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From Kampung Girl to Oil and Gas Engineer:  Cempaka Lim Leads the Way for Fresh Grads


Visit Cempaka Lim’s Instagram account @cempaka.l, and you’ll see among the photos of herself at work in the oil and gas industry, many shots of her posing at her family’s mango farm, and on her beloved motor kapcai, in Kuala Perlis. Or as she puts it, her kampung. 

Lim Chia Wei may have been posted as far as Thailand and Oman, but she doesn’t shy away from her kampung roots. Popularly known as Cempaka, a name given by her lecturer’s mother, this graduate in petroleum engineering has worked as a field engineer, production engineer, and technical sales engineer. 

Early Exposure

Cempaka grew up in Malaysia’s smallest state, Perlis. However, her father exposed her to the bigger world when she was young. She reminisces, “I was a tough girl, outgoing and active in sports. I represented my state in ping pong and swimming. My father knew I was not cut out for office work and would often show me pictures of oil rigs when they came on TV.” 

By Form 4, Cempaka knew she wanted to become an engineer and work in the oil and gas sector. She dropped biology and took engineering drawing instead. After her Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) exam, she wanted to study at Universiti Teknologi PETRONAS (UTP) but failed to get in. “My heart was set on UTP, so I applied again and succeeded on my second attempt,” she shares.   

Language Skills

You would never guess this from her bubbly online presence, but Cempaka says that before joining UTP, her English was very poor. “After six years there, I improved a lot. All the subjects at UTP were taught in English. We also had many international students, so we had lots of opportunities to communicate in English.” 

One of her university life highlights was a student exchange programme with the Missouri Science and Technology University in the USA. She looks back at her time there with appreciation, “It was a life-changing experience. I got to sharpen my English-speaking skills, made friends with people from many countries, and learned petroleum engineering in the US curriculum structure.”

Oil and Gas Career

Cempaka-2-web.jpgAfter graduating in 2016 with a degree in petroleum engineering, Cempaka joined her dream company, Schlumberger, where she had previously interned at as a cementing field engineer for eight months. 

Before the first movement control order (MCO) in 2020, Cempaka was promoted to a sales position. While she missed working offshore and felt bored working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic, her life was about to take another exciting turn. 

The Power of Social Media

By then, she had already built a good following on LinkedIn, gaining 15,000 followers after she started to share her experience working in oil and gas. A few of her posts on how to get into the industry garnered up to 200,000 views! 

She attributes this to her unique voice:“It's very rare to find someone — especially at the junior level —sharing behind the scenes on oil and gas.”  

The great response to her posts and the many messages she received indicated a high demand for insights into the oil and gas industry. This marked the start of her social responsibility platform to give back to society, Spice Your CV​. She chose Instagram as her preferred platform as there are few people there who are in the same niche as her. 
Cempaka explains, “I was encouraged to start Spice Your CV in June 2020 because of the astounding response to my IG live sessions on how to write a winning résumé and prepare for a job interview.” 

Cempaka-3-web.jpgIn less than a year, Spice My CV has reviewed more than 500 cover letters and CVs. Cempaka has been invited to speak at 30 to 40 universities and trained over 1,000 students through employability workshops and personal branding classes. As the volume of inquiries increased, she had to even bring in additional manpower – somebody who also got retrenched - to maintain the level of responsiveness.  

On her plans moving forward, Cempaka says, “Spice Your CV wishes to continue helping job-seekers to enhance their call-up rate, and empowering them to build their personality and strengthen their disposition.”

Cempaka is especially passionate about promoting female empowerment at work. “At first, I felt intimidated to be in a male-dominated industry,” she shares. “That changed when I met the many amazing women at Schlumberger. I aspired to be like them — charismatic and full of confidence.” 

She looks up to Michelle Obama, who supports gender equality and fights for education and female empowerment. Cempaka wants to use her influence to support women in pursuing their dreams. She says, “I always tell students to pursue their dreams and not to pay heed to negative talk from people around them. They must fight for what they want. I’m an anak kampung who achieved my dreams from my own efforts and support from my parents.” 
We support Cempaka’s mission whole-heartedly. 

Published: 29 November 2021