From Saudi Arabia to Singapore: My journey to success in energy sector

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I was only 6 years old when I decided to work in the energy industry after becoming fascinated by the diverse and vibrant community of Saudi Aramco — a culture that I was exposed to thanks to my uncle, a former Aramco employee. 

Years later, I find myself leading a multinational workforce in one of the world’s largest shipping and oil trading hubs, having become the first woman to manage an overseas office of Aramco, one of the world’s leading integrated energy and chemicals companies. It is testament to the company’s efforts to develop a diversified workforce, and I am relishing the opportunity.

From managing the marketing of crude oil and liquefied petroleum gas, to driving the performance of Aramco’s suppliers, my team is developing and executing our corporate strategies in the Southeast Asia and Australasia regions. And we are working with innovative companies to provide and invest in supply chain expertise, as well as new technologies and services that will shape the energy sector of the future.

Singapore’s strategic location in Southeast Asia means it is key to unlocking the region’s vast potential — and we are focused on ensuring a stable supply of energy from Saudi Arabia to the places where it is needed, supporting the region’s economic expansion. Our office also acts as a bridge between Aramco and Southeast Asian companies, and with over 100 suppliers and contractors throughout the region, we continue to seek new partnerships.

Our work has continued throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, which broke out just months after I arrived in Singapore. Managing amid such unprecedented circumstances has stretched my capacity as a leader, but we have successfully overcome the challenge and have continued to supply our customers in Southeast Asia. For example, in 2020 Brunei Darussalam received delivery of its first-ever cargo of Arabian crude oil, purchased by Hengyi Industries. And in June 2021, state-owned PetroVietnam Gas received its first cargo of LPG, Aramco’s first direct hydrocarbon sale to Vietnam.

In a rapidly developing and highly competitive world, fostering diverse talent will help attract elite professionals who can drive new solutions to complex business challenges.

Marwa Al-Khuzaim

It is a long way from where I started out in human resources, where I spent eight years. From there, I transitioned to operations and customer services at Aramco Trading Company, becoming operations manager and, later, director of supply chain. The move from HR required intensive learning in a short time, and I pursued a master’s degree in international management in oil and gas to support my career advancement, which helped me on my journey to becoming managing director of Aramco Asia Singapore.

Embracing diverse talents

In addition to my personal growth, as a female manager it is my responsibility to ensure others have fair and equal opportunities to flourish and lead. It is a policy that has been instilled by Aramco, which recognizes the immense potential of a new generation of emerging female talent. An array of programs is available to thoroughly prepare women for every stage of their careers, from early-career mentorship to executive-level training. In Singapore, 50 percent of our leadership positions are held by women.

In my 19 years with the company, including more women in the decision-making process at the executive level has positively influenced day-to-day operations. Research has shown that removing barriers, and creating a diverse and inclusive workforce, not only ensures equity between employees, but also improves bottom-line business performance.

According to Deloitte, organizations with inclusive cultures are more likely to be innovative and agile, high-performing, achieve better business outcomes, and meet or exceed financial targets.

In a rapidly developing and highly competitive world, fostering diverse talent will help attract elite professionals who can drive new solutions to complex business challenges. For the global energy industry, diversity and inclusion are no longer luxuries but key ingredients for success.

• Marwa Al-Khuzaim is the managing director at Aramco Asia Singapore.