Carnegie Mellon University

Miriam Hegglin on off-shore oil rig

May 06, 2020

Hegglin Challenges Norms and Brings a Fresh Perspective

Miriam Hegglin knew she would be one of few women on the ExxonMobil offshore oil platform to which she was assigned in 2016 as part of a program for new employees. But she was determined to learn as much as she could during the six-month assignment, and to earn through hard work the respect of the platform crew she was joining.

“When I first got out there, I was a little nervous. But I took it as I am going to be humble, I don’t know anything here, and I am going to learn from them,” said Hegglin, who is currently a planning advisor for a liquefied natural gas (LNG) project in Mozambique for ExxonMobil.

For Hegglin (CEE MS, BS ’15), the experience was invaluable.

“Hands-on experience is crucial, not just from a technical perspective, but you also learn the day-to-day idiosyncrasies that affect the work,” she said. “There are a lot of real-life aspects to it that affect the work you are doing that you don’t get if you are just reading a textbook. Usually, it is understanding and managing the nontechnical aspects of a project that matters most if you want to move up to be a leader someday.”

After working on offshore production platforms, Hegglin became an environmental engineer for ExxonMobil, in which she managed the regulatory and compliance program for both offshore and onshore assets on the Gulf Coast. In that role, her primary task was running the compliance program. She was responsible for calculating the emissions for the assets under her purview to determine compliance with government regulations.

Having been on the offshore platforms, and knowing the machinery and processing equipment on the platforms, she had a better understanding of emissions sources at each, and what data she would need to make the calculations. In addition, because ExxonMobil is part of a larger partnership to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, she used her understanding of machinery and equipment on the platforms in her portfolio to implement projects using cost-effective alternatives that could help the company meet its emissions goals.

In her current role, Hegglin is stepping away from engineering and moving into a more business-oriented role.

“That was something I was interested in,” she said. “You really need to understand the business side of things to move up in such a company.”

She describes her job as a being a “chief of staff” for the business unit manager. In addition to the opportunity to interact with leaders in the company, she has worked extensively with the company’s accountants and has developed a dashboard using Tableau to budget and easily show actual and projected costs for the project.

For Hegglin, building on her engineering background to move into more business and policy focused work has long been the plan.

“I think over the next 30 years, we will see the energy industry change and have quite a significant impact on different countries, and the economy, policy and technology,” she said. Double-majoring in Civil Engineering and Engineering Public Policy, and then earning a master’s in Civil and Environmental Engineering set her up well for the future, she said.

CEE’s emphasis on collaboration and communication, as well as the way students are encouraged to express opinions and challenge norms, have opened doors, she said. She believes she has established a reputation as someone who is a good team player, who can communicate well and with confidence.

Her professional experiences have shown the value of research and projects that encourage CEE students to think creatively, and to develop solutions for undefined challenges by taking into account a wide variety of disciplines and variables. In the real world, solutions are often not straightforward.

“So, what I have been able to do is come up with my own ideas – challenging how things are done the way they have always been done,” she said. “CEE creates an environment where you are able to be successful and it provides you with the knowledge you need. But it also provides you with the life skills you need.”