As a testament to determination, hard work and perseverance, Leyla McIntyre, Americas Lead Project Controls Manager, shares her remarkable career journey. From her young start in the Oil & Gas industry in Azerbaijan to managing some of Soben’s biggest Life Sciences projects in the U.S., Leyla’s story is one of seizing opportunities and making bold leaps.
Tell us about your career journey to date
I started my career in Baku, Azerbaijan (my hometown) when I was 23. I started working for an Oil & Gas company as a technical clerk, and after six months my manager noticed my potential and promoted me to the same position he held as coordinator.
The Project Director was so impressed with my work that he offered me a position on the next project, and I was sent to London to get trained to become a Planner Scheduler.
Later I joined the French Oil & Gas company Technip. I decided to apply for a position in their Houston office and that was the start of my US career!
I worked in Oil & Gas, Subsea, upstream and downstream projects until 2014 when I decided I was done with it. I tried a little bit of mining (which was not my thing) and then I transitioned to technology, where I worked with Google Fiber and Facebook.
Afterward, I joined another consultancy firm to work alongside Joe Cusick, who is now Soben’s Americas CEO. We worked on a very special project for Eli Lilly and that’s how I ended up in the Life Sciences sector.
A few years later, Joe called me back to join him at Soben and I didn’t hesitate! At that time we were a team of just five people in the Americas. It’s amazing to see how far we’ve come since then!
You’ve worked on many projects over the years – which ones stand out for you?
I had a great experience working for Eli Lilly, where we expanded one of their manufacturing facilities. It was very interesting to see how everything came together, since the equipment was sourced from different countries and continents, adding an interesting dynamic with numerous moving parts and people involved.
Another highlight was my involvement in commissioning fiber optics for Facebook’s mega data center in the U.S. I learned so much about how servers store data and the installation process.
I would also include one of the projects we’re currently working on at Soben, where we’re building a huge manufacturing facility on campus. It’s actually the largest project I’ve undertaken and there are a lot of people involved so that’s pretty cool!
Tell us more about the role of a scheduler in a construction project:
Project Controls is a continually evolving field, and our role requires constant education about what we do. Rather than deciding outcomes, we show what you get based on your goals and actions. We’re there to identify shortcomings and address problems.
Having worked in scheduling for over 20 years, I am a firm believer in the importance of making people grasp why we’re there and why our role is crucial.
As a skilled scheduler, by the time the project ends, not only will you have completed your tasks, but you’ll also have educated around 15 more people on the significance of your role!
What has been the most challenging project you’ve worked on, and why?
It’s not a project but an industry, which is Oil & Gas. The landscape is very challenging because it’s a very volatile market, and the market has a direct influence on employment and job stability. There’s a lot of competition and proving one’s uniqueness is a constant struggle. As a common practice, younger employees with less tenure are the first ones to face layoffs due to market drops, so that’s what made it a very challenging industry to work in.
What caught your attention about moving to the US?
Since I was a little girl I dreamed about moving to a different place. By the age of 23 I had achieved the most I could back in Azerbaijan, but there was still a lot of fire in me to do something more. I knew that Technip had headquarters in Houston, so I decided to take a leap and shoot for the stars!
What have been the defining moments of your career?
There were several moments, but I got extremely lucky by meeting people who recognized my potential, like the Director in Baku. By supporting and sending me to get trained, he basically lined up my whole future!
It’s great to meet people who can see what you can achieve, and this happened to me with Joe Cusick as well. He didn’t have to ask me twice to come to work for him again at Soben, which means I brought value!
And that is also why, in all my assignments, I try to leave a mark or a legacy on how things should be done. So when the next generation comes to a new project, they have an understanding or an outline on what’s the proper way to do the work.
What career advice would you give your younger self?
I have taken so many, and if I hadn’t, I wouldn’t be where I am now. I’m grateful to my younger self for taking that chance because you never know what’s on the other side. Yes, sometimes you might fall short but that’s okay, you can always pick yourself back up.
I think that just as general advice to anybody who’s starting their career would be to always put in front of you a target that you can reach.
So as an example, when I became a planner, I said: “I want to learn this thing in planning” and once I learned it I asked myself: “what’s my next target? to move to America”. Then I tried and tried and tried, until one [job] finally gave in and I reached my target!
So always take that leap and make the jump!
As one of our fastest-growing regions, the Soben Americas team has open opportunities across the continent for construction professionals, and we’re now sponsoring U.S. E-2 and E-3 visas for UK citizens. Take a look at our open roles in the United States at www.sobencc.com/careers