Santos’ ideal planner: Samantha Kiagun

In a new venture for PNG, and for Santos, the Global Support Centre in Port Moresby will grow a pioneering team of maintenance planners.

Samantha Kiagun is humbled to be part of the team that will deliver high-quality work plans to enable safe, effective, and efficient operations for Santos.

With her attention to detail, strong analytical and communication skills, time management and highly adaptive nature, Samantha Kiagun is the ideal planner, but it is her values shaped by her life experiences and love for family that sets her apart.

When you meet someone like Samantha for the first time, you make an instant connection because she is a genuine people person who knows how to develop and maintain strong networks with ease, backed by her confidence, and great sense of humour.

“She brings the fun when you least expect it and usually it’s during those moments when you need it the most. She’s like your morning coffee that gets you started for the day,” says a colleague.

Yet for someone who radiates so much positive energy, she’s had to overcome some tough challenges early in life, including the death of her father who was her role model and the breadwinner for the family.

“As the only girl growing up, I was really close to my father and after he died, I felt I had no future. I was worried whether I would complete my education; let alone make it through high school. But then I saw my mother and how she left the comfort of her home to find a menial job in housekeeping in order to provide for me and my three brothers. 

“She was not willing to give up on me and my siblings and so I made a choice to never give up under any circumstance. 

“I admit, the years that followed were difficult, but we also had amazing neighbours in Badili where I grew up, who supported us when we had nothing. There I learnt that family isn’t just your blood relatives but anyone who has your back through good and bad times. Compassion is what I also learnt.”

A support system for Samantha’s mother was their oldest sibling.

“My brother could see our mother struggling so he left school, found a job, and helped put food on the table. He also paid tuition fees for me and my other brothers. Thanks to him, I was able to complete primary school and was accepted into Marianville Secondary School outside Port Moresby. 

“At this school, I learnt about character and gained valuable soft skills. One of my best memories from that time was eagerly waiting for my family to visit me on the weekends with home-cooked meals and though it was not easy to catch a bus from Badili, never once did they miss a visit. I never realised my mother especially was teaching me about the importance of trust and being able to be relied upon.”

In 2004, Samantha graduated from Marianville Secondary School with flying colours and got accepted into the University of Papua New Guinea (UPNG) to take up Accounting.

“That was indeed a very proud achievement for my family,” said Samantha, who enrolled for one semester.

“We were hoping to secure additional funds so I could complete the full semester and earn a diploma. Unfortunately, that never eventuated and so I withdrew from university.”

Over the next six years, Samantha worked four different jobs from fisheries to banking, making just enough income to get by.

“At least I was helping my mother with a bag of rice and my youngest brother with his lunch money for school. I always thought I would save enough funds to complete my tertiary education however, with the months rolling into years, that became impossible. 

“Then one day I came across a job vacancy advert for a Camp Reservations Clerk with Kikori Oil Investment (KOI) Limited. Two of the key duties would include managing camp accommodation and monthly bills. This was a fly-in-fly-out role far from home but in an industry that may be able to turn things around for me and my family.”

To Samantha’s surprise, she was considered for an interview and was successful.

“It seemed my work experience was a prerequisite, and so I became the most suitable candidate. I was grateful for the knowledge and skills I had gained. Before I knew it, I was leaving Port Moresby on an Oil Search charter flight to Moro. This was April of 2012. Reality sunk in when I boarded the plane as I was leaving Port Moresby and, especially, my mother and siblings behind. Was this worth all their sacrifice? It really was a leap of faith that day, but it turned out to be the best decision in my life!”

Samantha moved on from KOI in 2014 and joined Oil Search as a Maintenance Data Entry Clerk in the planning team, and that is where she discovered her passion for maintenance planning.

In January 2024, Samantha was promoted by Santos to the Maintenance Planner role, a role that has been newly created for the Global Support Centre in Port Moresby.

Cameron Robinson, who is the Maintenance Planning Lead for Santos’ Upstream Operations in Brisbane, said: “Over the last nine years, Samantha has supported maintenance and operations with various tasks ranging from drafting of work permits for maintenance leading hands, efficient ordering of parts for critical maintenance works, entering of turbine engine run-hour weekly readings to SAP resource loading. 

“We have found Samantha to be highly resourceful, proficient with numbers and her ability to analyse data and effectively plan preventative maintenance work orders for specific production fields ensures we comply with best practice.

“Her new role is critical to our success in ensuring that operational equipment and plant uptime, cost and scheduled targets are met. We have every confidence in her ability and count ourselves lucky to have her on our team.”

Samantha reflected on her recent promotion and said: “This is definitely the highlight of my career and a milestone for me and my family apart from joining Oil Search back in 2014, and now Santos. I owe this accomplishment to my mother, my older brother and all those who supported me along the way, and I know my father will be proud.

“I believe my attention to detail and drive for perfection will add value to the business as maintenance planning must be done right, the first time in order to prevent unnecessary downtime for the execution team when they work on equipment in the various production fields. This in turn prevents any major loss to production. This is a dream come true as I’ve always wanted to become a planner. I really enjoy what I do, and I get to work amongst some of the greatest people who have become family.

“Santos has given me the tools and resources necessary to reach my full potential and what’s more is I am able to take good care of my mother and continue to give back to my brothers, including paying tuition fees for my nieces and nephews. An added bonus is that I can now confidently pursue other ambitions such as return to school. This time, I plan to take up a technical course that will add further value to my current role.”

Samantha joins the first team of six national professionals, including Edwin Michael, John Rekeken, Romba Kaun, Jason Katato and Nathan N’Druwin, who will support Santos’ global operations through the Global Support Centre in PNG.

Santos Country Chair PNG, Leon Buskens, said: “The initiative is consistent with both our commitment to grow local employment in PNG and the PNG Government’s National Content Policy. The new roles will support the broader Eastern Australia PNG asset portfolio and result in ‘in sourcing’ of engineering and maintenance activity from Australia and overseas contractors to PNG, resulting in more direct employment of nationals. 

“These support services are currently being outsourced to India and will now begin to transition to Port Moresby from Cooper Basin, Moomba, and Curtis Island. Despite the challenges we have also in terms of reliable data and power in PNG, the establishment of the Global Support Centre and commissioning of this new team of expert planners are testament to the commitment of Santos to PNG and its people.”

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