The EOG Upstream Operational Excellence Convention reached its third and final day on December 4. Dedicated to the youth in the oil and gas sector, the Young Professionals’ Day started with an open panel discussion on the importance of career visioning to sustain business and retain talent.

Panelists included Maha Fouad Attia, Vice Head of the Technical Office at the Ministry of Petroleum; Ahmed Osama, Enppi’s Project Manager; Tarek Sami, Enppi’s Senior IT External Projects Coordinator; Layla El-Hares, GM Development Egypt and East Mediterranean at Shell; Mirna Arif, Regional Sales Director O&G Digital Egypt, Turkey and Tunisia at BHGE; and Sameh Sabry, Country Manager at DEA Egypt.

The panel was moderated by Kelly Bone, Co-founder of Wolfpack Holdings.

Youth in Modernization

Attia opened the discussion commenting on the approaches of the Ministry of Petroleum’s Modernization Program to human resources (HR) and youth empowerment. “Modernization is a transformation that goes through all the value chain. It aims to unlock the full potential of the sector and increase its contribution to the Egyptian economy,” said the ministry’s representative, who is also the leader of the Modernization Program’s Realization Office. “One of the major and most important pillars in the modernization is the HR pillar, as we believe our HR are the most valuable asset we have,” she continued.

The Modernization Program tackles HR in three different ways: first, through the institutionalization of human capital; second, through HR development; and third, through improving HR systems. For the HR institutionalization, the program has started developing a data bank that includes all employees in the sector. “This will allow us to have a better view of our resources and will enable us to have the right people in the right place,” she said.

Attia also explained that in order to build a sustainable growth for the sector, HR development must focus on youth. “The Modernization Program itself is already an example of this; about 60% of the teams in modernization are youth,” she disclosed.

The second approach includes the Middle-Management Program, which looks at identifying, developing, and retaining talents, further preparing them for taking higher responsibilities in the future. “This program offers big chances for young professionals who have passion and commitment to the sector, and capability to lead the sector in the coming years,” said Attia, adding that this program will continue to be implemented after its first round.

As for improving the HR systems, the modernization of joint ventures serves as example. According to Attia, this modernization includes both HR and governance components. “These components aim to have an effective system that enables effective performance management and early identification of talents,” she explained.

Sami, who is a member of the ERP and the Middle-Management projects within the Modernization Program, stated that the ministry’s objectives are strategically aligned with the Egypt’s Vision 2030 strategy. Commenting on his participation in the Middle-Management Program as a young professional, he praised the organization and transparency of the selection process. “I am confident that within the nominated candidates there will be the future leaders of our sector,” he said.

Osama, who has been a member of the Process Management unit of the Realization Office since 2016, shared Sami’s sentiments and added that his participation in the ministry’s program “was a chance to learn more about the activities across the whole value chain”.

Developing and Retaining Talents

Panelists subsequently discussed new strategies to develop young professionals’ skills and career paths, as well as ways of retaining talent. On this matter, Sabry pointed out that in order to achieve a successful career path in the sector, young professionals should have more than just technical skills. One of the most important soft skills in his opinion is communication. “You need to make sure that you are expressing yourself in a structured and convincing way,” he said.

Being himself a young professional in a management position, Sabry’s personal advice to the new generation of petroleum employees was to go out of the comfort zone. “You have always to challenge and believe in yourselves. I have witnessed many colleagues who were capable of doing much more than what they are doing now, but the main limitation that restricted them was actually themselves,” he added.

A number of panelists emphasized the need for the sector to adapt and become more flexible in its approach to young professionals.

“We need to think about the young talent; they are motivated by different things,” El-Hares said, suggesting that companies should move to a more flexible working model that accommodates modern lifestyles and working schedules.

“We talk about changing working hours, but we neither believe in it nor promote it, and we are actually very critical when someone adopts it. We need to start looking at it differently. Someone who is really into snowboarding, for example, and is working long hours during winter. What is wrong with having him working these hours during summer instead? We really need to promote that more,” she explained.

Building on her comments, Sabry spoke of the importance of developing careers on an individual basis in order to increase employee retention. “The key thing to retain talent is to provide them with opportunities to continuously learn and grow,” he said.

For El-Hares, promoting the culture of safety and care within oil and gas companies is a key step to retain young professionals and encourage them to improve. “If people feel they are cared for, they will not think of quitting. What we really need to do is being close to our people and lead by example,” she added.

Arif, an expert on digitalization, told the audience that new technologies are key to attracting and retaining talent within the industry. “Digitalization is a game-changing element for the industry, it is the key for oil and gas players to attract talent,” she said. “The younger generations want more agility, they want more flexibility. Digitalization gives them all of that,” she said.

“We are perceived as an old industry, but surprisingly we are the first industry that was actually digital. It is all about data. The first step in the oil and gas exploration phase is acquiring huge tons of terabytes of seismic data. All the data that the industry has, now it is time to look at that from a bigger perspective,” Arif continued.

Attia closed the discussion with advice for the new generation of professionals: “Do not be afraid of being creative, because this is how change comes along. Try to be experienced and knowledgeable in your work. You have to leave your own print.”

On the sidelines of the convention, Moataz Darwish, External and Government Relations Manager and Deputy Chairman at Shell Egypt, told Egypt Oil & Gas that, in addition to all the points mentioned during the panel discussion, the industry should also teach the young professionals to understand themselves. “They must be self-aware, set their own goals, and understand their own mindset. That can help them a lot in paving their own way through their career,” said Darwish, who is also member of the EOG Technical Committee.

Young Professionals Receive Live Coaching Session

The Young Professionals Day was concluded with a live coaching session delivered by Kelly Bone, Co-founder of Wolfpack Holdings. The dynamic session featured a mix of coaching, audience participation, motivational videos, and interviews, looking at empowering attendees to seize the energy in their days and change mindsets.

“There are three things people control in their lives: the thoughts they think, the images they visualize and the actions they take,” she said.

During the session, Bone encouraged attendees to take responsibility of their own lives and actions. “Remember, responsibility is not given, it is taken. Do not wait for responsibility to be given to you; take control of your life,” she added.

The coach took the audience through the daily habits needed to get the most out of each day and fast-track their professional and personal development. These include: win your morning to win your day; time-blocking; delivering more than expected; self-reflection; and making time for 60 minutes of learning each day.

According to Bone, people’s first actions and thoughts in the morning affect their energy during the rest of the day. Instead of checking mobile phones, for instance, it would be more positive to take a moment to put thoughts together and visualize the day’s task. When discussing time-blocking, she invited the audience to schedule their daily priorities by selecting the things they want to get done.

Another key for success is delivering more than expected, according to Bone. In order to become a leader, she encouraged young professionals to over-deliver, “go the extra mile”, and become indispensable. When over-delivering, however, youth should “focus on what matters more,” she noted.

Speaking of the 60 daily minutes of learning, Bone advised attendees to be self-reflective, having a quiet time in which they can reflect on their week, what they are doing and whether it has an impact. “First thing in the morning is the best time to do self-reflection, because it is the peak of creativity,” she noted.

The coach subsequently explained the six perspectives that need to be adopted to become a high achiever. The personal perspectives included: focusing on 20% purposeful aims to achieve 80% of the desired results; committing to self-mastery; moving from an engineering style to a purposeful style; being learning based; removing limiting believes; and being accountable.

“When you have a purpose, it does not feel like work, but like love and passion,” she said.

According to Bone, leaders should be learning-based and remove any limiting belief they have, holding themselves accountable instead of victimizing themselves.

Letters to the Ministry

After the session, young professionals in the audience were divided into seven teams. Each team, coached by a different industry leader, discussed certain challenges and needs within the oil and gas sector. After the discussion, each team wrote a letter to be sent to petroleum minister Eng. Tarek El Molla addressing the young professionals’ commitments and needs to become future leaders.

“The challenges that may be faced by companies include the resistance of change, fear of mistakes, defying rules and regulations, and lack of communications,” said the yellow team in their letter.

The red team focused on self-mastery, accountability, and creating more jobs in future. “We are committed to work hard and be effective through self-learning and keeping high performance,” the letter read.

The green team focused on opportunities, promotions, digitalization, and human capital investment.  “Our current challenges are mainly economics, regulation, skills-matching gap that align with our companies’ needs, and the social impact we might have because of the digitalization of the oil and gas sector,” the letter read, suggesting psychometric testing to face these challenges.

The pink team addressed the leadership relation with employees, giving promotion based on who deserves it, and hiring employees; while the grey team suggested empowering middle leaders and university students.

The blue team focused on developments and proposed creating a suggestion box at each company to receive employees’ suggestions. The last group to read their letter was the orange team, which discussed what support young professionals need, as well as their commitment and dedications.

Shell NXplorer Program

Representing Shell, Nashwa Saleh, the company’s Investment Manager in Egypt, made a presentation about the company’s NXplorer program, which aims to unlock future leaders’ potential through introducing youth to the complex and creative thinking they will need in their future.

According to Saleh, Shell has an extensive portfolio of social investment programs that focus on youth, development, and capacity. “We have our programs on different themes. NXplorer is more focused on complexity,” she said.

In her presentation, Saleh discussed general issues that need solving, which include food, water, and energy nexus. “[Shell] wants to empower students to go beyond all the barriers, and wants to equip them with the tools to be able to face challenges,” she noted. The company aims to globally reach 1 million youth through NXplorer.

The program is developed in three phases. The first phase is Explore, which is based on system thinking methodologies. The second phase is Create, in which students start creating the solutions for the problems discussed. Following that, comes the third phase, Change, which is related to what can lead to a fruitful future.

The NXplorer program currently takes place in 16 countries, and the company is adopting a vision “to have Egypt as the hub for delivering NXplorer to the region,” Saleh pointed out.

In addition to NXplorer, Shell has also become a sponsor of Al Amal program in 2017. After Salah’s presentation, students at Al Amal Program, led by Dr. Samir Abdel Moaty, Chairman of EGS and Al Amal Founder, talked about their contributions at the program. “Our aim is to get [students] ready to compete for a job in a multinational company,” Dr. Abdel Moaty said.