Atif Rehman, Operations Manager, Exterran, is a participant in the Council’s Middle East Executive Leadership Program. He recently shared his insights on the energy services and technology sector.
COUNCIL: Why did you join the oil and gas industry? Was there an individual who influenced your decision? Was there an event or piece of technology that got you excited?
ATIF REHMAN: When I graduated from university, the oil and gas industry was in one of its best times. Despite several options like automotive or petrochemicals, I chose to join the third largest oil producer in Pakistan. My uncle, who was a professor of English literature as well as my first mentor, advised me to join the oil and gas industry and I’ve never regretted that decision.
COUNCIL: What individual has been most instrumental in helping with your career? What did their mentorship look like and how did it guide your path?
AR: My first-ever boss became my mentor. He was a disciplined leader who always kept his focus on getting things done. He was an old school person imbued with values like integrity and “walk the talk.” He was the chief engineer of nine oil and gas plants including three operating rigs, and he allowed me to get involved in challenging tasks like planning and budgeting operations and maintenance annual budgets (over $100 million), inventory management and optimization (over $1 billion), organizing the plants’ data, facilities upgrade projects, shutdowns and digital transformation of business. I got several performance awards and earned three straight promotions under his leadership.
COUNCIL: What was your impression of the industry beforehand and how has it evolved?
AR: I am always proud to be the part of oil and gas industry, and over the 20 years of my career this industry has taught excellent lessons. Despite the vicissitudes, the industry continued to evolve — health, safety and environmental aspects have improved and modernized. The technology has made massive leaps, new routes for personnel training and development opened up, the pursuit of global environmental sustainability has changed the dynamics of expenditure, and above all the industry adopted key behaviors like resilience, collaboration, short- and long-term strategic initiatives and discipline.
COUNCIL: What has surprised you most about the industry?
AR: People who bring diversity and fast-paced innovation into the oil and gas industry. It’s fascinating how the oil and gas industry is continuously meeting the challenges of ever-changing standards, processes, functions, values, business strategies, technological advancement, high-end solutions, reliability, design and operations. These are all globally connected and communicated by smart people of this industry.
COUNCIL: Where do you hope to see the industry develop over the next five years?
AR: I am an optimist, and I believe that after successfully confronting the recent crisis and downturns, the industry will stand tall and evolve further. I think oil and gas people understand the paradox “comfortable being uncomfortable.”
COUNCIL: What role do you believe you will play in the industry’s future?
AR: I earned a leadership role by my commitment, self-assurance and self-accountability in the work I have done in my career. Every step I took, every word I learn, read and deliver, every dull moment and all successes so far is proof of my dedication to this industry. I would like to keep this intensity of involvement and deepen it further. With my leadership skills and style, I would like to drive energy sustainability, strengthening people and processes and create a business based on intellect, collaboration and realism. There could be more challenging times for the industry, the growth could be slower, and competition will be sterner. Adapting to digitization and risk management will become a top priority, and I’m confident I’ll be part of leading the industry in the right direction.
COUNCIL: How has your involvement in the Council supported your career goals?
AR: I have been actively involved in the Council’s programs, and it’s been a great journey so far. The Council’s programs are designed by industry experts to cater to the needs of leaders of today and the future.
COUNCIL: What’s a technology or innovation you’ve seen in the sector that impressed you?
AR: Augmented reality, remote monitoring and innovation in the data security over the past few years impressed me a lot. I am a big fan of digital business transformation and always keep myself up to date with the latest in the field of AI and business digitization.
COUNCIL: What advice would you give someone just getting started in the oil and gas industry?
AR: I believe oil and gas is a vibrant, challenging, and demanding business. For someone new to the industry, spending time in the field to obtain practical information is important. In parallel, I would recommend keeping up to date with the technology, innovation and analytics.
COUNCIL: What do you wish other people knew about oil and gas?
AR: Oil and gas is a field filled with engineers, skilled technicians, business leaders, financial professionals and entrepreneurs. The industry provides huge learning, development and career growth opportunities for high potential individuals and helps improve the personal capability and knowledge base. It also helps drive our world’s economy and provides ample bandwidth to achieve environmental sustainability by deploying the right technology, advanced design and state-of-the-art equipment and services.
COUNCIL: What’s a fun fact that people would never guess about you?
AR: Most people don’t know that I like to sing and have performed onstage multiple times.