November 2022 will mark 10 years since we opened our current office in Dubai at Jumeirah Lake Towers. For our latest Employee Spotlight interview, we caught up with our MENA Regional Sales Manager, Kristina Oshin, to find out what have been the key drivers of success in the Middle East and how we have become the market leader in Non-Intrusive Pig Detectors.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
My name is Kristina Oshin and I am the Regional Sales Manager for the MENA region, based at our Dubai office. I joined Online Electronics in 2013. I was born in Lithuania and moved to the UK just after I finished my studies. Outside of work, I have always loved to travel but I now have two boys under three and most of our free time is centred around them.
What is your background and how did you get into the industry?
When I moved to the UK, I first lived in London with my brother then I moved to Newcastle. I couldn’t go to university straight away because I needed to improve my written English, so I did an NVQ Level 3 in Business Administration where they find you a position while you study which was really good, I really enjoyed that. The roles were mainly administrator, PA and logistics roles and even included some time working for Clic Time Lego watches. That was also where I got my first taste of travelling for work.
After my NVQ, I joined the University of Northumbria to study Business Management and Leadership. While I was studying, I was hired by Pipeline Engineering by Andy Marwood to support him as a Sales Engineer and that is how my career in oil and gas started. This was the point where I wanted to further my career, acquire more skills, and do some more travelling.
After PE, I moved to PII in Cramlington as an ILI Sales Manager and then on to TD Williamson also as the ILI Sales Manager. I really enjoyed that role as I basically lived in the airport!
I was then contacted by the previous Online owner Brian Gribble. He offered me roles in some other regions, none of which I could really see myself settling in. He then offered me the role in Dubai which was not initially in my long-term plans, but I spent some time out there and it was different than I expected. It is a very multicultural, multinational Emirate with a large expat population, and I saw it as a great opportunity to continue my career in the Oil & Gas industry.
What does a typical day at Online look like for you?
Every morning my colleagues in the Dubai office, Revanth and Neethu, and I have a meeting to go over the day’s plans, what deadlines we have, what projects we have, any issues we are having. From that point, the day consists of internal meetings, customer calls, approval of paperwork. There is quite a lot of administrative work associated with our enquiries and orders and you could say I’m a perfectionist, but I want to make sure that our paperwork is customer orientated and professional. That is what we pride ourselves on.
Customer meetings have changed, especially with a lot of people now working from home. We are still able to see some in their offices, but we used to spend a whole day with a customer visiting the various departments but now we can’t do that as often. We must ensure that we can continue maintain our customer relationships that we have built in the last ten years – we have managed to build the brand of Online Electronics in this region to the point where clients want to work with us, and it takes a lot of work to keep that going, especially when we can’t see people face-to-face as much as we used to.
It is ten years since Online Electronics opened their current office in Dubai - can you tell us about the company's growth in the region during that period?
Ten years ago, most of the work in this region was from a legacy client base with head offices in the UK or Europe and mainly involved in pre-commissioning. Online Electronics was seen as a subsea supplier, the non-intrusive pig signallers were not the main focus, and we didn’t have anything in place to support the large onshore market here.
We identified that we needed local clients and local business here in the Middle East. The first step was for us to establish an active agent in Abu Dhabi and we were already in discussions regarding a project that was being run by a contractor in Europe which meant we didn’t have a lot of control. Many of the signallers sold in the Middle East at this time were part of a package and we wanted to become the direct supplier, we wanted to be in the driving seat. Once the clients adopted this thinking, that was a major success for us. We then had to pre-qualify with the end users, we first did this in Abu Dhabi and then others followed. There is not an operator in the Middle East we are not pre-qualified with, and we now regularly ship orders of 100+ non-intrusive pig signallers.
To summarize we have seen major growth in the region through our competitiveness, productivity, innovative approach and our before and after service.
Is there a specific project or achievement that stands out to you from the last 10 years?
That would be our first job direct with the customer in Abu Dhabi. That was what opened doors for us in the Middle East. It was also memorable due to how much work was involved with getting approvals, trials, training etc.
What do you think is the biggest challenge facing our industry right now?
It is the rise in global demand, volatile energy prices and the increase in environmental regulations. We are always looking to reduce costs, optimize performance and improve how we do things from an environmental standpoint. The unsettled political climate at the moment also makes this more difficult.
Finally, why do you like working at Online?
One of the reasons I like working at Online is that I can make decisions about our region and there is a great deal of autonomy. Additionally, we are massively supported by the Head Office in Aberdeen, without that we wouldn’t have the success we have now. The Middle East is a very fast-paced and competitive market and delivering to the client’s specification is key and our team understand that and provide the level of support we need.