Enabling calibers to reach their full potential has always been on the top of Egypt’s agenda. The Ministry of Petroleum and Mineral Resources, led by the Minister Eng. Tarek El Molla, aims to bring its calibers at the forefront of the oil and gas sector, with the minister’s Modernization Project continuously developing the sector’s human resources (HR). One of the programs embedded within the Modernization Project is the Middle Management Program; which focuses on empowering young calibers in the sector. Egypt Oil & Gas has had the honor to interview eight outstanding calibers who have been a part of the Middle Management Program.

The Announcement

One common step shared among the eight calibers was how they all began their Middle Management Program journeys. Most of them heard of the program in 2017 when the program was first launched, however, each was introduced to it by different means.  For instance, Mohammed Helmy, Technical Studies Section Head at Cairo Oil Refining Co (CORC), was advised by his manager to apply for the program, while others, like Mohamed Abbas, Reservoir Engineering Acting Section Head at Qarun Petroleum Company, were introduced to the program through a memo by Egyptian General Petroleum Corporation (EGPC). To Abbas, it sent a wave of hope as he believes that “the most valuable asset for any company or sector is their human resources.”

The Selection Process

One noticeable feature that was commended by all the calibers in the program was transparency. The selected calibers all submitted their online applications and then went through a series of different examinations, beginning with the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT), which assess the applicants’ analytical, writing, and verbal skills. This was followed by a panel interview. “This was such a huge step towards employee’s empowerment, having different opportunities and being able to express their capabilities in the whole sector rather than their own companies,” Randa Esmat, HR Manager at ENPPI, commented. The selected candidates start their trainings in international oil companies (IOCs), in collaboration with the ministry, and later on get a second panel interview which will allow them to continue their training abroad.

A Step Forward

The Middle Management Program has played an integral part in developing the talents and honing the caliber’s skills. Many of them have agreed that the program was a step forward towards reaching their full potentials and a mean to enhance their management and technical skills. Helmy said that, to him, the program became a “SWOT analysis for my personal and professional behaviors; I defined it as a great chance of self-development.”

Echoing the same sentiment, Abbas said that the program aligns with his plan to improve his managerial skills so as to proceed to the next step in his career. The program has definitely resonated with the calibers; “I truly believed that the program will yield a group of well-prepared change agents ready to contribute in driving better operation efficiency, especially that it includes a comprehensive development plan designed and tailored according to the needs of the Egyptian oil and gas sector,” Maha Zahran, Department Manager at Petroleum Projects and Technical Consultations Co. (PETROJET), remarked.

Becoming a Change Agent

As the program became an integral part of the calibers’ lives, it not only affected their professional development, but influenced their personal development as well. “I have a new responsibility to be a change-agent to spread positive thinking and be more aware of the change management process. [It] made me a safety-oriented person with an interdependent safety culture in work and even in my personal daily life,” Ahmed Shehata, HR Development General Manager at Abu Qir Petroleum, commented. Just as the program changed Shehata’s mindset, the program improved “both of my soft and managerial skills through the intensive training courses,” Mohamed AbdElkader, Senior Electrical Maintenance Engineer, Rashid Petroleum Company (Rashpetco) added. He further elaborated on the enhanced strategic planning, governance and leadership skills gained throughout the program.

Unlocking Full Potentials

The key to any successful organization is human resources as they are the core of any entity. On a larger scale, the oil and gas sector need to allow a communication link among its calibers. The Middle Management Program’s key achievement is that it paved the way to establishing an integrated communication. Gaining contact with the upper level management in the ministry is an asset, Helmy noted. Not only that, but it has completely changed the way some trainees view themselves; “[the program changed] the way I think and judge, the flexibility I gained due the wide spectrum skills I have learnt, and the professional look towards the contractors and investors in order to attain the best situation for my organization,” Amr El Sayed Hassan, Department Manager at EGPC.

Shehata added on this note that the program helped him encourage a culture of open communication, and inspired a culture that promotes integrity, commitment, learning and developing. “[The program] also helps you build an interdependent safety culture; to be safety oriented and proactive; to feel empowered to stop any unsafe actions; and to adopt risk analysis even for all decisions,” he continued.

Esmat shared a story from one of the meetings the calibers had with the minister. He once asked them if they are ready now to be the leaders of tomorrow, and she thought to herself that she was not; “but now if the question is repeated, my answer shall be yes,” she said.

Walk the Talk

As the calibers discussed their journey within the Middle Management Program, they acknowledged how they utilized their newly-gained knowledge and skills moving forward. Abdelkader mentioned that the program filled many competency gaps; whereas creating an engaging work environment and taking effective decisions were of utmost value to him. Mohamed Foula, Department Head, Global Maintenance Department at Egyptian Maintenance Company (EMC), said that “the program was focused on shifting our mindset to being more agile.” He elaborated that due to the program, he can now efficiently “incorporate some skills like effective listening, problem solving, and decision-making processes,” which both Abdelkader and Zahran agreed on as well.

Utilizing advanced technology influenced the calibers on so many levels; for Helmy, this was a major change after completing the program. He integrated the usage of technology in his day-to-day tasks, adding that “I am currently working on having effective follow-up activities through better arrangements, time management, meeting preparations, data archiving, and asset integrity.” Esmat advocated that the program was key to enhance change management as “persistence and resilience are considered main competencies for perusing our objectives and conquering the challenges that each leader meets,” she said. The program helped her incorporate effective negotiation skills, adopting win-win solution alternatives, conflict resolution, and interactive communication.

A Room for Improvement

While all the trainees agree that the program was an essential step in their professional and personal growth, they also noted that it could use a little tweaking. For instance, Foula and Helmy found that the timeframe beginning with the announcement phase to the training phase was all too long. On the other hand, Zahran thought that adding psychometric test to the selection and filtration process would be a great asset, but it will also increase the timeframe.

Most of the trainees agree that the program’s transparency should be equally met with a detailed agenda of the program’s plan. “That would lessen the ambiguity about the question that some of us had in mind,” remarked Esmat. They also agreed that a data bank of the collective experience should be shared not only among the program’s trainees, but to be shared within the whole sector.

Abbas suggested that in addition to the technical and soft skill acquired, gaining a managerial training would be a supplementary asset to the program. Shehata reverberated the same idea saying that “offering a shadowing process to let [the trainees] attend budget meetings, bidding committees, steering committees, general assemblies and board meetings,” would add more value to the program.

A Sustainable Future

Through thorough assessments and evaluations, the Middle Management Program managed to let us glimpse in the future of Egypt’s oil and gas sector. Zahran firmly believes that the program pushed the competent and qualified youth to the front lines and that they will contribute to the sector’s advancement. Furthermore, in the era of big data, the sector could easily capitalize on intellectual diverse calibers, Esmat pointed out.

Abdelkader concurred saying that “capitalizing on youth will create better future for our sector and will create a pool of qualified calibers who are ready to lead the required change and take the responsibility.” Shehata made an excellent point noting that the Middle Management Program will gradually eliminate the seniority-based promotion system, and decrease the turnover rate within the sector. Zahran added on that note that “bridging generations will create a sustainable future for the oil and gas sector by the full engagement and empowerment of youth with their new ideas and enthusiasm.”

The Next Wave

The calibers’ experience in the Middle Management Program proved to be a journey worthy of time and effort, and the selected calibers highly recommends joining the next wave. Throughout the program, the candidates broke the barriers of fear and embraced change, which allowed them to grow on both the personal and professional levels. Esmat recommends the youth to take initiative and join the program saying that “[You would] serve as change agents and catalysts to the process of transforming our sector and our country to the state where we could really compete with the international pace towards modernization.”

Hassan also said that the program would help the selected candidate gain a better understanding of Egypt’s oil and gas sector. Helmy strongly advocated for the program saying that “Throughout the program, calibers will be able to break their boring work routine, define new points of interest, gain more knowledge, add new flavors to their work environments, and adject new skills to theirs.”

One for the Memories

Finally, the calibers recounted one memory throughout the program that they cherish the most. Many of them; including Abbas, Shehata, and Helmy recounted their first meeting with El Molla; “I went to the meeting thinking of a potential development opportunity, but we all left with a great feeling of trust, commitment and inspiration,” said Shehata.

Zahran mentioned that training with Eni in a new environment in Milan, Italy was a challenging and a rewarding experience. Being exposed to a different culture and overcoming language barrier have “created a great sense of responsibility and accountability towards doing more than my best during the training,” Zahran noted.

Hassan recalled his time at Halliburton; “I will never forget the business finance simulation game that we did… we learned how to set long-term strategy, how to modify the strategy based on the market status, and we learned about finance, marketing, and management.”