27 MAR 2021
Raising the next generation to lead the UAE’s power and water sector
The conversation on sustainability usually centers around cutting carbon emissions and increasing renewables. However, sustainability goes past this to thinking about tomorrow’s future leaders.
Businesses and countries targeting economic diversification, such as the UAE, focus on succession planning to ensure a steady stream of Emiratis to lead the sector into the next 50 years and beyond.
The departure rate of CEOs at the world’s 2,500 largest publicly traded companies in 2000 was 12.9%, but only half were planned, according to research by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC). Fast-forward eight years to 2018, and overall turnovers climbed to 17.5%. However, planned successions drastically increased to make up nearly 70% of that figure.
There is no one way to plan for the next round of leaders. Secondments and job rotations can test employees’ adaptability and flexibility, while pushing to extend further than the original scope of work. It also provides the ability for professionals in emerging markets to work with more mature firms alongside experienced professionals with international experience.
This is what helped shape Majd Al Menhali, Chief Financial Officer for Mirfa International Power and Water Company (MIPCO), which operate Al Mirfa power generation and desalination plant with a capacity of 1.6 MW and 53 MIGD on behalf of owners TAQA (60%), ADFG (20%) and Engie (20%). He has fostered a culture of teamwork and implemented internal controls and processes, which he says are key to his success. Yet these skills didn’t come overnight. Al Menhali says many were learned during a secondment to ExxonMobil in Houston, changing his views on how organizations are run.
“Give yourself time to learn as much as you can,” he says adding that it’s important to recognize when it’s time to move on so that you always look to innovate rather than stagnate.
This is just one step in a leadership succession plan, many of which start right at the point of hire. Proactive companies pinpoint candidates, help them develop professionally and even get them to consider their replacement when they move on to the next challenge.
Yet, succession planning isn’t just about a handover. It takes shape in knowledge transfer.
A few questions after graduating a scholarship program led Alawi Al Jefri to his current position.
A leader from the program asked him where he saw himself. “Do you want to go to routine corporate work, do you want to work on operational assets, such as oil and gas, or are you seeking some exciting opportunities,” Al Jefri recounts.
And these questions are what led him to diving deeper into where he saw his path, leading him to positions with Mubadala and Masdar. He was able to work on exciting projects such as Hydrogen Power Abu Dhabi and London Array. He also spent time in Senegal and Jordan gaining skills from waste-to-energy projects before seizing the opportunity at Al Taweelah Refining. He then joined Abu Dhabi Power Company, which merged with TAQA in 2020, and stepped into the EMD role at the Fujairah Asia Power Company (FAPCO). The project company, majority owned by TAQA, operates the Fujairah 2 power generation and desalination plant with a capacity of 2.1 GW and 53 MIGD.
“I’m lucky – my experience with each of these entities was quite good for me,” Al Jefri says. “It has enriched and broadened my experience.”
He uses those questions to help prepare his employees today, asking where they see themselves when they retire. Al Jefri says that he wants to encourage his staff to lay the foundation to build a path leading them to that goal. “I tell them that once you see an opportunity, make sure you grab it. Enjoy and maximize the experience so you have no regrets about missed opportunities.”
It’s the same for Abdulla Al Khemeiri, Executive Managing Director of Arabian Power Company, which operates the Umm Al Nar power generation and water desalination plant with a capacity of 2.2 GW and 95 MIGD. He says having clarity about your current role coupled with future objectives and targets is necessary for all levels.
Companies that practiced successful succession planning approached it as developmental rather than a replacement process. And this is what Al Khemeiri hopes will help the UAE’s future power and water sector.
His advice to the next generation: “You need to not only understand your existing role, but how you’d like it to evolve into for the future.”
By AbdulAziz Al Obaidli, Director of UAE Asset Management at TAQA Group