I came to the UK on a university scholarship from Iraq which was then a great country – progressive, hard-working and at peace. I graduated from Birmingham with a BSc in Petroleum Engineering in 1961 and a PhD in Chemical Engineering in 1965. During my PhD years, I met a fellow post-graduate student, Don Towson, from British Columbia, Canada and we became friends. He raised my knowledge of and interest in Canada so I applied for a job with Imperial Oil, the Canadian subsidiary of Exxon, and ended up working with Don at the Production Research and Technical Services in Calgary, Alberta. In time I made it to executive with Imperial as the General Manager of Technology Development and Project Management. After 26 years, I left Imperial voluntarily to try other facets of the oil and gas industry. I spent five years as Vice President with Quantel Engineering with focus on engineering, procurement and construction management then another five years with Canadian Occidental Petroleum, including three years as President of Operations in Yemen, then a peaceful nation. There, we raised production to 220,000 barrels per day through discovering additional oil fields and optimizing production methods. And now I am consulting as Jazrawi & Associates Inc., 50 years after graduating from Birmingham.
If you wonder what has been my main career drive, I’ll tell you. It’s my formative time at Birmingham and its organized and disciplined approach to academic training of its students. I carry a big debt of gratitude to the University for formulating my character and boosting my drive.
But let us touch on some specifics. When I first joined the University, the head of the Chem. Eng. and Petroleum Production Department was Professor F.H. Garner. He was a remarkable motivator in a subtle way. His staff included such effective lecturers as Mr Hugh Gilmour, Dr Collin Wall, Dr Farhang Mohtadi, Dr Michael King, Dr Vic Jensen and Dr Geoff Jeffrey, most with years of industrial experience including overseas. They were very competent lecturers and effective coaches if you needed assistance.
It wouldn’t be right to wrap up without a word about the late Professor Garner. In my first university year I was distracted by social activities like the Student Union, now called the Guild of Students, and its many students clubs, as well as ballroom dancing every Saturday night, the Gun Barrel Pub at the bottom of Edgbaston Park Road, now gone, and many more diversions. As a result, my exam marks after the first semester/term didn’t reflect my scholarship rating. So Professor Garner had me summoned to his office and softly asked why my marks were lower than expected. So I embarked on a series of excuses, but Professor Garner, with his familiar smoking pipe lodged in the corner of his mouth, kept a cynical smile while I was bs-ing and obviously wasn’t buying any of it. I quickly got the message and made a voluntary and serious commitment to him to work harder and improve my grades. In this brief session in Professor Garner’s office, he didn’t say more than a few words but his gentle but effective approach made all the difference. It changed my attitude and boosted my performance. And that’s leadership on his part.
I have also kept in touch with several colleagues over the last 50 plus years, including Dr Trevor Thomas who lives in London, Dr Mike Rogers who immigrated to eastern Canada, the late Dr Brian Jones who died climbing Ben Nevis, Dr Ramzi Salman who lives in Ireland, Dr Ahmed Qidwai who lives in Pakistan, Mr Mahmoud Hamid Al-Ani who lives in the US and Dr Tariq Irhayem who lives in Iraq. To quote a well-known song: “Those were the days my friend, I thought they’ll never end!”