Where there is a will…

Some may refer to the engineering and energy sector as a ‘man’s world’. BP Oman is changing that as more women join the field. Three young, motivated Omani women talk about their experience in their chosen careers

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BP Oman is the operator of the largest unconventional gas project in the Middle East – a gas project called Khazzan that produces a substantial supply of Oman’s gas. BP Oman has grown significantly over the last 10 years with a BP workforce made up of roughly 70% Omani staff, of which 12% are female.

Whilst typically the engineering and energy sector may have been deemed a ‘man’s world’, an increasing number of women are taking field-based technical roles such as senior technical engineers and petrophysicists to office-based and managerial roles across Khazzan and Muscat. The sky is the limit for BP Oman employees Mashaal Al Ghafri, Rahima Al-Talai and Thuraya Al Taei, below they talk about their journeys so far with BP and how they are paving the way for the next generation of female leaders.

As one of the very first female Production Technician working in the field in Oman, Mashaal Al Ghafri has experienced first hand the challenges of taking on a role that would traditionally be carried out by a man. The voice of Khazzan’s female employees on the Employee Consultative Committee and the female representative on the Welfare Committee, Mashaal is helping to shift this mindset.

“It is important that, as females, we speak out about our issues and share our ideas. It has been so encouraging to see more of my female colleagues having the confidence to do just that. And thanks for the support from management teams, we are starting to see real progress.”

In 2014 Mashaal joined the BP Oman Technician Development Programme in 2014 having studied at the Higher College of Technology in Muscat.

Launched in 2012, the Technician Development Programme is a pioneering scheme in Oman. Candidates are graduates from technical colleges and universities across the Sultanate and complete a four-year programme, including 18 months working towards NVQ training (National Vocational Qualification) and two years completing the Competency Management Assurance System (CMAS) at Khazzan. The technicians go on to work across instrumentation, electrical, mechanical and production roles at Khazzan.

“As a Production Technician, I am responsible for ensuring operations at the plant are safe, compliant and efficient,” explains Mashaal. “I recently worked on improving BP’s Basic Care tool and am now the focal point for Basic Care between the team on-site and the Engineering Team in Muscat. The tool is used to monitor and collect data on the status of equipment across the field’s facilities, to avoid leaks and damage and to improve the efficiency of the equipment. So, it was a really important and interesting project to work on.”

Mashaal places a lot of importance on self-improvement and development. She recently completed her CMAS (Competency Management Assurance System) and will be representing the Khazzan Operation Team in London for the Operator Workbench Project (OWB).

“Nothing is impossible,” affirms Mashaal. “If we work hard we can achieve our goals. I’m Omani, I’m a woman and I can do a good job. We can overcome any difficulties that we face with patience and perseverance.”

Completion Engineer, Rahima Al-Talai, shares this view and now appreciates the benefits of facing challenges. “I have learnt the difference between a barrier and a challenge: a challenge creates an opportunity to learn and be creative. We shouldn’t underestimate our ability to overcome challenges. Through focusing on our core strengths and development we can encourage those around us to also grow and succeed.

“I recently spoke at the Diversity and Inclusion session at the SPE (Society of Petroleum Engineers) workshop: Women to Excel. It was a something out of my comfort zone, but I am so proud that I was brave and seized the opportunity! I received really great feedback from attendees and it was very inspiring to network with bright examples of women in this industry.”

Rahima graduated from Sultan Qaboos University as a Petroleum and Natural Gas Engineer and joined the BP Completion Engineer Challenge Program in 2011. She is the first female Challenger to join the Wells Team at Khazzan and helps execute completion operations within time and budget without compromising safety. “My role is really active. I enjoy putting my engineering background into action in the field and am continually gaining more operational experience,” explains Rahima. “One of the reasons I joined BP was to have access to its a global network. There is such a vast network of people, new technology, information and technical support to tap into. It’s really exciting!” Since joining BP, Rahima has carried out assignments abroad including a year in North America and three weeks in Jordan working on a completion project.

“I really enjoy being on assignment! I am soon to start a year-long project in Azerbaijan which is a fantastic opportunity for me to learn about an offshore operation for the first time. The assignments are also beneficial for my personal development giving me the courage to work with a variety of people from different backgrounds, often in a culture that is far removed from my own. It’s a real learning curve.”

Developing an international and inclusive working environment that attracts, builds and helps retain the best talent is a business imperative for BP. It is key to the organisation’s success and international assignments are just one of the ways that BP Oman strives to ensure that staff learn and develop and are equipped with an invaluable skillset.

Communications & External Affairs (C&EA) Manager, Thuraya Al Taei, is currently on assignment in Kuwait. Thuraya joined BP in 2011 as a Communications Advisor for BP Oman, three years later she was promoted to Communications Manager supporting BP’s communications as it developed the Khazzan field. After First Gas was delivered at Khazzan, she moved to BP Kuwait to establish the Communications and External Affairs department there.

“The business in Kuwait is expanding and so my primary focus is building relationships with stakeholders and partners and facilitating internal communication and engagement. During my time in Oman I worked on different projects with different people. I used the time to hone my leadership skills and it’s exciting to be able to bring that expertise with me to Kuwait,” says Thuraya. “I want to go one step further now and have a comprehensive understanding of how the oil and gas business is run globally enabling me to be at the forefront of decision-making.”

Thuraya attributes her development to being part of the leadership team, saying, “I gradually began to find my voice in team meetings and through the support and encouragement of colleagues, I felt confident to share my opinions and offer another perspective. Learning to listen to my colleagues was also a very important lesson. I make sure I work with a respectful and inclusive attitude and feel that has helped me become the leader I am today.”

“I am so grateful for the experiences BP Oman afforded me. Working at Khazzan from the appraisal stage through to delivering First Gas has been very rewarding. Not only as an Omani, but also as a female, to have played my part in this great achievement and see how it has contributed to the country is something that will always fill me with pride.”

So, what does the future hold? All three women aspire to become global specialists in their field, continuing to build on their experience and make the most of the wealth of personal and professional opportunities BP offer. They hope to become the next leaders at BP, leaving their mark on Oman and inspiring the generation of woman, and men, to come.