As a girl growing up in Kuwait, Sarah Behbehani dreamed about going to America to study. So, when she received a marriage proposal in her final year of high school from a man who planned on moving to the US, she accepted and followed him there. Married at 17 and a mother by 18, she had to mature quickly. “I had to forgo all the typical teenager things because I had become a mother so young.

I found it particularly hard to study and work while raising two young children but now, while most women my age are taking time out to raise their children, I have the opportunity to focus on my career. And I love how my son, Redha (20), and daughter, Dina (15), are my best friends,” she shares.

Sarah joined Shell in 2010 as an Account Manager in SILS (Shell Trading International LNG Supply) origination team covering India and the Middle East. At the time, she had more than 10 years’ experience in trading as well as an MBA from the London Business School.

Currently, she works in Dubai and is the Regional Team Lead for liquefied natural gas (LNG) Trading, covering India, the Middle East, Africa, Europe and South America. “I enjoy the opportunity to work internationally,” she says. “My Blackberry has become like a limb – I don’t know what I’d do without it. Thanks to technology, I can work from anywhere in the world while still staying in touch with my family.”

Redha is currently studying pre-medicine at the University of California, Berkeley while Dina is staying in Kuwait with Sarah’s mother. “Before joining Shell in Dubai, I had been living with my children in London for nine years and they had no Kuwaiti heritage. I wanted them to go to Kuwait, believing the move would give them some stability,” she explains.

“It was good for them – they had time to make wonderful friends and when I gave them the option a few years later to join me in Dubai, they both chose to stay in Kuwait. I travel back home to visit Dina every six weeks and I see Redha during his summer holidays and over Christmas.”

"Shell provides a flexible working environment and a lot of support in career advancements and learning and development."

Sarah describes the ability to take short breaks every six weeks as one of the perks of Shell’s flexible working policy. “It’s great that Shell offers me the opportunity to see my family often, even though they live in a different country. But the balance goes both ways – when I’m at work, I’m completely focused because I don’t have any other responsibilities in Dubai,” she explains.

“Shell is like a second home to me. The work environment is light yet professional and it helps us create good relationships with colleagues from all walks of life. I work with 40 people and we have more than 10 different nationalities and everyone respects each other and listens to each other – there are no foreigners in Shell,” she shares.

She believes successful careers are a by-product of passion and perseverance. “I enjoy success but I’m always looking for ways to improve things. But I also need to find a balance between doing things really well and not wasting time on the little details. If you have passion for what you do and the dedication to do it to the best of your ability, you will be successful,” she says.  

Quick quotes

  • “The best advice I can give to prospective employees is to not focus or fixate too much on your entry-level job – take ownership of any role that comes your way and it will open a lot of doors for you. Within a few years, you’ll probably be doing something different.”
  • “My aspiration when I retire is to run for parliament. In Kuwait, I was part of a parliamentary campaign to increase awareness of women’s rights in the country.”
  • “As a child, I wanted to be a fighter pilot and I studied mechanical engineering aerospace technology. I pursued this dream until I submitted an application to the air force in Kuwait only to be told they don’t accept women.”

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