By Joe Blommaert, president of ExxonMobil Low Carbon Solutions.
Creating a lower-carbon society is not only going to be the work of today’s generations (including my own), but also of generations to come. And it’s not only going to be the work of my community, or your community, but of every community.
Our task has two distinct, but equally important, elements: We must continue to provide the affordable and reliable energy and products needed for modern life, while simultaneously reducing emissions to help meet the goals of the Paris Agreement. The solutions will need to be diverse and multifaceted.
That’s why I find it so important and intellectually invigorating to engage with talented young scientists and engineers from different backgrounds. We need the perspectives of every generation and community to find the best solutions – and ensure there’s a pipeline of talent for the future to continue the work we’ve started.
Giving young minds a chance to thrive
When I left school, I didn’t know I was going to work in the energy sector. I loved chemistry and mathematics and decided to study chemistry and engineering. With little means, one of my friends granted me a loan to finish my studies, then I completed compulsory military service. I was actually planning to become a fighter pilot in the Dutch Air Force, inspired by one of the colonels I got to know while tutoring his daughter in mathematics.
But instead, I decided to make use of my chemistry and engineering degree. Starting out with just a few bags of textbooks and clothes, I hired on with ExxonMobil. The company granted me a loan when I got started, and my world was opened to a whole new set of possibilities. I’ve been with ExxonMobil for more than 30 years now, and today I find myself in this incredible position of being able to help society reduce emissions and meet its climate goals.
I never could have imagined sitting here when I stood holding my bag of clothes and my bag of books all those years ago. I understand as well as anyone the importance of giving young minds a chance to grow and contribute their ideas. So I intend to make multigenerational teams a cornerstone of our approach as we grow ExxonMobil’s Low Carbon Solutions business.
Creating a diverse environment is vital for innovation
Having diverse perspectives is vital to foster a culture of innovation.
I was born in the Netherlands, but my parents were from Indonesia. At the end of the Second World War, they moved to the other side of the world to raise a family. My career at ExxonMobil has also taken me around the world – including a period in Singapore, just across the Strait from where my parents grew up in Indonesia – to where I’ve settled today, in my adopted hometown of Houston, Texas.
The repeated experience of entering and becoming immersed in new cultures (often, in my case, by first trying the local cuisine!) has shown me first-hand how different communities see and approach similar challenges from varying points of view. It has also taught me the enormous value of differing perspectives when seeking innovative solutions.
The special power of diversity
My experiences led me to ask myself the question: What is the power of diversity? I believe it’s the creation of uniqueness. Original thinking.
Creating an inclusive environment is the action that supports diversity. And when a team is truly diverse, it becomes unique – a group from which original ideas will surely flow. To me, this is also the business case for diversity. Only a group of people looking at the same problem from different perspectives can come up with a truly unique and innovative solution.