Saudi, land of oil… and engineers

Saudi, land of oil… and engineers

19 September 2019
Engineer KSA Saudi Arabia Vision 2030
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In Saudi, being an engineer is more than any profession. With “Saudi Vision 2030” plan to reduce Saudi Arabia’s dependence on oil and diversify its economy, Saudi engineers are becoming a rare commodity that companies are queueing for.

Amr Fahmy and Taqiadden Almuntaser are part of this army of engineers who are shaping Saudi’s future. The former, a mechanical engineer holding an MBA in international management, is Assystem’s business development director, working on major infrastructure projects in tourism and entertainment. The latter, manager of the BIM department at Assystem Radicon, is also a lecturer at the Building engineering department of Imam Abdulrahman Ibn Faisal University in Dammam.

Building the future of Saudi Arabia

The King understood it clearly – Saudi engineers are the key to the country’s future. Indeed, Amr recognizes that Saudi Arabia was long – and is still – mainly relying on oil and gas. But with the coming exhaustion of oil supplies, the country must go ahead and develop other industries (tourism, energy, entertainment, food industry, …) in order to increase its independence towards foreign countries. The country is currently incentivizing companies to localize their industries, to create their own factories locally rather than import external goods. Hence a need for engineers.

In order to implement this “Saudi Vision 2030” plan, engineers are called in from all over the world. But hiring foreign engineers only would be too short-term. Indeed, “Saudi Vision 2030” puts emphasis on local resources and people. “The last few decades, the country has suffered from a shortage of qualified Saudi engineers. But we are trying to rectify the situation” explains Amr. Today, the number of engineering students is increasing, opening doors to women too in order to meet demand.

But this sudden increase comes with issues. “Saudi engineers are competent, but they can lack experience. They need to build up field capacities, learning from practical solutions and experienced foreign engineers. Moreover, they are usually more expensive to hire than engineers coming from other countries” adds Amr. So, to encourage companies on the Saudi soil to primarily hire Saudian employees, the government classified them according to a “Saudization percentage”. Firms must include a minimum of 25, 30 or 35% of Saudi employees in order to be allowed to participate in tenders. And for some governmental projects, this percentage must apply at a team level too. However, this “positive discrimination” is far from being the only reason companies tend to favor Saudi engineers over foreigners.

A competitive advantage in their own country

As both a teacher and a manager, Taqiadden has noticed an interesting trait: the implication of Saudi engineers comes from a deeper motivation than other nationalities. “They bear a double responsibility: towards their company and their country at the same time. They want to be part of the country’s development.” A characteristic that Saudi companies can really benefit from.

Moreover, in Amr’s opinion, the informal work culture in Saudi can be perceived as a challenge for foreigners. “In the West, for instance, meetings are more formal, with documentation shared upstream and minutes sent afterward. Instructions are clear, bids’ requirements are defined. In Saudi Arabia, business happens more in oral than in writing. Projects can be intentionally ambiguous. Teams have to be thorough, to read between the lines and ask questions to the clients in order to clarify the scope and better understand their expectations.”

In fact, intuition and personal relationships matter much more than in Western countries. “Business is very personal in the Middle East, even between the most advanced and educated people” explains Amr. “We need to work very hard throughout the years to understand the client and serve him, even if it doesn’t pay off right away. But the day we are in trouble, this very client will help us.”

Last but not least, the job doesn’t end with the last stone or coat of paint. One of the key competencies Taqiadden teaches his students is how to develop their communication skills and be successful as engineers. As Amr explains, “explanations are essential for the project to be considered a success. Engineers must show patience and pedagogy, explaining to the client what they did, why and how they did it, …”




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Amr Fahmy

Business Development Director, Saudi Arabia, UAE and Egypt Assystem

Taqiadden Almuntaser

BIM Manager Assystem Radicon

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