Dedication to the core

An early start, learning from mentors and hard work have helped Mohammed Al Shaqsi, Project Manager, Carillion Alawi  leave a mark during his formative stage in career
The first thing that strikes you about Mohammed Al Shaqsi is his enthusiasm and ‘can do’ demeanour. As we catch up with him on the inaugural day of the Oman Convention and Exhibition Centre (OCEC), he is keen to show us the state-of-the-art facilities. A quick round of the OCEC and we settle in for an interview. A civil engineer from the Caledonian College of Engineering, he started his career at the age of 21 in 2009 with Parsons International. Having worked with Carillion Alawi for the last five and a half years, he is now a senior project manager with the company. “I always wanted to work for a contractor, and started as a site inspector at Parsons International driven by a desire to get involved with stones and glasses. I applied to Carillion Alawi and was accepted as a senior engineer at the Muscat Airport Project. When I started my career in 2009, I was approaching my last year in my degree course and wanted to embark on an early career.” Mohammed started as a part time site inspector and it posed a challenge as he had to balance between his studies, attending classes and a demanding job, though studying and working simultaneously had an advantage as he could translate what he learned during his course at the workplace, the latter helped him put the practical aspects in his thesis. “I started working for Carillion Alawi’s airport project, where I was given the task of looking at the outside work of the airport project as a senior engineer. After six months, my skills and strengths were recognised and I was asked to relocate to the building side.”
His work at the airport project helped him scale the corporate ladder fast, and he was promoted as a project manager at Oman Convention and Exhibition Centre (OCEC). Initially, he was given the responsibility to look after a certain portion of the work, worth RO20mn, but as the project progressed his responsibilities grew manifold and he was made the senior project manager, with the responsibility of supervising all the project managers. Enumerating his challenges he says that he faced four main challenges. One, the team working at OCEC was huge and multicultural, while he had only four years of experience. He had to manage people with long experience, different skill sets and knowledge. He was also tasked with taking care of health and safety requirements, welfare and retention of the people apart from giving them growth opportunities, and he had to learn these skills. Second, was to develop an ability to see the big picture. He had to start understanding financials like budgets, P&L, planning, cost plus the contractual awareness of things. Third, was building relationships with contracts, sub-contractors, suppliers, client, operator etc. It was vital to understand nurture relationships, build bridges, connections and network, and this was another ability that he had to gain and learn in a short span. Fourth, was maintaining his credibility – since he was trusted and tasked with a challenging assignment, he had to work very hard to learn to maintain that trust.
Speaking about his strengths Mohammed says, “I have a strong work ethic and it was necessary for me to maintain attitude, enthusiasm and learning. I also had to strike a balance between my personal life and work and it was necessary for me to negotiate various challenges. I have an ability to function as a leader as I can inspire and motivate others. I can see the big picture and manage a good balance between short term and long term plans, whether they are personal or professional. Finally, I keep calm in the face of the most stressful of situations. I have the ability to build relationships and a network, ties etc. professionally or with the community.”
He counts quite a few people amongst his mentors. In his formative years, he followed in the footsteps of his father – Saif al Shaqsi, who inspired and guided him. “My father works for the government but he has an engineering office and he worked tirelessly day and night. During my summer holidays and recess, I used to work for my father.” Professionally, he has learned a lot from his seniors. “I have been inspired by two people. David Newell is the operations director of Carillion Alawi. When he saw me advancing in my career he asked me about my goals and aspirations in life, and he gave me an advice that has stayed with me. He told me, ‘Mohammed you need to walk before you can run.’ This has always been in my head. The second advice that he gave me was that one needs to understand one’s trade to excel in it.” Neil has over 40 years of experience in the business. “He is a wise man. He pushed me a lot and stretched my knowledge and responsibility.”
The other person who inspired Mohammed is Stuart Prosser, project director, Carillion Alawi. He admires the way Proca manages his team, various projects, challenges and milestones. “I have been directed by him and been given multiple challenges by him. He has delegated responsibility and empowered me.”
Simon Pritchard, a former Carillion Alawi operation director, has been another person who has left an imprint on him. “He was the project director of the Majlis project. He was my first mentor and an outstanding leader. I used to meet him for a briefing every month and whenever I came back after meeting him, I used to come back with a lot of self-belief and confidence, about having an ability to achieve things as he trusted me a lot. These three people have been key people in my professional life.” Mohammed feels proud of working for Carillion Alawi and sees himself growing in the coming years within its fold.
Looking at what Oman has to offer to young Omanis, he feels that there are immense opportunities in Oman. The private sector according to him offers various growth avenues and it is for the nationals to grab these opportunities. “Since His Majesty took over in 1970 there have always been opportunities for Omanis both in the government and private sector. As per Oman Vision 2020 and now Vision 2030 a lot of investment is going to come into business and infrastructure of the country. The country is looking at diversifying its economic base and there are a number of new sectors that are opening up,” he says.
His advice to young Omanis is to keep challenging and developing themselves apart from being on the lookout for new opportunities. They have to demonstrate skills like having the right attitude and work ethic, so that they can be trusted. It is important to be determined and dedicated apart from having an early career. “Omanis are fearful about joining the private sector because of the economic environment, but they need to understand that there is hardly any risk as the government has put in place various mechanisms that will ensure the progress and development of the private sector.”
According to Mohammed, the NTI BizPro programme’s assessment process is fantastic and he learned a lot from it. “Getting such recognition and awards takes skills, knowledge and experience. Moreover, it is good for Omanis to be recognised as it motivates them.” Though Mohammed has taken remarkable strides at an early age, seeing him one feels that he is just getting started.

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