Sergio Saldívar
General Manager
AMEC Foster Wheeler

Adaptability of Employees is a Bonus

Wed, 01/20/2016 - 10:31

AMEC Foster Wheeler was born when UK consultancy, engineering, and project management firm AMEC acquired its Swiss rivals Foster Wheeler in a lucrative takeover in late 2014. As a result of the merger, the new company is prioritizing on diversifying services and recruiting new human capital in order to stay ahead of the future recovery of the oil and gas market. “Along with our partners in Houston, we have the necessary capabilities to tackle shallow waters but we also have many competitors in the market, some of which are extremely experienced in this field,” explains Sergio Saldívar, the company’s General Manager. He believes that the company’s most impacting projects will come in the deepwater phase, and is preparing for R1-L04 by sending employees to execution offices in other countries and by bringing employees from abroad to Mexico. “We still have a lot of time before this round to perfect our offerings and tailor them to the specifics of deepwater activities,” he shares. Although the first contracts will be awarded in 2016, industry experts widely believe that it will take a minimum of five to seven years before anything is built.

If AMEC Foster Wheeler will play against IOCs, Saldívar expects its role to be secondary since business development efforts and key accounts are handled within the higher levels of the company. Nonetheless, he expects the company to constitute an important tool, as it possesses the necessary resources in Mexico. “There may be some advantages in terms of local content requirements, although this would not be articulated as a fixed rule,” Saldívar discloses. “In terms of execution, we will play a limited role, initially only carrying out 20-30% of the job for the simple reason that we need to learn.” According to Saldívar, now is the most opportune time the industry has seen in years for new entrants, and he looks forward to taking advantage of the opportunities it may present, despite the setbacks.

The General Manager believes that his job and the way in which he approaches problems have been significantly altered. Although his activities have not significantly changed, this has not been the case in terms of reporting and long-term planning. “My biggest lesson over the past few months and years concerns the importance of human capital and talent,” he asserts. “It is vital to find the right person for a given job, and forcing someone into a position or trying to develop them for a certain role is not feasible in this kind of environment.” Jobs must be distributed to different people, he says, who must in turn be relied on.

He places great importance in the ability to trust in teams, and change elements when necessary.

Although one of the main concerns in the industry is a potential talent war, Saldívar is not worried about the company’s ability to attract the most qualified human capital due to its advantage of being an attractive brand. He compares working in the company to being employed by major players such as KBR or ICA Fluor. “Before AMEC Foster Wheeler was formed, we could not afford to compete, but now we can and we are heavily investing in this,” he reveals. “While ICA Fluor is a mature and established company, we are experiencing strong growth, allowing us to offer high-ranking positions from the outset.” Furthermore, he cites a formula of three components that seem to attract human capital without fail: competitive compensation, challenging employment, and provision of training programs. AMEC brought in an online training tool called “The Academy”, which contains an incredible amount of training resources, for employees. Saldívar shares that the employee feedback from staff testifies to the fact that AMEC Foster Wheeler jobs are among the most challenging in the industry.

Although mergers can be a difficult experience for employees, Saldívar believes that two factors have played to the company’s favor. Most of the company’s longterm employees are extremely flexible and adaptable, he boasts, due largely to AMEC Foster Wheeler’s long history of change, including joint ventures, mergers, and acquisitions. Another factor is AMEC relatively new presence in Mexico, which largely facilitated the integration with Foster Wheeler’s Mexican branch. “In 2020 you should be looking at a much more consolidated company structure,” Saldívar shares. “I hope we will be in the middle of executing very large projects, such as the Salina Cruz reconfiguration, which is truly one of our main goals.” The General Manager would also like to be engaged in the development of a deepwater field or a large shallow water project, as well as operating units on smaller, industrial projects in pharmaceuticals, food and beverages, and perhaps mining.