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How can an accountant help an engineer?

Updated: Dec 28, 2022

Accountants are good with pencils, calculators and spreadsheets. Engineers master the art of building construction, bridge design and industrialization.


In August 2018, I subscribed to the LinkedIn Career Advice forum and from time to time, LinkedIn sent a notification indicating that...

“You are seen as an expert in your field”

...and then a link would be provided to the query submitted by 2 to 3 individuals to the LinkedIn portal. Quite often, the submissions through this portal originated from an accountant or finance type with a similar background as my own. [NOTE: As of December 2022, it appears that LinkedIn no longer sponsors this program or perhaps they changed the algorithm]


In parallel to the above, I received many LinkedIn connection requests and direct emails from engineering types – mostly mechanical and electrical engineers – requesting that I review their CV and refer them to any available jobs within my network. It is highly likely that such queries stemmed from my former role as CFO of Qatar Solar. During my 33-month tenure at the company, significant sums were spent on construction and commissioning contractors, many of which had employees that fit the profile of said engineering types. Prior to volunteering for the LinkedIn career advice program, I used to dismiss such appeals on the basis that as a CFO, I was not able to assist in their job search.


Lois Lane Meets Superman

On the surface, it is reasonable to conclude that a CFO is not directly able to help an engineer or other technical specialist find a job. Indirectly, a CFO can pass on the CV of the technical job seeker to his or her colleagues in both HR and operations for further consideration.


In fact, the former CFO of Qatar Solar was a chemistry major in university that subsequently entered the accounting profession and worked for many years with British Petroleum. Even though his education and professional background provided him with the skills necessary to evaluate technical candidates for positions in the factory, I recall a discussion we had during my transition into the CFO role whereby he indicated: 

“…senior management had previously demanded that I ‘stay in my lane’ and let the HR and operations team handle the hiring after I had recommended a former colleague for a vacant technical role…” 

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“Stay in your lane” is a common response from non-accounting professionals when the CFO and members of the finance team seek to get involved in the affairs of various departments such as HR, sales and marketing, procurement, supply chain, legal, IT and other non technical aspects of running a business. Certainly a bookkeeper getting involved with “operations” was taboo. 


Telling me to “stay in my lane” was very common during my senior finance roles in the Middle East and certainly in my time working in the oil & gas sectors in Russia, Turkey and Ukraine. Those words of wisdom work well when driving your car or performing heart surgery but if Marvel Entertainment had stayed with comic books, would Captain America and Ironman have found their calling in Hollywood? Do you think The Walt Disney Company paid $4 billion in 2009 when they acquired Marvel for simply a collection of comics? Okay, maybe Gary Vaynerchuk would have except he is focused on acquiring the New York Jets!



Peeling Back the Onion Layer

Low and behold the arrival of the Internet era where information is readily available on how to change the oil in your car or how to unlock your mobile phone after 49 failed attempts using your old password. Of course, I am not suggesting that watching a 5-minute You Tube video will make me qualified to install insulation on pipes that will support keeping water temperatures at minus 180 degrees Celsius while the outside air temperature hovers at plus 49 degrees Celsius. I know my limits. What the Internet has taught me is the power of social media does not require third party consent to transfer my knowledge, awareness and experience on using LinkedIn to non-accountants.  


In my grade 3 Science class, the microscope revealed the wonders of viewing the multiple cells that existed in a single layer of an onion. We injected die to highlight the key features of a single cell. Imagine how many cells exist within the multiple layers of a single onion? What if you transfer that “onion” philosophy into job search for virtually any functional area, discipline, industry, sector or region? 


Pulling back the strata behind the Internet divulges more than the single-celled amoeba when searching for that elusive new job:

  • LinkedIn search algorithms

  • LinkedIn “Follow” feature

  • Google search

  • Company newsletter publications

  • Industry investment news feeds

  • Other social media

One of those “cells” on their own in isolation may not be effective in conducting an employment search but when you combine the various layers, “save” the salient information from the prior level and then “collate” the data into a cohesive pattern, the wonders of elementary Science will begin to appear under the macro-scope. 



Engineer Digging Ditches

It is easy for an accountant to dismiss the engineer when it comes to job search. We did not ride around on a horse, adhere to a special code or receive a non-descript gold ring upon graduation from University -- at least that is what the engineers from my alma-mater, University of Calgary, came to expect every April during exam week! 


Engineers are a unique breed hired to perform certain mechanical, electric or civil tasks that accountants shied away from or lacked the pre-requisite skills to undertake.  Accountants are allowed to query about why certain invoices were necessary or why certain contractors were hired and the engineers were groomed to provide plausible and reasonable explanations. Such harmony exists across the globe until something changes and both the accountants and engineers find themselves seeking to find alternative employment arrangements. Suddenly, both find themselves in the same proverbial boat.  

“Can you review my CV? “
“Can you refer me to anyone in your network?”

This works both ways. Give each a shovel and they can work trying to dig their way out of unemployment. What can an accountant teach an engineer in this instance? Throw away the shovel and let’s consider how to get you back up on the same horse you rode upon graduating from your high-level education facility.


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A Practical Example

In February 2019, a young MEP engineer residing in Dubai reached out to me on LinkedIn to connect and upon my acceptance, politely requested my assistance in his endeavor to make a job change. First, you are probably like me and wonder,


“What does MEP stand for?”

Google revealed that this acronym refers to a specialist in "Mechanical, Engineering and Plumbing".


My initial response failed to focus on the experience of this young lad and simply outlined what I had done to re-tool and pivot my skills after nearly two decades overseas in senior finance roles. As I learned, most folks are not interested in what I have done; they want to know whether or not you can help them find a job.    


Upon reflection, I re-evaluated my February 2019 recommendations and in August 2019, I re-connected with this job seeker to summarize how he can re-direct his job search efforts:

  • Middle East construction firms

  • Middle East facilities management

  • MENA recruiting firms

  • Middle East innovation

  • Middle East Venture capital

  • Construction and Supply Chain innovation

  • Construction contact lists

  • Outreach on LinkedIn


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Middle East Construction & industrial plants

I spent 10 years in the Middle East from August 2009 to June 2019. The region will continue in construction for some time. In my view, a technical individual should consider researching which projects are planned or in progress related to: schools; villas; hotels; office towers; plants: power, petrochemical, GTL, refineries, desalination. 


Candidates need to create awareness of their skills to the EPC companies (Engineering, Procurement & Construction) that serve such projects:


Wood Group, Kentech, Inc, Arabtec Construction LLC, CH2M (acquired by Jacobs), Mott MacDonald, Turner & Townsend, Roberts Construction, Louis Berger (acquired by WSP), Lamprell, SNC-Lavalin, Dulsco, Parsons Corporation, ABB, KBR, Inc., AECOM, Petrotec, Petrofac.


This is not a complete list. Google search. LinkedIn search. These will provide you with additional names of similar companies operating in the region, in addition to those that you are already familiar with.




Middle East Facilities Management

Once the malls, office towers, residential buildings, schools and other structures are commissioned and put into commercial use, most, if not all, of these projects will need experienced IT personnel like you for the next 20 to 30 years. There are a significant number of facilities management (“FM”) companies in the Middle East, many of which operate in multiple countries:



This is not a complete list.  Google search. LinkedIn search.  These searches will provide any construction worker with additional names of similar companies operating in the region, in addition to those that they may already be familiar with from their work in the construction sector.



Middle East Innovation

In addition to construction, tech innovation in the Middle East is growing in importance. When I arrived to Dubai in 2009, Blackberry and abandoned cars made the UAE headlines.  In 2019, Uber buying Careem, Amazon acquiring Souq.com and other tech news were the regular feature stories in the Khaleej Times and Reuters Middle East.


These two articles are a good indication that MENA (Middle-East North Africa) tech startups and venture capital firms will expand their activities in the coming years:


Entrepreneur ME (published 13 May 2019) | http://bit.ly/2HAYujT

Wamda (published 27 May 2019) | http://bit.ly/2HHdf5O


***


Since early 2018, I have followed technology investments announced in various tech newsletters from: StrictlyVC, Crunchbase News, Techcrunch, VentureBeat, UKTN and FinSME’s Inc.  


From time to time, MENA-based companies are represented in such funding announcements; some examples from 2019 included:


Bayzat | Dubai-based free platform for human resources (HR), payroll and employee benefits


YallaCompare | Dubai-based insurance and loan comparison marketplace


Bloovo | Dubai-based recruiting platform


Flexxpay | Dubai-based social impact startup


Swvl | Cairo-based connects commuters with private buses


Tenderd | UAE-based heavy equipment rental marketplace for the construction industry


Searchie | Dubai-based AI-enabled recruitment platform





World Cup 2022: Inspired the Globe!

For over a month, the FIFA 2022 World Cup captured media attention from across the globe.  Now that Lionel Messi and his colleagues from Argentina have taken the crown from France, folks in the region can look at some of the recent innovation making headlines:


MaxAB, a Cairo startup that has built a food and grocery B2B e-commerce and distribution platform serving a network of traditional retailers across Egypt and Morocco, announced a $40 million round on 20 October 2022 (Techcrunch: https://rb.gy/bjsgyx).


Zywa, a Dubai startup and whose social banking app and prepaid card helps Gen Z MENA consumers receive money, manage it, and make payments, announced a $3 million raise from Goodwater Capital, Dubai Future District Fund, Rebel Fund, Trampoline Venture Partners, Zemu VC (Techcrunch article of 24 August 2022: https://tcrn.ch/3dYidNX)


Sylndr, a Cairo startup that is building a used car marketplace for Egyptian buyers, announced a $12.6 million raise (Techcrunch article of 24 May 2022: https://tcrn.ch/38RFbEi)



Middle East Venture Capital

Most VC’s list portfolio companies on their websites. Such companies will range from startups to full commercial entities. In my view, there are a few potential opportunities hidden within the VC network for MEP support roles:

  • Strategic engineering advisor to the VC partners and investment associates assessing the readiness of target investments and/or existing portfolio companies

  • Guidance to the VC partners and CEO’s of portfolio investments on the on-going MEP and related technical activities (as applicable)

  • Strategic MEP and related technical services provided to one or more of the individual companies within the VC portfolio

MEP Support over the Portfolio. As VC’s expand, the need increases for them to hire various support functions to “work across the portfolio”. This may seem unusual but with all of the construction projects, industrial plants and major facilities management needs in the region, this could be an important and strategic role for one or more venture capital firms. This is a growing trend that Stephanie Manning Cohen from Lerer Hippeau describes in this Forbes article (published 8 May 2019): http://bit.ly/2vNF9X6


***


The following is a selection of VC’s in the Middle East.  This is not a complete list.  Google or other search functions may reveal additional VC firms:


Dtec Ventures | https://dtec.ae/ventures/

Gulf Capital | https://www.gulfcapital.com/en-US/1/1/Home

Iliad Ptrs | https://www.iliad-partners.com

Jadwa Investments (KSA) | http://www.jadwa.com/en

Kaaf Investments | http://www.kaafinvestments.com

Kuwait Investment Authority | http://www.kia.gov.kw/en/Pages/default.aspx

Manafa Capital (KSA) | https://www.manafa.co/

Middle East Venture Partners | https://www.mevp.com

Naseba | https://www.naseba.com

Ominvest | https://ominvest.net/

Raed Ventures (KSA) | http://raed.vc/

Riyad Capital | http://www.riyadcapital.com/en/

Shorooq Investments | http://shorooq.ae/

Sokotra Capital | https://www.sokotracapital.com

Waha Capital | https://www.wahacapital.ae




Construction and Supply Chain Innovation

The following SaaS (software-as-a-service) examples will likely be applicable to companies operating in the Middle East.  These were all included throughout 2018 and 2019 in the tech funding announcements in the newsletters mentioned above:


“Construction-related SaaS”


ALICE | simulation platform for construction that leveraging AI to analyze a project’s building requirements and generate more efficient construction plans | https://www.alicetechnologies.com


Facilio | facility management software that uses IoT and Machine Learning | https://facilio.com


Procore | Carpinteria, Ca.-based developer of cloud-based construction management software | www.procore.com


Anvl | https://anvl.com

Assignar | https://www.assignar.com

Bridgit | https://bridgitsolutions.com |

Built Robotics | www.builtrobotics.com/

Cority | https://www.cority.com/

eSub Construction | https://esub.com/

GoExpedi | www.goexpedi.com/

Indus.ai | www.indus.ai

MākuSafe | www.makusafe.com

Procurify | www.procurify.com

Project Management Academy | https://projectmanagementacademy.net

Reconstruct | http://www.reconstructinc.com/

Rhumbix | https://rhumbix.com

Sitetracker | www.sitetracker.com

Skedulo | www.skedulo.com |

Unearth Technologies | https://unearthlabs.com/



***


“Logistics & Supply Chain”


Fairmarkit | Boston-based procurement platform that tries to find the best vendors for its enterprise customers | https://www.fairmarkit.com


AxleHire | CA-based leader in technology and logistics innovation for the last mile economy | https://axlehire.com/


Deliverr, a two-year-old, San Francisco-based fulfillment company that caters to retailers wanting to offer fast and cost-effective deliveries (to compete with Amazon) | https://deliverr.com


Fetch | Austin, Tex.-based package delivery startup that focuses on apartment communities | https://fetch.com


3Gtms | https://www.3gtms.com/

Airspace Technologies | https://www.airspacetechnologies.com/

BlackBuck | https://www.blackbuck.com/

Bringg | www.bringg.com

Cargomatic | www.cargomatic.com

Flexport | https://www.flexport.com/

FourKites | https://www.fourkites.com/

Magaya Corporation | http://magaya.com

ShipMonk | https://www.shipmonk.com

Specright | http://www.specright.com/

Suuchi | https://www.suuchi.com/

Zencargo | www.zencargo.com


Contact List

From the construction and facilities management companies listed above, the job seeker should consider the following:

  1. Make a list of all of the companies in EXCEL. Make a note of each country in MENA in which they work or have an office: UAE, KSA, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman

  2. Follow each company on LinkedIn. Subscribe to the company newsletter (a link should be on their website). Look for news articles on their websites. Use Google to find news articles featuring such companies. This is important to get familiar with the names of the projects they are working on.

  3. Make a list of all regional projects you come across in your research (like Red Sea Construction and Development).

  4. For each company & project, use the LinkedIn search function to make a list: Managing Director, Construction Manager, MEP Manager, Electrical Engineers, HR manager, Operations Manager, Contracts Manager.

  5. When you are searching such names, look at the right hand side of the screen for “People also viewed”. This will show similar job titles of people at other companies. This will help to expand your list.


NOTE: This strategy works for any sector / industry – warehouse, airport facilities, shipping, freight, hotels, restaurants, oil & gas, shopping malls, facilities management or sports facilities that exist in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Al Ain, Kuwait City, Manama, Doha, Riyad and Muscat that could possibly benefit from an experienced MEP and electrical engineering professional. Reach out to 500 people. If no success, then find 500 more.




LinkedIn Outreach 

The suggestions noted below apply to recruiting agents, human resource executives, construction engineers, health and safety officers and other individuals relevant to the job search of an MEP engineer. Modify, as needed, to meet education and work experience.


Part 1: Use LinkedIn


(a): Prepare a 300-character introduction. Keep this simple and to the point. You cannot say much so you need to get their attention. For example:


Hi [FIRST NAME], I have 6+ years of MEP engineering experience, including 3+ years in the UAE. [LIST 2 OR 3 KEY accomplishments] I worked on installations of transformers ranging from 30kva to 2000kva; chillers & pumps from 110TR to 550TR. Keen to connect with you / Tiger Contracting for potential role. [YOUR NAME]


NOTE: If you need more characters, just remove your name from the end. They will know your name from the message notification.


(b): Use LinkedIn “Personalized Message” to connect and send the 300-character introduction.  This is free and is much better than “Hi, Allen would like to connect with you.” You can pay for the LinkedIn Premium Career service and use the "InMail" feature. However, "InMail" messages are utilized quite extensively by sales and marketing personnel and may not get the same level of attention from the intended recipient.


(c): When they accept your connection, thank them & request permission to send your CV; confirm an appropriate email address (or whether the email included in the “LinkedIn contact info” is current).


Part 2: Use email to send your CV & relevant cover letter. You should send contact requests out to as many people as you can. 


Home Depot

I come from a family of accountants: this included my father, with his professional CGA practice in the 1980’s, and my sister, who toiled away nights and weekends over several years while working in several accounting roles to obtain her CGA designation.  Bookkeeping has always been in my blood. When I stepped out of my lane to learn about emerging technologies, I found a whole new world of tools for job search that are not necessarily found at your local hardware store.


Next time an engineer approaches me, I will ensure that his Fiskars “shovel” is equipped with all of the required accessories to help him (or her) to adequately excavate their way out of the ditch and into a role they are best suited.


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About the author


Allen Wazny is a Canadian Chartered Professional Accountant (CPA) in good standing with CPA Alberta and CPA Canada and has worked in progressive senior financial roles in oil & gas, mining, manufacturing , construction and renewable energy sectors in Russia, Kazakhstan, Turkey, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates and Qatar. 


Since 2017, Allen has extensively researched emerging technologies and co-founded two blockchain projects.  Such focus lead to advisory roles with Uncloak™ (a UK-based cybersecurity startup); DIGIPHARM, a healthcare payments startup out of Switzerland; Hardboot Inc., a tech staff resourcing company out of Toronto; Backers Network Inc., a crowdfunding platform out of Toronto and from August 2022, as a mentor for startups that in the Newchip Accelerator incubation program.  


Allen was a keynote speaker at the MECA CFO Academy seminar in Dubai on 1 December 2018 under the theme “Emerging Technologies and the Future of Finance”. Allen also participated as a panel expert at the IBM sponsored event “AI-enabled Supply Chain Master Class” in Doha, Qatar on 19 June 2019. Finally, on 4 March 2020, Allen presented "Podcasting" to the Digital and Emerging Media Class of Eileen Gaetz, M.A. an instructor at Bow Valley College.


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This article, and the 440+ career advice submissions I made on LinkedIn since August 2018, provided the inspiration for my YouTube series under the title, “Will You Review My CV?” | http://bit.ly/3ikvfpr


//end of Blog article



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