Growing up in Atyrau, the energy capital of Kazakhstan, it was inevitable Zhanar Gilimova would have a career in the energy sector. But Gilimova, a strategy and commercial professional with more than 10 years of experience in the field, never set out to become a global leader in the energy sector working for Tengizchevroil LLP (TCO) and a role model for gender equality. For her leadership, proven record of success and influence in the community, The Women in LPG Global Network, an initiative of the World LPG Association, named Gilimova the 2020 Woman of the Year.
At the age of 15, her parents sent Gilimova, the oldest of three, to school in England. She obtained a degree from the University of Manchester and then earned the equivalent of a master’s degree from London School of Economics and Political Science.
“As long as I can remember, I loved studying and learning something new. I was always hungry for knowledge and was seriously considering becoming a scientist. On the other hand, I wanted to bring something good and meaningful to the world in any shape or form I could,” Gilimova said. “It turned out to be not scientific research or some contribution to science, but managerial decisions and the consequences of those. I’m a practitioner, and I love the fact that I have a chance to work on meaningful and impactful projects.”
Returning home to Kazakhstan, she joined TCO as a strategic planning consultant, a role which gave her a great overview of the company and industry.
TCO is a joint venture, based in Kazakhstan, with 50% share and operatorship by Chevron, 25% by ExxonMobil, 20% by KazMunaiGas (the national company) and 5% by Lukoil. TCO is the largest producer of liquified propane gas (LPG) in Kazakhstan and the fourth largest in the Eurasian continent.
Quickly rising through the ranks in planning and commercial positions, Gilimova became LPG commercial manager, responsible for marketing, sales, trading strategy into export markets both onshore and offshore, and operations of 1.5 million metric tons of LPG produced by TCO. Her role also included supervising teams of traders in Russia and Kazakhstan. She was the youngest women in CIS countries with such a mandate and area of responsibility in a primarily male-dominated industry.
An alumni of Chevron’s Global Commercial Development Skills Program, Gilimova was instrumental in TCO changing its sales strategy and traditional markets. The company started supplying markets in Ukraine, Tajikistan and Russia, changed its ports strategy and has achieved strong positions in those markets in a short time. This diversified, consolidated and stabilized supplies of LPG to those markets and generated multimillion dollars in revenue.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Gilimova was a key member of the team responsible for demobilizing personnel from the Tengiz field, and therefore, protecting 27,000 lives.
“It certainly was the most challenging project I participated in, and the one I am most proud of. The sense of comradery we created during the demobilization project still stays with me,” she said.
For her many accomplishments, she was awarded the prestigious “Honoured Professional in Oil and Gas Industry” and Jubilee Medal by the Kazakhstani government. “I am very proud of the team I worked with, including my supervisors, mentors and peers. The LPG team consists of highly seasoned professionals. I learn a lot from each one of them and the sense of partnership and comaraderie we share and the support we get is something that helps us to face any challenge,” she continued.
TCO embraces diversity and gender equality. In fact, Gilimova said she has always been supported — mentorship is the norm. She has two mentors at any one time and is also a mentor for others. “I have grown in an environment where people support each other and help each other to achieve their highest potential. It has been my privilege to work alongside of such professionals,” she said.
Becoming Woman of the Year and being recognized by colleagues worldwide was something Gilimova said she never expected. “We all just did our job the best way we can. But above all the recognitions I have gotten, I think this one is the only one that is very special to me, mainly because it promotes equality and diversity in the oil and gas industry,” she said.