Everything is possible
February 22 2021 12:29 AM
Mohamed Ahmed al-Hammadi
Mohamed Ahmed al-Hammadi

By Mohamed Ahmed al-Hammadi

Some 15 years ago, I was interviewed for a job out of my academic background in a company called Maersk Oil and the interviewer was the Director of Drilling Department, Hans Flikkemah. The position was a Drilling Engineer role whereas my qualification and work experience were in the Aeronautical Engineering domain, as I was holding a Higher Diploma in that field.
His opening statement was: “Son, what brought you from 40,000ft in the sky to 40,000ft under the ground?” That put a puzzling smile on my face, as I truly didn’t have an answer, nor I knew what was drilling engineering, or even how oil was extracted from the ground.
He asked me to draw on the board my imagination of how oil was extracted from the ground. Not having the knowledge, my imagination didn’t help me really, yet I tried a couple of attempts from what I remembered from cartoons I’ve seen in my childhood and depending on commonsense.
Then, he explained to me that in this job they have hired over 10 nationals along the years, and they all discontinued the onboarding and resigned or changed their careers as it is a very challenging field and a very hard job to perform mentally, physically and emotionally. More importantly, it has a language of its own, a culture that’s very unique and a risky code of conduct.
By that time, I was still employed in a steady job which I knew the ins and outs of, developed a network and credibility for what I was doing in my area for the national carrier Qatar Airways. My pay wasn’t satisfactory, but my career path was clear and my superiors were understanding. And honestly, I went for the interview just to know what is my worth in the market, with no intention to really move out of my job.
Hans asked me, “Why would you want to work for Maersk Oil and why in this industry and why this job?”
I answered, “Maersk Oil is an international company, the industry is the main income of the country and this job seems very interesting after you explained to me.”
He said, “Not that you are qualified for it, but there is something in your eyes! I will hire you for your potential.” That gave me a huge sense of responsibility, and a great deal of appreciation and an element of gratitude that the Director sees that in me! Before receiving the offer, I resigned from my job and I didn’t negotiate the offer as I just couldn’t wait to work for Hans.
I joined the new company, to notice that Hans treats all the same, he had his coffee with all, he took his breaks with all, he has little secrets and a bonding relationship with all. Not only that, young engineers would compete and queue to have a mentoring session with him. He was supportive, collaborative, assertive, sharp, a delegator, and would take the blame for any of his employees’ mistakes and would always appraise and show gratitude to his employees. Even if the achievement was small, he would celebrate it and make everyone know about it.
In 2009, our team managed to drill the longest well in the world, that entered the Guinness World Records, over 40,000ft long oil well. That is the distance from Sharq Hotel to Lusail City in Qatar, just for perspective. We achieved 13 years of 0 safety incidents and the team grew from 23 to 50 specialised individuals and from 0 nationals to 7.
After three years, I was done with my training to be the first Qatari graduating from Drilling Offshore Programme, drilling over 40 wells in Alshaheen field. I thought I was on top of the world and I had achieved it all. He asked me for a one-on-one and he said, “Now you know the people, you have a seat and technically you went through one of best programmes, do you think you are ready to do the job?” And my answer was filled with confidence, “Yes.” He said “Mohamed, you don’t have a Bachelor’s Degree, that will be a career bottleneck for you in the future as qualification is as important as work experience”. 
He asked me to search for a university that would accept me to further complete my studies. I found it, my request was approved and, in a few months, I was a full-time student at Coventry University studying Strategic Management, and nine months later, I graduated.
I came back from my studies, finding that he has prepared me a senior role within the team to manage the supply chain and contracts of the department. After 2 years, he gave me the responsibilities of the Integrated Operational Planning of the department. He encouraged me to be the spokesman of the department, he made me lead the teambuilding activities and I was in charge of the young engineers who joined the drilling team. He took me with him to meet shareholders, the CEOs of other companies, and directors of other departments. In 2016, I received over 10 offers internally and externally to work for others, but I was convinced that I am in the right place. He told me, “in life, there is more than one person to work for, one company to be loyal to and one profession to find your sense of purpose in.”
Hans was a reason for me to be a better person, an effective employee, multi-talented, connected to an effective network, achieving many glories, winning in a lot of fields. He was a father figure, an older brother, a coach and by all means a great leader. He didn’t do it by the book, he lived and loved what he did, his conduct was genuine and the results he achieved were incredible. He hired me for my potential because he saw something in my eyes, he trained me, qualified me, and upgraded me professionally.
I wish all leaders were like Hans. I wish all employees were led by Hans. Or since I’m wishing, I wish we all collaborate to nurture skills, to develop people, to focus on our relationships, to aid each other, to achieve together and to let CB become an example for other companies. If you have an interest to know more about different leadership styles and conducts, explore Simon Sinek, a leading name in the field of Leadership Development.

* The writer is Unit Head National Development | National Talent Development. This piece was shared by him as part of a ‘Weekly Reading’ initiative at Commercial Bank.

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