiting candidates who reflect the diversity of the pipeline; my classes in college were 30% women, and that’s translating to the same 30% who make their way into ExxonMobil manufacturing,” said Simonsen. “But that’s not 50%, which is why it’s vital to engage women and minorities to get interested in STEM so we can bring them into classes and then the workforce as they graduate.”

New visibility: Recently, Simonsen was named an Emerging Leader in Manufacturing by the 2024 Women MAKE Awards, a distinction for a select few women under the age of 30 who have achieved rare accomplishments at the start of their careers in manufacturing. 

Advice for women: While most workers in the industry are still men, Simonsen encourages women to consider the broad range of opportunities available in manufacturing.

  • “I would say, ‘Try it,’” said Simonsen. “Consider trying it, even for a short period like an internship. Because if you step in, and you like it, you can find yourself working on the biggest challenges in the world.”
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