1st Filipina CEO of Shell Philippines brings ‘learner’s mindset’ to job

Published December 1, 2021, 12:05 AM

by Manila Bulletin

After 107 years in the country, Shell Philippines has tapped Lorelie Quiambao Osial, 46, to be its first lady president and chief executive officer (CEO) starting Dec. 1, 2021. This is a watershed event in one of the country’s top five corporations that is also regarded as one of the most preferred employers of those seeking to build careers in business and industry.

Prior to her promotion to the highest executive position, Ms. Osial —also given the moniker LQ after her initials that, they say, also stands for Lady of Quality— served in tough posts: 32 months in war-ravaged Iran, after postings in Tunisia and Libya, Pakistan and India. Her Iraq assignment was particularly challenging. Sign language was used to communicate; employees had close to zero digital literacy. She wore armored vests to work and was escorted by British military when she visited field installations.

Yet Shell’s return to Iraq after its exit in 1976— or nearly four decades of absence — also enabled the country’s resurgence. Shell injected massive investments — developing the equivalent of two Malampaya fields— thereby improving Iraq’s power situation by the time Osial left in 2016. She marvels at the big change she had witnessed: “I can remember the first time we installed solar lights, at that night, the people went off to the streets and have their picnics – so that excitement of having energy access is universal.”

Diversity and inclusion are often cited as the gateways to gender equality, sometimes a euphemism for downplaying the reality that in the C-suites, women must break the proverbial glass ceiling before they ascend to the top of their field. To understand her ascendancy in the Shell corporate ladder, we take cognizance that its parent organization, Royal Dutch Shell pioneered in propagating the concept of the Living Company when it celebrated its centennial in the 1990s.

The Living Company is one that has thrived on account of having acquired the habits for survival in a turbulent business environment. Arie de Geus, Royal Dutch Shell’s erstwhile head of corporate planning, authored a bestselling book on Shell’s odyssey as The Living Company.

These habits include: sensitivity to the environment or the ability to learn and adapt; cohesion and identity, or the ability to build a community and a persona for itself; tolerance, or the ability to build constructive relationships; and the ability to govern its own growth and evolution constructively.

It is within this context that Ms. Osial, a CPA who took up BS accountancy from Siliman University, and later Master of Business Administration from the University of Western Australia, declares: “I would like to think that I have a girl’s mindset – or what I say, a learner’s mindset as opposed to a fixed mindset.” In pursuing the ‘transformative business models that Shell will be embracing in the digitalization and automation space, she says, “I look at these things like the way I look at my child…if I would be bringing them up to succeed in the future, so it is about ensuring that we are building world class talents, and they must continue to be world class talents in the future.”