Sarah Halima Bouzid is the Technical Sales Lead: Production Systems Division, SLB.
Service companies play an increasingly more important role in supporting the development of large-scale energy projects in Africa. In these companies, individuals such as Sarah Halima Bouzid – who currently serves as the Technical Sales Lead: Production Systems Division at SLB – demonstrate the central role women play in bringing new levels of innovation and expertise to the industry. Bouzid is featured on this year’s list of the 25 Under 40 Energy Women Rising Stars.
Please share a brief overview of your journey in the energy industry that led to your current role? What are some key achievements or milestones that you are particularly proud of?
I hold a Chemical Engineering degree from the Prestigious Boumerdes’ University, Faculty of Oil and Chemistry, in Algeria. I started my career in the energy sector as a Process Operation Engineer at Sonatrach. My position was a Facility Supervisor which consisted mainly of planning and supervising the daily operations execution. It was an epic and very interesting experience from which I learnt a lot, both on the personal and technical side. I had to undertake a unique experience as the first and only female Process Engineer in that field, supervising a team of men with more experience than myself.
My only motivation was and still is to excel in my work and develop skills that allow me to take the next step in my career. My purely technical experience at Sonatrach helped me secure the Audit to Optimize Role at SLB, which basically can be described as Technical Sales Engineer that integrates both the technical career I had to the sales career I was about to discover. I spent two years and a half in this position setting the main building blocks of SLB strategy in the process equipment and technologies domain within NAF.
Now, I am working as Services Sales Lead for SLB Production systems’ Division within North Africa Region with a main focus on the process systems and technologies aftermarket services. Any ordeal experienced during my university studies or professional career journey is unique and forms a rich and diverse experience. However, among these, I consider that one of my greatest accomplishments was my contribution to the implementation of an energy management system according to the ISO 50001 standard in a natural gas processing unit back when I worked for SH. The approach was related to a large-scale reform because it reflects the company’s commitment to reduce its carbon footprint and impact on the climate.
The task required not only teamwork and a great knowledge of engineering and operations processes but also to dedicate many working hours outside of day-to-day work. I led a multidisciplinary team and were able to successfully be awarded the ISO 50001 certification for the Energy Management during 2019.
The energy industry is known for its complexities. What were some significant challenges you faced along the way, and how did you navigate through them to achieve your goals?
As a woman Process Engineer it was not easy for me to come through the energy sector. I was the youngest, first and only female process operations engineer when I started my career. Many people around me were astonished and sometimes not even willing to cooperate. But little by little, they came to understand – I was there to help solve problems and not to hide behind the scenes, and accepted the fact that a woman can also be as talented as the most talented man.
And honestly speaking, I believe women meet more obstacles than men especially when it comes to making a decision related to their careers. And to go further in their professional journeys, they are more required to concede than men do in most cases.
I can cite lack of flexibility, balancing work and family, for instance. And let me mention some numbers here: According to a study conducted by McKinsey in 2020, women make up just 15% of the world’s oil and gas workforce, 17% of the power and utilities sector and 32% of the renewable energy workforce. In Africa and the Middle East, only 9% of women are in senior management positions in the energy sector with gender diversity decreasing with seniority. Women make up less than 8% of technical jobs in the oil and gas. The contrast here, is that the oil and gas industry has always been more of a man-dominated sector. It’s only some couple of years ago, when more women started to be interested in pursuing a career in the energy sector.
However, we witness that leaders understand that for a sustainable business, we need more balance in gender equity. Women now are more encouraged to go beyond the limits established by the society unconscious biases than ever before. It is curious and very important to see how much of advantages can be generated when giving the chance to women to see what’s new they can bring to the table.
What advice would you give to young females aspiring to excel in the energy sector? Are there any specific strategies or mindsets that helped you overcome obstacles and reach your current position?
I cannot think of any better advice than to believe in themselves, always accept to be challenged and try to widen their curiosity to develop themselves and aspire for more.
A career in energy can be demanding. Could you describe a typical day in your life?
A busy day is a very typical day in SLB. We are a service company, and I am the Sales Lead, hence, I need to be on top of my daily work tasks and schedules as it is necessary to be very keen to help my customers on a daily basis.
During a typical work week, one of my biggest tasks is checking and assessing progress on various projects, make a list of priorities as I also attend a weekly meeting where I present the on-going projects’ progress to the executive board.
My schedule varies widely every day. I run technical and sales group sessions internally and with clients, I also spend few hours training during the day and completing my monthly targets.
Looking ahead, what changes or advancements do you hope to see in the energy sector, and how do you envision your role in shaping that future?
I hope to see more women in leadership. It is important to highlight that there is no shortage of qualified women to fill leadership roles: women make up almost half or more of Algerian labor force, and I believe it is the same case within most of the African countries. They outnumber men in earning engineering/master’s degrees, medical and legal degrees, as well. Yet, from the courts to hospitals and universities, women remain underrepresented in senior leadership roles.
I have been in this role for some months and I believe I can and must be an inspiration for the younger generation by my leadership style which is, in my opinion, more about setting direction, building inspiring vision and mapping out the way to win as a “team” or “organization” by using a set of management skills and tools. So, it depends principally on to what extent a person is able to put this set of skills into practice and how efficient their leadership strategy/style is.