Name: Razzak Al-Gurnawi

Job Title: Project Engineer

Years of Experience: 2 years

Company: Maersk Oil

What do you do, and why did you decide to pursue this career?

I am currently working as a project engineer for Maersk Oil. This basically means that I get to do a bit of everything! I get involved in a project at different stages depending on needs and usually have a part of the project that I am responsible for. This responsibility can be very broad and can involve anything from technical issues, logistics or managing the interface with other parts of the project and outside parties. I even had to run to a hardware shop once to find a small valve fitting!

I enjoy being a project engineer because of the variety it offers. Projects have a definitive start and an end and this means you are always moving to the next thing, which can be very exciting!

What is a Project Engineer?

A project engineer is the link between engineering and project management. We tend to be responsible for a part of the project, where we direct the technical teams to help deliver a certain piece of work and making sure it fits in with the overall project.

The role tends to be very varied and can include anything from preparation and planning of the work scopes to being the “man on the ground” working together with vendors ensuring the smooth execution of the work. One of the major responsibilities of a project engineer is to make sure that activities between disciplines are coordinated and the different teams are talking to each other. This ensures that the work package is delivered on time, on budget and to the quality standard required.

What type of Skills is someone required to have to work in your position?

The key skill for this role is communication. A project engineer must be able to communicate effectively with all the parties he is involved in, providing the right level of detail where required. For example, the project manager is not likely to be very interested whether you purchased a stainless steel bolt or a carbon steel bolt. All he would need to know is the fact that all the required fastenings are on order and will arrive on time. A metallurgist working on the project however will find this information to be very important and it can have significant impacts on the overall project.

Secondly, having a “can do” attitude is certainly helpful. Being somebody who can push things forward and get a job done is certainly a very desirable attribute. Additionally, it is important to be commercially minded, particularly early on in the project. As the liaison between the technical discipline and the project manager, it is important to understand what implications certain technical recommendations carry with them.

Project engineers also tend to specialise in a certain field of work, e.g. drilling equipment, marine systems, mechanical equipment, etc.

What do you do on a typical day?

That is very much dependant on the project. There are usually a lot of team meetings where progress on all work packages are discussed, problems are raised, etc. There are meetings and telephone calls with vendors to discuss requirements, progress and other issues. There is also a lot of discussion with technical disciplines to understand what their concerns are and how to best address these. The role also involves a lot of document drafting and review.

What type of Person is best suited to your job?

Somebody who is flexible and who is not scared about getting their hands dirty. The role often requires people to do unexpected things which they did not plan for. Having a core discipline is also very important as it ensures that effective communication can take place with vendors and technical disciplines.

Do you have any advice for those looking to start a career in your job?

I would recommend that they approach it with a background in a certain discipline. I would also recommend that they give it a try if an opportunity arises to see if you like it. It definitely is not for everybody.

What is the highlight of your career so far?

A personal highlight (fun moment) for me was load testing a crane on a drilling rig to 220 tons using water bags. I was involved in the upgrade of the crane and before it could be operated, I had to test it to ensure that it is safe. Given the sheer weight of the test load, the operation had to be planned weeks in advance! Big enough water bags had to be found first and delivered to site. Because of the size and quantity of the water, many bags had to be used and the rigging took a whole day. The shackles and wire rope used to connect everything were extremely heavy and could barely be lifted by hand! Filling the water bags took us over 15 hours and only then did I really appreciate the extent of the test. Each bag was the size of a swimming pool and there were many of them hanging from the crane. From a height of 40 meters all the way down to the water surface.

Finally pulling the release ropes to let all the water out after the test marked the end of the entire crane upgrade and was really satisfying!

What is the typical entry route into your role?

Either as a technical engineer working on a project or being hired as a project engineer directly.

What subjects would you recommend students study at school for your career?

I would primarily recommend maths and the sciences as a solid basis for any aspiring engineer. These are the most important subjects that you can study. These should give you a solid grounding in the disciplines that you will need while studying or working. Secondary to these are subjects like economics or business studies which help round off your skillset.
If you intend to work in a particular region or country, being able to speak the language is particularly useful. Additionally, being fluent and able to effectively communicate in English is extremely important as it is the international language of business.

What is good about working in the Energy sector?

It is an industry that gives you the chance to expand and develop professionally. It is a tightly knit community that encourages personal development at every step of the way. It is also very international, so you have the opportunity to meet many different people from diverse backgrounds.

What does the future hold for person in your career?

There are many extremely interesting projects on the horizon in many different companies. Each of these will be very different and interesting in its own way. While it is difficult to say exactly what I will be doing, I can be sure of one thing. I won’t be bored!

Do you get to travel globally in your role? If yes, tell us about where you have been on are going.

My role has required extensive travel globally. I have worked in Scotland, Denmark, Azerbaijan and I am currently in Houston. Sometimes you can live out of a suitcase for extended periods of time.

Any last advice for anyone wanting to pursue your career?

No matter what you decide to pursue, I would recommend that you keep your eyes open for any opportunities around you that you are not necessarily aiming for. You never know what you may be missing if you blindly aim for one thing only. It is worth trying a few things to see what you really like to do.