Melissa Dotson pays it forward, helping others make their journey

Melissa Dotson, expansion manager, Shell Geismar (Collin Richie)

While growing up in Metairie, Melissa Dotson thought she was destined for a career in medicine. Her mother even sent her to Latin camp one summer so she’d be able to read medical terms one day—she still has the camp T–shirt, in fact.

But that all changed in 1994 after Dotson’s junior year in high school, when a summer program at LSU—Recruiting into Engineering High-Ability Multicultural Students, or REHAM—opened her eyes to the world of chemical engineering. Dotson and other participants would attend classes in the morning, then tour area plants under the guidance of mentors from Dow, ExxonMobil, Shell and others. “That’s when the light bulb went off,” Dotson says. “That summer program showed me that engineering was exactly what I wanted to do.”

The third of eight children, Dotson came from humble beginnings. She credits her parents, particularly her mother, for encouraging her to focus on her education. “My mother was a nurse, and she gave up a lot of herself to ensure that we all had every opportunity to succeed,” she says. “My siblings and I grew up knowing that we needed to focus intensely on our schooling, because that would be the gateway to a different future for all of us.”

Thanks to that pivotal summer at LSU, Dotson already had a crystal-clear idea of what she wanted to do after high school graduation. “I knew I was going into engineering at LSU … there was no Plan B,” she says.

While in college, she began working at Shell Geismar as a process control summer intern, and then, after graduating with a degree in chemical engineering in 2000, she took a full-time job there as a process control engineer. Later, she accepted her first leadership role as an instrument team lead in 2005. “That sparked my passion for bringing teams together, setting goals and providing the best support to the operations staff,” she says.

In 2013, she transferred to Shell’s Manufacturing Excellence organization in Houston, where in her role as asset master planner she conducted site studies for the strategic use of capital within the Shell Americas region. She returned to the Geismar plant in 2019.

Through it all, Dotson has felt a need to “pay it forward” by mentoring area youth and other employees in the Shell organization. “There were so many different mentors in my journey that encouraged me to do something that, at the time, I didn’t have the confidence to do,” she adds. “I knew I had a responsibility to do the same for others.”

Not surprisingly, her list of volunteer work is long. Dotson is currently active within a variety of Shell employee resource groups, a sustainer for Junior League of Baton Rouge, current member of the LSU Chemical Engineering Advisory Board, past assistant programing director for the Baton Rouge Chapter of Jack and Jill, and current parliamentarian in the National Charity League – River Road Chapter. She also serves as secretary on the Louisiana Art & Science Museum’s board of trustees.

Dotson admits juggling all that, while also managing her current day job as Shell Geismar’s expansion manager and raising a family, gets a bit challenging at times. She gives credit to her attorney husband, Anderson O. Dotson III, for helping her keep all the balls in the air and managing the schedules of their three children—Andie, Ryann and Anderson IV.

In her various roles, Dotson seeks to encourage the uniqueness of the individuals she mentors. She credits Robin Roberts’ book, Everybody’s Got Something, for opening her eyes to the benefits gained from a diverse and inclusive team. “Her book phrases it so beautifully,” Dotson says. “Everybody has a different background or journey that they’re on. The key to success is recognizing that they all have something unique that shapes who they are.

“Allowing folks to unlock their potential and diversity of thought is the true key to success,” she adds. “That’s where Shell shines. They are focused upon building that diversity of thought and encouraging others to bring their ‘authentic selves’ to work.”


THE INFLUENCE

As an engineer working for Shell, Melissa Dotson prioritizes mentorship and development in the workplace and in the community through organizations such as the National Charity League, the Junior League of Greater Baton Rouge, the Louisiana Art & Science Museum, the LSU Chemical Engineering Advisory Board and others.


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