Opportunities abroad

Aberdeen opens up a world of careers, Jobs in Scotland learns.

Growing up beside the Grangemouth refinery in Falkirk, Niall Urquhart, 32, knew from a young age that oil and gas would be a focus in his career.

After studying Design Engineering at Strathclyde University he moved to Aberdeen and secured a graduate role in 2008 as a project engineer at Baker Hughes.

After six years in Aberdeen and interested in living somewhere different, Niall and his wife, who also works in the oil and gas industry, looked for new opportunities abroad. They were both lucky to quickly find jobs in Abu Dhabi, where they have worked for the past three years.


Starting in a business development role in the region with Interwell, Niall quickly learned the ways in which business processes are conducted in the Middle East, giving him a great grounding for his current role.

Keen to work for an innovative start-up with ambitious growth plans, Niall then took a job with specialist supplier of lower completion systems, Reactive Downhole Tools, and is currently the company’s regional business development manager for the Middle East and North Africa.


He said: “I was attracted to the role with Reactive as the company, although small at the time, was growing rapidly and the development of its technical capability drew me in. Being part of a smaller team and the first person into a new region allows you to show what you can do and make your own decisions, and that really appealed to me.

“Although the role is business development, it covers much more than that, with no two days being the same. I manage projects, look for new business, build relationships with current and potential customers and essentially grow Reactive’s activity on a global scale. I’m lucky to have been able to mould this role into my own and not be restricted by rigid corporate structure.


“I’ve learned that communication and people skills are hugely important when building business in this region. It’s also extremely important to be technically capable as most of your interaction is with technical people – I always look at things from an engineering perspective regardless of the opportunity. Travelling is also key to my role, and a part which I really enjoy. I travel frequently within the region itself, and also have the opportunity to attend trade shows globally.”

With Reactive’s headquarters back in Aberdeen, Niall heads up the Middle East base on his own. An important region for Reactive, Niall has taken time to understand the difference between UK and UAE business operations, putting them into best practice to enhance Reactive’s platform.

He said: “It became clear early on that you need to be proven here for companies to take you on. Now that Reactive is established and reputable in the region, it helps us to approach new operators and show them examples of what we have done for other clients in the region.”


As the downturn continues to affect the north-east, Niall explains how the drop in oil price resonates in the Middle East: “When I visit Aberdeen on business or to see family, it’s clear that the downturn feels like it’s had more of an impact there than in the Middle East. In the region, there is still productivity, although there is a huge pressure to cut costs. Another change that I’ve felt is the time it takes for decision making, it’s a long, hard sale 
currently, however Reactive entered
the Middle Eastern market at the right time and our business is growing rapidly.”

Away from the office, Niall is an active person who enjoys the odd triathlon when he can. Whilst in Houston for OTC last year he took part in an Ironman involving a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile cycle followed by a marathon (26.2 miles) – all in a day’s work, and all for charity.

He is also currently in the final stage of a distance-learning course to obtain an MSc in Drilling and Well Engineering from the Robert Gordon University to broaden his knowledge.


“When I started out in the oil and gas industry, I had no idea of the potential opportunities. I’ve travelled internationally, experienced many different cultures and found out there’s always something new to learn. Despite the challenges facing the industry, I believe times like these can also create excellent opportunities for us to change the norm, and learn more about creating efficient and cost effective solutions. Some of the world’s most pioneering technology is being developed as a result of the downturn, and there’s no sign of this innovation stopping any time soon.

“I hope that the younger generation is still being encouraged to pursue a career in the industry as there’s still so much it has to give. With companies looking for efficient solutions now more than ever, young people have 
the opportunity to revolutionise the industry and meet the ever-increasing demands of those operating within it.

“There’s no doubt that it’s an exciting industry to be part of, and I’m looking forward to being part of the Reactive journey for years to come.”

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