Ria Yetsenga

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‘Be inspired and then help someone else grow’

The human factor

Recently, I met Mohamad and Bianca, who both work at SBM Offshore. Mohamad – an engineer from Syria with a Dutch-based Master’s in sustainable energy technology – found his job at SBM Offshore through Talent voor Transitie and their partnership with Refugee Talent Hub. Bianca is SBM Offshore’s group compliance officer and an enthusiastic Diversity & Inclusion champion.

Mohamad started off by introducing himself as ‘human’, setting the scene for the conversation we were about to have. An interesting choice of words, that developed into the common thread through this story. We, as humans, make a difference; technology on its own does not serve a purpose. But being human also means: it is our common ground. We are all humans, with talents, emotions and perspectives.

Diversity in the workplace

Bianca and Mohamad agree: they like working at SBM Offshore because it’s a challenging, multi-cultural, technical and very ‘now’. Delivering energy from the sea, studying new technologies, finding the right solutions for the future together, navigating through uncertainty and reaching value-based decisions… It’s about staying competitive on one hand and driving energy transition on the other. And combined with all of that: the human factor, which creates an international, dynamic and inspiring workplace.

Mohamad works with seven nationalities in his team. “Everyone’s so open and eager to learn and help. I never hesitate to ask a question, discuss an idea or situation.” Bianca adds: “Partnering with Refugee Talent Hub showed us that it’s important to have a working environment where all those cultural differences are valued, and more than that: appreciate what can they bring to the workplace.” “What I hope to achieve as a D&I champion, is that every SBM Offshore colleague actively contributes to nurturing a positive and inclusive culture. Every unique self is so important. Every conversation you have is an opportunity to learn from each other, be meaningful and help each other grow. Driving the right conversations and initiatives – it’s personal leadership. We’re all human and we all have something unique to bring.”

“As a company we’re in transition”, Bianca continues. “And we can learn from the experience that refugees like Mohamad have. Flexibility combined with persistency and dedication: if you believe in something, you can make it happen. Applying this will bring us all to the next level - personally, as a company and society as a whole.”

“Be inspired and then help someone else grow”

Mohamad really enjoys working at SBM Offshore. Not only because he gets the chance to put his engineering knowledge into practice, but also because he feels valued. “Earlier on, I got a job opportunity and I knew I only got it because I was a refugee… That didn’t make me feel valued. So that’s why I chose to study for my Master’s instead. I was always interested in green and solar energy solutions and now I work in that area; that’s really cool!” Mohamad’s tips for other refugees:

  • First of all, remember your own invaluable life experience. Life has no doubt taught you to be flexible, adapt and learn fast. Amazing traits that we as refugees all have.
  • Don’t underestimate the Dutch language, even though everyone is willing to speak English with you. Spending a year learning Dutch before jumping to a job or study will significantly enhance you position in the job market and extend your network.
  • Check websites like Refugee Talent Hub for companies that are refugee-friendly and take advantage of the opportunities. There are cool opportunities out there with companies that have your best interest.
  • The power of networking: get to know people and their networks. I know it’s difficult asking someone you don’t really know very well, but you’ll be surprised of what it might bring.
  • Search for guidance. Explore. Be aware of your assumptions and biases – jobs and roles often entail much more than what you might think.
  • Be inspired and then help someone else grow. There are so many talents out there. Let’s all encourage each other!

“Get an ambassador”

On the question if there is anything SBM Offshore (or other companies) could improve when it comes to being more inclusive for refugee talents, Mohamad answers: “Doing this interview, I am hoping to encourage more companies and refugees. There are so many talents out there! For companies like SBM Offshore, that want to be more inclusive – I think it is key to:

  • offer solid onboarding programmes;
  • have internships or training to help less experienced people;
  • hire more senior people with a refugee background as well;
  • get an ambassador, to be a role model and spokesperson.”