A Georgetown University in Qatar (GU-Q) alumnus, Ibrahim al-Derbasti, has reflected on how his education helped him deliver solutions for the blockade and Covid-19 pandemic.
Al-Derbasti has forged a successful career at Shell and found the opportunity to give back to his community and country.
Driving about an hour-and-a-half north of Doha, one will arrive in the quiet coastal city of Ras Laffan, home of the Pearl GTL plant, a joint development by Qatar Petroleum and Shell and the largest Gas-to-Liquids (GTL) energy plant in the world. The multi-billion dollar project has made Qatar the GTL capital of the world.
“It is also where Qatari national Ibrahim al-Derbasti, a graduate of QF partner GU-Q, has forged a successful career and found the opportunity to give back to his community and to his country, in times of national crisis and great adversity,” GU-Q said in a statement.
Al-Derbasti combined an international affairs education at GU-Q with business training through an MBA from Cambridge to become the deputy general manager for contracts and procurement at Shell in Ras Laffan, where he is in charge of all company supply chain (SC) activities for the $20bn Pearl GTL plant in Ras Laffan. He oversees seven distinct SC units: engineering & maintenance, turnaround, capital projects, catalyst & chemicals, corporate services & logistics, market intelligence and wells.
Asked how a degree in international affairs could lead to a career in the energy sector, al-Derbasti answers: “Studying the liberal arts at GU-Q gives you this well-rounded education that sets you up for whatever career or education you want to pursue.”
That education included school sports, Model United Nations, co curricular activities, and just the right degree programme for his plans. “At GU-Q, you realise most of our political drivers are hard wired on economics. In Qatar, the main driver is energy and natural gas. So I decided that I wanted to join the best gas company. At that time and still true today, that’s Shell.”
While an undergrad, “I kept hearing over and over that I had to become a lifelong learner, which I just thought was something they tell all students because it sounded good. But it turns out they meant it,” al-Derbasti said.
That realisation came when he entered the workforce and found himself a novice among co-workers with 30 years of experience. “There was this moment of shock, where I had to really question how I was going to catch up with people who were so far ahead of me professionally. I realised that part of being a lifelong learner meant you have to close your knowledge gaps, become proactive and enable yourself to accelerate and excel in your organisation.”
As he rose through the ranks in Qatar Shell to his first team leadership role in contracts and procurement for logistics and corporate services, he experienced his first major professional crisis, testing his skills and knowledge and challenging him to develop innovative solutions. “We got hit by the blockade and had to remap and rechannel our entire supply chain because 90% was from inland. We were a peninsula, but we had to operate as an island.”
As a result of the company’s team-based efforts, he explained: “There was zero disruption to our operations. To have that outcome makes me really proud.”
Al-Derbasti describes that success as one of the two proudest moments of his career. The second happened with a different kind of crisis: the Covid-19 pandemic. Using his expertise in procurement, he helped secure 20 metric tonnes of the chemicals needed to run disinfection operations on Qatar’s roads. He proudly displays the ‘thank you’ letter that the Public Works Authority (Ashghal) sent to Shell for their efforts.
“When I graduated from Georgetown, I had this tremendous drive to do something, to contribute somehow, but I was not sure where or how. Now, I’ve gained this great education and I’m part of the oil and gas industry via this international company - it’s a responsibility to leverage that knowledge & experience, to make sure you translate that into tangible contributions to your country. My education has allowed me to help other people, and to have the impact that I want.”
When he reflects on these experiences, he says, “I feel humbled. And satisfied. Yet determined to continue to grow and learn.”
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