People and projects from around the PETROFAC world


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Zhanibek Akhmettayev, who is originally from Kazakhstan, has a background in electrical engineering. He studied a Masters in High Voltage Physics, spending one year in Russia and one in Germany, before joining the programme.

Zhanibek has his friend to thank for introducing him to Petrofac, after he sent him a link to the graduate development programme. “It looked like a great opportunity, so I applied!”

He describes his first year as “enthusiastic, exciting and challenging”. “I’ve really enjoyed meeting new people, and I’ve made a lot of friends among the graduates and those at the site,” he adds. “Everyone is really supportive and happy to help.”


Zhanibek has completed two rotations so far, the first in material management and the second in construction, both onsite at Sakhalin in Russia.

Sakhalin is one of Petrofac’s toughest sites to work at: the location is remote, the weather is unpredictable, and the working patterns are long. So, how did he find it? “To get to site you need to travel for two days by plane, car, train – everything.

“All the flights were cancelled because of the Covid-19 pandemic, so I was onsite for quite a while. At the beginning I was afraid it might be really challenging but thanks to the team, I’ve had only a positive experience.

“I finally got to see all the equipment that I’d been learning about in university and the experience helped me to understand all the different stages of construction and the project as a whole much better. But it also helped me to enhance my soft skills too – working with people from different backgrounds and cultures.”

Did he have any encounters with the area’s wildlife? “Every time you have to work outside the main construction area you need to have one person on watch – if he sees a bear they’ll use an airhorn to warn everyone else to hide. I only encountered foxes, which roam freely onsite and in camp.”


Now back in our Sharjah office, Zhanibek has started his rotation in engineering. His mentor Tarek has helped him to understand the main responsibilities of colleagues onsite and in the office – and where he could work in the future.

“He said that I should not only concentrate on my job but look around at what other departments are doing. And ask questions and learn from them. I think that will help me in the future.”
While he isn’t sure what career path he’d like to follow yet, he’s looking forward to finding out. “I can’t say for certain right now, I’ll try everything then I will decide.”

“Being onsite helped me to enhance my soft skills as well as my technical skills.”
Zhanibek Akhmettayev



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Tarek Khazbak is a Project Controls Manager based in Sharjah and joined the company four years ago. He became a mentor this year, as he enjoys supporting his colleagues.

Why did you decide to become a mentor?
After working in the industry for a long time, I think people have a moral obligation to support and pass on their experience to others. Sharing your knowledge with younger people is very important, as it gives them an idea of what to expect in the future. It’s something I find very satisfying.

What have you learned from the graduates joining the business?
Everyone can learn from their colleagues, and it doesn’t matter how many years of experience they have, everyone has a different point of view, which can encourage you to look at a problem or challenge from a different angle. So, there is always a space for learning.

What do you find most rewarding about mentoring?
Seeing the person grow – you think of the moment you met them and after a year or two, you can see how they have changed. I’ve seen it a lot with my colleagues and some of them even became Project Controls Managers! You can affect their lives in a positive way. The graduates are subject to a lot of experiences in a short time, so they need some guidance. It makes me really feel like I’ve accomplished something useful.

Did you have a mentor?
Not in an official manner, but when I was a planner early in my career there were two people who challenged my way of thinking. I learned a lot from them about technical issues, how to approach problems and how to interact with people. Even now, I still think, ‘What would they do?’

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
One of my colleague’s approaches to life is to always be open. When he needs to solve a problem, he listens to everyone’s ideas and doesn’t impose his opinion on others; he is then able to reach a conclusion based on everyone’s input. So, don’t make judgements based on your past experiences, as this situation might be different. Sometimes you also have to realise that you were wrong and a different approach is better.

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