Young Emiratis pave the path for Adnoc Drilling's future

The company, which celebrates its golden jubilee this year, is pinning its hopes on UAE nationals to guide its next 50 years

When Khalifa Al Nuaimi, 38, from Ajman, first joined Adnoc Drilling 16 years ago, the company was so small he completed his one-week orientation in less than two days.

And he came to know every one of the division’s employees at its old headquarters, the small building on Salam Street, in no time.

But the company has changed and grown considerably since, moving in 2018 to a new towering headquarters on Abu Dhabi’s Corniche, which looks in the city it helped support all these years.

With about 6,500 employees today, there are many more people than Mr Al Nuaimi could now possibly meet in his role.

“Every day now I am seeing new faces joining,” said the drilling team manager. “So it’s not what we were used to in the old days.”

Adnoc Drilling has also grown to be the largest drilling company in the Middle East by rig fleet size, delivering more than 10,000 wells to date in its 50 years of operations.

The subsidiary of Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (Adnoc) went public in October, floating 11 per cent of its shares on the Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange in an oversubscribed sale.

And now the company, like the country in which it was founded, is looking ahead to its next 50 years, with Emirati leaders like Mr Al Nuaimi driving its future.

The mechanical engineer was one of the very first graduates to join from the Petroleum Institute. He is now a manager for operations.

“In the same year, we were interviewed and distributed among the Adnoc group of companies. I was selected to be assigned as an assistant rig manager,” he said.

Mr Al Nuaimi admits the title was pretty attractive. But the role at first was nothing like what he expected. He spent years working his way up the rig, starting from the lowest position of roustabout.

“When I went to the field I was really shocked,” he said.

“We had to start from scratch and to do a ‘dirty’ job, working on the ground as a roustabout in order to learn the technical aspects to run the operation.”

He spent between six and nine months in each role, learning the ropes. From roustabout, he became a floorman, manipulating the pipes, moved to derrick man, and then assistant driller.

Eventually, he became assistant rig manager.

The process was not what he expected, but Mr Al Nuaimi said he would not change a thing. He could not do his job now as effectively without the experience he gained in the period.

“It’s difficult to understand the situation sitting in the office without having been at the rig,” he said.

“When the company was established, rarely [did we find] any Emiratis working in such harsh environments.

“Now it has totally changed. You can see Emiratis working in all positions, but at that time in 2006, we rarely found an Emirati working on a drilling rig.

“We have been role models for newcomers.”

Mansoor Alblooshi, 36, was another employee who paved a path for his fellow Emiratis to join the division.

He has now been with the company for 11 years, after joining in April 2010 as an assistant rig manager trainee. He oversees about 500 employees in his role as operations superintendent.

Like Mr Al Nuaimi, he spent almost three years in an intensive training programme. And he climbed the ropes in the same hard way.

“I wasn’t expecting that but it was very interesting for me,” said Mr Alblooshi.

“Actually, when you work in the lowest position on the rig site, it gives you a chance first of all to know what those people are doing.

“Once I finished that part of the training I had a good understanding, a clear vision, a clear picture of how those people were working and what the points were that we could improve and develop.”

Mr Al Nuaimi, Mr Ablooshi and others like them are the future of the company, said Hamad Al Junaibi, a senior executive at Adnoc.

Mr Al Junaibi has worked in drilling for 24 years and has seen a lot of changes since he joined the company.

“When I came here we had 30 rigs,” said the senior vice president of operations for offshore. The company now owns 99 and operates 107.

“And we are going to expand outside the country. We are utilising a lot of artificial intelligence and new technologies in our operation.

“The future is positive. To build this future, we need to invest in our future leaders. And we have tremendous focus on developing our future leaders.”

About 1,200 Emiratis have now passed through training programmes to join the rigs and other roles in the operation.

There is also a strong focus on training on the job.

All employees have development plans and some who show particular promise are fast-tracked to leadership roles.

Shaima Al Ameri, 25, an Emirati from Abu Dhabi, is one of them. She joined the company more than a year ago and is enjoying working with and learning from experienced colleagues as a lab engineer in the drilling and completion fluid division.

Many of them are men, but that too is set to change. And the company has the benefit of an increasing number of female graduates to choose from.

More than half, 56 per cent to be exact, of the UAE's graduates in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (stem) courses at government universities are women.

That compares to only 35 per cent in the UK.

Ms Al Ameri, a chemical engineer, was one of 17 young women who joined the company more than a year ago in an intensive recruiting effort.

It is great to know you will inspire newer generations to join in five or 10 years
Shaima Al Ameri, Adnoc Drilling

Joining with other women made the transition into work easier.

“You know you are not alone,” she said.

“Thank goodness we are in a team who are really supportive, from supervisors to managers, VPs, they are super supportive.”

And Ms Al Ameri likes the idea that she will help pave a path for more female Emiratis to join.

“It is great to know you will inspire newer generations to join in five or 10 years,” she said.

“Half of my cousins are already choosing their career paths. One of them wants to work in international business. One of them will be a civil engineer.

“It’s really a different generation. If you saw five years ago, no one would have answered this type of question but right now everyone knows where they are going.”

Updated: February 09, 2022, 5:18 AM