Dr. Mohd Faizal, PETRONAS’ Chief Scientist, is a Pathfinder & Trailblazer
Speed is the New Scale, Urges PETRONAS’ Chief Scientist
"Everywhere we look across the business landscape, speed is becoming more important than size. The basis of competition is shifting from scale to tempo," says Dr. Mohd Faizal Sedaralit, 41, a PhD in Petroleum Engineering graduate.
A petroleum engineer by training, the PETRONAS Chief Scientist is passionate about finding ways for PETRONAS' research outfits to be the first to capture and harness new opportunities.
He points out, "Let me start with the top line. Primarily, my mandate is to make sure everything that we do creates value. In research terms, this means being the first to begin implementing profitable changes in the industry."
Recognising the formidable changes in the industry PETRONAS operates in, Dr. Mohd Faizal sets about adding something much more dynamic and nimble to PETRONAS' research arm.
"We need to adopt agile ways of articulating our research goals. Previously, the pace of conventional R&D would take us 10 years to mature any given technology sector."
"But now, we need to do things differently. We need to compress the timeline down to six years or cut 60% of the time to be truly competitive," enthuses Dr. Mohd Faizal.
Dr. Mohd Faizal rose through the ranks of PETRONAS as an oil and gas engineer. Following his 20-year technical background in upstream oil and gas operations, he currently leads PETRONAS' research practice.
The PETRONAS Chief Scientist, who graduated at UTP's 19th convocation, recently made his way into the history books as the first Malaysian to complete a PhD in Petroleum Engineering at UTP.
In his day-to-day capacity, the reservoir engineering custodian oversees eight research focus areas. Additionally, Dr. Mohd Faizal heads a research team of 25 scientists anchored around four skill groups.
He shares, "Because of the forces pioneered by the tech industry, we need to set priorities, allocate resources, and empower our teams to make decisions more quickly."
"For example, currently we are working on waste conversion of petroleum based plastic recyclables. Plastic has so many desirable properties. Therefore, we are currently studying how to extract these properties from waste such as drinking bottles to turn them into wax, paraffin or bitumen, which can be repurposed and used in the construction sector," adds Dr. Mohd Faizal.
Moreover, Dr. Mohd Faizal seeks to promote a shift in thinking to create a resourceful talent pipeline for PETRONAS. "To tackle the challenges ahead, we need to inculcate a mindset that promotes growth through R&D," he opines.
To bring focus to the effort, Dr. Mohd Faizal emphasises, "Now, we have a talent development programme to develop our local scientists. As a centre of excellence, we need to rewire the way our people push R&D out. Significantly, my role is to equip our scientists with the capability to mobilise PETRONAS' business ideas."
Besides helping to outline specific traits that will allow the PETRONAS Group of Companies' scientists to contribute through innovation and strong execution, Dr. Mohd Faizal is also looking at ways to improve PETRONAS' value chain integration.
He says, "At the core, our subsidiaries along the value chain must assess their strengths relative to other players. All this relates back to speed as this will allow us to determine the best strategic moves," explains Dr. Mohd Faizal.
According to Dr. Mohd Faizal, one of PETRONAS' collective research goals is to improve its human capital research stewardship through education. He says, "Currently, the ratio of our people who have PhD qualifications compared to those who don't stands at 1 to 4. Ultimately, our aim is to turn this around to 1 to 1 in the future."
More importantly, Dr. Mohd Faizal stresses that research is only going to mean something if there is strong profitability attached to it. "Here is where a tempo advantage is most decisive," says Dr. Mohd Faizal.
In addition, speaking of his education, Dr. Mohd Faizal describes, "At UTP, my lecturers amass a wealth of industry experience. When they teach you something, they can provide an in-depth industry perspective of the things they explain."
"Plus, they have good relationships with industry players. For my PhD viva for example, my lecturers called up their friends who were well versed in the ins and outs of the industry to evaluate my research. This opened up many new angles and insights for students," he stresses.
Dr. Mohd Faizal is another prime example of UTP's profound career connected learning and industry collaboration. From the work we do, we foster long-term relationships with our global social-impact partners to prepare our students, people and researchers as global citizens.
As a leading university in engineering, science and technology, our graduates are driven to exceed their professional objectives and contribute towards overcoming capability deficit across all sectors and industries.