Humans of Kentech: It’s our people that shape the journey

I began with Kentech in May of 2018 under the direction of Mark Barry as STS Regional Director. I was supporting the local CHU Project Manager, Maurice O’Leary on our NPCC project in Abu Dhabi and the service lines were yet to be separated at that time.

Maurice, a proud Munster man from Ireland, was tasked with completing the commissioning of five wellheads and I became a part of his team through to completion and sail away stage.

Being new to Kentech, terms like K², Kentech Values and particularly “We are Family” stuck with me as being unique and stuck with me during my interactions with site personnel and clients. It was a world of cable trays, toolbox talks, scaling stairwells and punishing heat. Our site office was overshadowed by one of the platforms which was a constant hive of activity. Over time the performance of the team was so good that it contributed to Kentech winning even more scope on the project.

From NPCC I moved into the Abu Dhabi office, working as Office Manager, while continuing to manage some small local STS projects. This period even included a short trip to Atyrau to deliver one of the commercial bids to our colleagues in Kazakhstan. Kentech has such a long and rich history in Kazakhstan as I was to find out from Steve Humphreys with whom I shared the return journey, also earning me the nickname Pat the Postman for my efforts.

I enjoyed hearing about our business in Kazakhstan and learning about his involvement there since the early 1990’s. Steve made a point of saying hello to a young IT staff member from Tengiz in the airport, taking a selfie with him and posting it to our K²nectUs Community platform. To Steve, acknowledging our people and recognizing their contribution meant a lot. It was a natural example of Kentech culture in action.

Around that time a TMM Project also came under my remit. The project was due to be demobilized in the first few months of 2019 after a very successful five-year tenure. Demobilizing teammates from the project was tough and to lose such talented and committed people seemed a shame after five years of exceptional maintenance service. They stood proud of their work and the fact that not one hour of downtime had been lost on their watch in those five years.

From my time in Abu Dhabi the standout support team were people such as Joel Baculo (Site Document Controller), Arun Devediga (Finance), Dildar Hussain (HR) and Angi Russell (Recruitment). There are many more people than I can mention here but this group have shown Kentech is in their DNA. Whatever challenge they faced, they supported 24/7, without hesitation, and still do today.

And from the site itself, Ramesh Nair, Kamesh Gnanaskar, Zaur Nadirli, Hikmat Hasanov, Temir Zeynalov and our younger Electrical Engineer Umar Mukhthar. And of course, Maurice. I will always be grateful to him for taking me under his wing. I got to know some fantastic people and it was a valuable introduction to both site and office for me. I got to see many sides of the business and though I didn’t know it at the time, Kentech itself was well into a process of transformation.

In September 2019 I was asked to cover for the Project Manager, William Bibbey, on the Trans Adriatic Pipeline or TAP Project, based out of Georgia. Very quickly I found myself onsite, rotating between compressor stations and site offices in Northern Greece, Albania and eventually Italy.

Getting to know the personnel onsite in these three countries was a great experience. Highly professional and safety conscious people who knew how to get along, both on and off site.

I had an opportunity get to know many of the TAP Management as well through various meetings and site visits. These people are phenomenal in my eyes. I have to say how impressive it all was and, even during tough times, these teams not only persevered but succeeded. TAP is a very challenging project in many ways. Operationally it’s three projects in one. Throw COVID into the mix and it certainly hasn’t been all plain sailing. However, being available onsite to personnel and travelling to meet with the client and suppliers provides ample opportunity for collaboration and for relationships to grow. In some instances it can prevent unnecessary escalation of simple issues.

The TAP Project rolled along and we were beginning to see a very welcome increase in personnel numbers but by February of this year the realities of COVID-19 had set in and the prospect of projects scaling back or even mothballing completely was starting to become a reality. By March, I mobilized back into Northern Greece as it was feared that a mass demobilization from the project was imminent. Like most people, I knew the prospect of a long rotation at this stage was very likely. By the end of my rotation I had reached 16 weeks away but many other personnel had reached 20 weeks and more away from their family and friends. But needs must, and everyone carried on.

There was no playbook for managing something like COVID. The strategy had to evolve through necessity. Weekly, daily, hourly. Stuck at the desk for 14 hours a day trying to stay in touch with everyone. No government, airline, client or contractor knew exactly what to do. Even now in mid-August there is still much uncertainty. We have all had to adjust to new challenges as the world has changed around us. By the end of April, it was announced that in order to survive as a business and cope with the impact of declining oil prices, Kentech would have to implement cuts. Like most other offices around the world Georgia was hit with staff reductions. Losing approximately half of the office staff, including the project manager. It really was a very difficult time for everyone, but we persevered and as the weeks went by, we found new roles and new norms.

The Georgia Team were not found wanting and I would like to give special recognition to Lia Beleivi, Ia Shenglia and Inga Taboridze who have made their way through a mountain of work in the last few months. Natalya Afandiyeva, Gvantsa Shanidze and Magda Tsikhiseli made up the finance operations and did a sterling job of accounting for the three different countries. Thanks also to Melody Sheybani, our Senior HR Business Partner, for her huge support in this undertaking.

As the project moved into the summer months and hydrocarbons made their way from station to station, there was a welcome increase in manpower. I’m sure in future dealing with the challenges of COVID will be viewed as a badge of honor considering how teams had to persist in the face of great adversity. Kentech’s strength is its people, a strength that has been tested in many ways over the life of this project but I would like to think we have done a good job.

Today, we are in the final run with a little over 50 personnel remaining. I have met many great people along the way and my goal now is to keep these teams together as much as possible. Hopefully those relationships will continue as new projects begin to unfold.