Aftab Zafar
MSc Oil & Gas Enterprise Management
Class of 2017

Aftab Zafar

Aftab Zafar, who graduated in November 2017 from the University's OGEM MSc programme, was recently appointed as Head of Business Development and Joint Ventures at a notable Pakistani oil and gas company. Here he explains how studying at the University of Aberdeen helped him on his chosen career path.

Tell us about your current role, what it involves and what your main responsibilities are.

I am Head of the Department of Business Development and Joint Ventures in KPOGCL - a Pakistani government-owned oil and gas company formed as a result of statute in 2013. I undertake a broad spectrum of roles in a company with a diversified business model. I act as an Oil and Gas Commercial Negotiator and Business Developer. My core responsibilities are: 

1.    Advancing and implementing business development strategies
2.    Drafting business proposals for new ventures
3.    Managing the licenses by engaging legal counsel for regulatory framework
4.    Carrying out economic evaluation for exploration projects, field development projects and due diligence services
5.    Facilitating mergers and acquisitions 

I am responsible for portfolio optimisation which helps in alignment of business development with corporate goals and strategies. I also provide timely facilitation to foreign investors on technical, legal, and financial matters pertaining to the Pakistani oil and gas market. 

Being the face of the organisation, I deliver presentations to investors and attend international conferences. In a span of three months, I have been able to sign twelve MOUs and two agreements with multinational companies for exploration, services and refining in Pakistan. 

Why did you choose this degree programme at the University of Aberdeen?

I joined the oil and gas industry in 2013 as an engineer but have always aspired to achieve a leadership role in the energy industry because of my management skills. To reach this goal,I needed to learn the language of different streams in the Oil and Gas Sector which is why I decided to join the OGEM programme. The programme offers an incredibly diverse set of courses, and I cherish the fact that I was able to study a wide variety of subjects. The degree programme promised to enhance my professional skills with fieldwork experience and excellent teaching by industry professionals. The OGEM programme delivers a unique blend of conventional management and an entrepreneurial mindset. I made great use of the collections, facilities, and knowledgeable staff at the School of Geosciences.

What skills, knowledge or experience did you learn or develop on this degree programme, that have helped you in your career?

The programme equipped me with basic concepts of geology, drilling, reservoir management, economics, portfolio optimisation and regulatory framework. Most importantly, I grasped a considerable understanding of the wider trends of the energy industry. The programme apprised me with a comprehensive overview of major markets including but not limited to the North Sea, the Gulf of Mexico, Central and Eastern Europe, the Middle East and North Africa, and Asia. Such knowledge gives students on the course an unparalleled edge over other industrial professionals at different stages of their careers. 

My routine work includes interaction with both technical and non-technical departments. I have a sound understanding of all the basic concepts and this makes it easier for me to comprehend the technical language and convert it to business language.

Overall, this program has not only enhanced my personal capacity but also made me professionally efficient when operating in the dynamic and challenging economic and political situations that are prevalent in countries like Pakistan.

What part of the degree programme did you enjoy the most or find most beneficial in your career? (For example, a particular course, field trip, project etc.)

People in Aberdeen talk oil and gas; meanwhile the University offers a wide range of resources to learn from such as workshops, conferences, events, field visits and networking. I especially enjoyed the field course, where we were centered at Dingwall and would head to different industrial sites every day to learn from experts and get hands-on experience.

What advice would you give to current students?

Make the most of Aberdeen - this city and University can turn you in to a seasoned oil and gas professional. Register yourself with Society of Petroleum Engineers, Association of International Petroleum Negotiators, and other relevant societies; this will allow you to become a part of events happening in Aberdeen. Don’t miss the opportunity to network with your batch mates and engage in professional discussions with teachers and guests from the industry. Most importantly, try to develop a basic understanding of all the courses. Remember, you don’t have to be an expert – but your aim should be to become a leader in the oil industry after completion of the programme.  

Is there anything else about your time at the University of Aberdeen that you would like to share that was not covered in the above questions?

The University of Aberdeen offers the best faculty with world-renowned teachers who have substantial industrial and academic experience. The OGEM programme is designed to cater to the professional needs of incoming students from different backgrounds. Even students with no prior relevant experience can learn the oil and gas sector in one year, and those with experience are able to enhance and polish their skills to become more successful in their careers. 

Professor Andrew Hurst was a fantastic mentor to me throughout the duration of the course. He started the programme by teaching geology, had some guest lectures in between and ended the year with an exceptionally well-delivered field course. At the same time, Dr. David Kemp was extremely supportive and always managed to make time for me despite his extensive responsibilities as Director of the OGEM; he allowed me to take advantage of so many opportunities during my final project.