• Meet our Members

    Q&A with Salim Al-Hinai

    Salim Al-Hinai

    As Head Control and Automation Engineer and the Corporate Function Discipline Head at Petroleum Development Oman, Salim Al-Hinai leverages his technical and subject-matter expertise to lead a team of control and automation engineers on oil and gas operations and projects. In his position, Al-Hinai is also responsible for developing company standards, procedures, contracts, new technology opportunities, compliance programs, and external industry networking. He also works to develop the skills of graduate engineers and hone the capabilities of other personnel.

    Within ISA, Al-Hinai is an active member and leader. As President of ISA’s Oman Section, he is highly focused in cultivating the professional knowledge and abilities of young engineers.

    Could you provide some background on your education (degree/s received) and academic areas of emphasis? 

    At present, I serve as Head of Control and Automation at Petroleum Development of Oman.  I possess 35 years of experience in control and automation, which includes expertise in operation and projects that involve design, construction, commissioning and facility start-up. I have worked with numerous engineering procurement contractors, both at their international offices and offices here in Oman.  

    I hold a bachelor of engineering degree in automation, system, computing and control engineering from Huddersfield University in the United Kingdom, and have attended many intensive training programs during my tenure at Petroleum Development Oman.

    What initially attracted you to the field of automation (and specifically your selected field)...and when was it? Was there any specific thing that triggered your interest? 

    I studied measurement and control at the City and Guilds of London Institute and earned a Control Technicians Certificate here in Oman.  During my first year, I was exposed to real-time automation systems and at that point become very interested in the prospect of a career in instrumentation.

    My exposure to process control, the various measurements, control valves and pneumatic instrumentation motivated me to take on the challenges in these fields. The technologies used were state of the art. In particular, the pneumatic controllers and multi-point, multi-channel chart recorders had the complexity and precision one might discover in a Swiss watch.

    Please tell us about your current career responsibilities (specific position, company) and background, and area of specialty in automation. 

    Again, as Head of Control and Automation at Petroleum Development Oman (PDO), I lead a team of control and automation engineers. This role also incorporates the title of CFDH Corporate Function Discipline Head. Among my responsibilities are: Coordinating and meeting the company's policies and procedures with regards to health, safety and environmental targets; ensuring reliable and accurate data with regards to production measurement; helping to monitor the company's assets in meeting production targets; and building on the vision and direction of all technical and commercial operations involving the company's existing and new control and automation systems.

    Al Hinai also focuses on improving the technical knowledge and capabilities of his staff, accelerating adoption of new technologies and external networking activities; developing automation standards and work processes; and enhancing the reliability and sustainability of control and automation assets within the company.

    Could you tell me how you are currently involved with ISA? Do you hold any volunteer positions with the Society or your local section/if so, which section?

    In addition to serving as founder and President of ISA’s Oman Section, I’m also a volunteer leader within ISA District 12 (Europe, Russia, Middle East, Africa). I am very pleased that the ISA Oman Section has grown significantly over the last two years. My ambition in the next three years is to expand the ISA Student chapter in Oman through great collaboration with local technical colleges and universities.

    How did you initially get involved in ISA? 

    I joined ISA as a student member in 1981. I immediately recognized its values in many aspects with regards to the automation and control industry. I also had noticed over the past 10 years that the workforce of national and expatriate automation and control engineers had significantly increased—primarily in the power, energy, oil and gas sectors. Given the growing ISA membership in Oman, ISA’s exposure and footprint are increasing in Oman—benefiting members’ careers and personal development within the Oman community.

    What ways would you say ISA has benefited you?

    I’ve experienced career breakthroughs by becoming a member of ISA and participating in ISA District 12 activities. As ISA’s President of Oman, I’ve been able to stay very well informed on a technical basis. And, of course, I’ve been able to significantly increase my network of contacts and colleagues from the automation and control community, Overall, ISA has given me the opportunity to both apply and share my technical and leadership skills.

    Do you have any advice or suggestions to young automation professionals entering the profession? Are there things that you have learned that you might pass on…to help them better develop their careers?

    First of all, I feel that automation engineers in Oman should be encouraged to interact more within ISA's global community. This would provide Oman with greater access to automation knowledge on a world-wide scale, and enable our many manufacturers and end users to stay abreast of emerging trends and technologies through various seminars, conferences and exhibitions.

    To young professionals, I would emphasize to them that they will be a part of a rapidly changing technological environment in which they can benefit greatly. I continuously encourage all to keep up to date on new and evolving technologies, seek out every opportunity to grow professionally, and develop a professional network within the automation community. Joining associations and actively participating in them are fantastic ways to do that.

    My advice to young engineers includes the following:

    • Identify your coach and mentors so that you can tap into the wisdom and expertise that only experience can provide. A mentor/coach can give a young professional guidance in your career and help determine which particular area of skills are required.
    • Gain hands-on experience and take on responsibilities as early as possible. Always seek advice when needed from experienced colleagues. Many common mistakes can be avoided by doing this.
    • Work with your mentor to develop a competency plan.  Establish a strong foundation for learning and training. This enables individuals to later create their own opportunities and be fully accountable and responsible.
    • Share knowledge and experience with others. Professional associations make it easy to network and maintain a strong community of colleagues and experts to interact with.
    • Tackle new skills and refine your abilities as often as possible. You learn and grow by challenging yourself. The knowledge and confidence you gain helps you demonstrate greater initiative and take advantage of new opportunities as your career evolves.
    • Develop a business-oriented mindset that shows you understand the importance of meeting key operational metrics and indicators.  Make reports and presentations to management. This will raise your visibility and enhance your communications skills.