The last panel of the second day of the Upstream Technical Convention witnessed a discussion between four prominent figures of the industry discussing the steps taken by the Ministry of Petroleum and Mineral Resources, in cooperation with international oil companies (IOCs) to maximize the efficiency of human capital. The panel was moderated by Colby Fuser, Vice President at Halliburton, Egypt and Libya.

Panelists included Osama Mobarez, Undersecretary for Technical Office at the Ministry of Petroleum and Mineral Resources; Hesham El Amroussy, Chairman and Managing director at ExxonMobil Egypt; Karim Badawi, Managing Director Egypt and East Mediterranean at Schlumberger; and Hussam Abuseif, Director and General Manager Egypt, Sudan and S. Sudan at Baker Hughes.

Middle Management Program

Fuser started the discussion by praising the Egyptian talents. “Optimizing the human capacity at the oil and gas sector is not new to Egypt,” Fuser said, adding that “everybody who is working around oil and gas business has worked around a boss or a leader or someone who has been very influential in the business who has come from Egypt.”

The panelists started talking about the several cooperative agreements that the ministry signed with a number of IOCs to train young and middle management talents to prepare them for the future as a part of the ministry’s Modernization Project. Mobarez explained that “the middle management program was initiated by a request from H.E Eng. Tarek El Molla,” who wanted to have an apt tool to discover talents.

According to Mobarez, the sector faced a challenge as the gap between top leaders and young generation widened. As a result, the ministry has been working on several tracks in the Modernization Project to face those challenges by devising a succession plan for the CEOs and top management of the sector with a very strong database of competence. Mobarez continued referring to the initiatives and programs the ministry is working on in the third pillar of the Modernization Project especially the middle management program, which he mentioned that “fortunately all the panelists including the moderator have been supporting.”

Badawi agreed stating that “human capacity is at the forefront to enable all the changes the sector wants to bring about in the industry to make it the leading industry in Egypt.”

Building on what Mobarez said, El Amroussy clarified that in order to decrease the gap between leaders and professionals, the sector “needs professionals who value the fundamental business principles. That is an easy key when the sector talks about safety, integrity, transparency, and doing the right things, the right way every day,” adding that the sector needs professionals with leadership skills. He highlighted the importance of developing the professionals’ understanding of technological trends and preparing them to challenge the status quo and biases. According to El Amroussy, the industry “needs leaders who can create an environment where everyone feels empowered to take reasonable business risks, empowered and safe to make mistakes, but learn and move on.”

El Amroussy praised one of the successful training programs designed by the oil and gas committee in the American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) targeting the empowerment of the middle management, covering the gap between academia from one end and practical business from the other end. He also mentioned that the panelists were involved in developing this program and that the outcomes were impressive.

Abuseif commented on the leadership components that came out of the middle management program, expressing his beliefs that leadership is built through experience. He stated that the program was structured like a project in which a leader is responsible for a candidate and shadows him to be exposed to a different way of decision-making in the sector.

IOCs Partnership

El Amroussy pointed out to other successful training programs, mentioning that ExxonMobil Egypt introduced the Youth Engagement Program in 2019, in which it has been trying to connect with high-school students.

The discussion revolved around the role of IOCs in the training programs. Badawi agreed with Mobarez and El Amroussy on the importance of developing human capital in regards to the needs of the industry. He shared Schlumberger’s role in the middle management program, saying “Schlumberger was involved in close collaboration with Mobarez and the ministry in developing the middle management foundation whereby we had the honor of having 120 middle managers who have been selected from the industry to have and share knowledge in terms of ethics, compliance, soft skills and how safety has to be at the forefront and in terms of priorities, decision-making and enabling a safe environment for our stakeholders within the sector.”

Baker Hughes has also been involved highly in the development programs. Abuseif praised the selection process of the candidates, saying that “something was very interesting to us from a global perspective, which is the transparency and the selection criteria in this program,” adding that “this gave the partners a lot of confidence in moving on in the program.” Meanwhile, Mobarez highlighted that the transparency of the selection process was critical to the ministry, on that account, all the selection steps are done online.

Abusseif tackled some of the program’s elements of success, such as the selection process, the timing of the program, and its alignment with what the industry needs. He added that the program is developing the right segment from the middle sector, becoming sustainable with the changes happening in Egypt. Additionally, the program has been handling aspects like integrity, compliance, and interaction with different venues and channels, increasing its efficiency.

Sustainability

Abuseif mentioned that there are some learnt lessons out of the program and some points that need to be refined in order to sustain this success. Mobarez agreed with him and added that the middle management program was not the only project the ministry is working on in order to sustain the human capital’s development.

Mobarez pointed out that the development programs are done for the first time, and therefore, are experimental from the side of the ministry and the participating companies. He clarified that the programs evolved to be efficient, but as Abuseif mentioned, there are some lessons learnt, and the ministry is trying to digest those lessons and plan for the next phase of the middle management program.

The Ministry of Petroleum and Mineral Resources is keen to sustain the success of the middle management program. Mobarez expressed that this should not be a one-time program as the oil and gas sector needs to give the opportunity to as many individuals as possible. He continued explaining that “the middle management program is one element, but the ministry has different segments of the population of the sector: it has younger people, the middle management and also older people. So, what it is working on is programs for all those different segments and hopefully, within the following weeks, it will be developing the next batch.”

Talking about the sustainability programs, Badawi explained that the sector needs to look from a business aspect and context, adding that “when the sector looks in terms of infrastructure support and the leadership support, the middle management program is not a word exercise or sets of slides. It is a structure and there is a follow up on it, and hence, it provides the framework to make sure that this is not an individual initiative that is dependent on one specific company, it is an initiative which is engrained in the DNA of the oil and gas sector.”

The program has evolved since its first batch and this was due to the adaptability of change from the candidates’ side and the companies’ side, according to Badawi, who noted that the adaptability of change and the program’s benefits will sustain the success of the program.

What is next?

About future plans, El Amroussy stated that ExxonMobil plans to continue supporting the youth engagement programs in 2020. Introducing the sector to potential employees is one of the elements of preparing youth from an early stage to work in the sector. According to El Amroussy, establishing a knowledge transfer system is important and having a sustainable mechanism of transferring knowledge is endured by the oil and gas sector programs and the AmCham training programs.

Mobarez supported El Amroussy’s view on transferring knowledge, commenting that “one of the main objectives of these programs is not just to develop those people, but also for them to be change agents and advocates of modernization within their companies.” He added that this is one way to sustain the continuity of the development programs. Mobarez also went through the future programs the ministry is going to make, which include all the segments of the human capital in the industry. In addition, the plan includes a program for the line managers, but is still in progress as part of the succession plan.

Moreover, Abusief suggested that universities need to start teaching technologies like artificial intelligence and analytics rather than the normal mechanical or electrical engineering as they became the new requirements for developing the sector.

The future plan of the ministry also has a focus on HSE standards. Mobarez explained the safety challenges, which are the culture and the leadership. He explained that “one of the highlights of the middle management development is HSE practices and leadership.” Thus, the ministry is trying to do its part regarding HSE. HSE is starting to be an integral position in Egypt thanks to El Molla. Mobarez further noted that “no one can have a leading position on top management position unless he gets into an HSE position first.” He concluded that the ministry is taking strides in HSE, leadership, and culture.