MOHAMMED AND NELSON
Mohammed Al-Abri, who is from Oman, has a degree in Chemical Engineering from Iowa State University in the USA. He is currently part of the commissioning team for the Duqm Refinery project in Oman.
“It was a significant change. The learning curve is much steeper in the actual work environment, as well as the amount of responsibility you have. It’s a more direct approach in terms of learning – you need to perform from day one.”
Mohammed Al-Abri is discussing the challenges involved in moving from studying in a classroom to working onsite. He became part of the construction team at the Duqm Refinery in February, before moving across to the commissioning team.
“Commissioning hasn’t started yet for this project so the previous few months were part of the preparation phase,” he explains. “I spent most of that phase doing documentation and procedure writing and reviewing, as well as having meetings with vendors, clients and the commissioning team. I’d never had exposure to meetings with clients before so I’ve enhanced my soft skills and learned how to respond in a professional way.”
He returned to site in September after working from home because of the Covid-19 pandemic. He admits to being quite nervous when first joining Duqm, but he wasn’t alone – joined by a few of his fellow graduates.
“There are five of us, the most frightening part was the uncertainty,” he says. “I wasn’t sure what to expect but it is a friendly environment and I immediately felt part of the team.”
What’s the main lesson he’s learned? “I think it’s how to adapt and change to different circumstances,” he explains. “Being onsite is certainly very different to being in an office environment. You have to adapt quickly.”
Mohammed’s mentor has been very “supportive” so far and Mohammed appreciates having one-on-one time with someone so senior in the organisation.
“He’s watched over my technical and non-technical progress, as well as offering guidance,” adds Mohammed. “He’s helped me to understand that there is a huge amount of trust that has to be established between me and my team. I need to trust their decisions, as well as for them to trust my decisions and ideas.”
The reason Mohammed applied for the programme was its flexibility and opportunities for progression. He can’t wait to find out where it will take him.
“The programme offers so much diversity in terms of how you plan your career path. Usually you are forced into one career, but I have seen people move through different functions in different periods of their career here.
“I’m really enjoying the challenges and opportunities that commissioning offers. My next rotation is engineering – I think that will be a productive and exciting challenge too. But I don’t have a final view on where I see my future going. I want to experience both office and site and see where I am at the end of the graduate period.”
“The three words I would use to describe my first year at Petrofac are dynamic, challenging and rewarding.”
WORDS CHRISTINA McPHERSON
PUBLISHED NOVEMBER 2020
What do you find most rewarding about mentoring?
When your mentee is able to surpass the teacher. All my career I’ve tried to improve my leadership capabilities. Thus one of my duties as a leader is to help graduates and junior colleagues to achieve their professional objectives, as well as the project targets. Their success is our success.
What’s your top tip for being a good mentor?
One of the most important things is motivation – and giving your mentees positive feedback and saying, for example, ‘excellent job, ‘well done’. This encourages them to continue improving.
What have you learned from the graduates joining the business?
We need to learn from everyone. Don’t think that you can’t learn something from someone. We all have something to give. What I like about the graduates is that they are coming in with fresh viewpoints and ideas on how to do the same job. Sometimes I give them duties and I explain how to do it, but they often come back with a better way. They can add their own value.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Always lead by example. As a leader and mentor you are driving and guiding your team in a specific direction – you need to be an example of that.
Did you have a mentor?
My mentor was my second supervisor when I was a junior engineer. He guided me and taught me the difference between the engineering we learn in university and the engineering we need to apply in real life. It was very important as there is a difference between tools and application. When you are in university you get tools but if you don’t understand their application you can’t do your job in the real world. I now try to emulate his behaviour and do this with my own graduates.
FIVE QUESTIONS WITH…
MOHAMMED’S MENTOR NELSON
Originally from Venezuela, Nelson Hernandez is a Chemical Engineer with 29 years’ experience in the oil and gas industry with a background in process design, operations and commissioning. He’s worked in commissioning for Petrofac for six years, currently based in Oman on the Duqm Refinery project as Sr Commissioning Manager.