Engineering alumnus Faraz Ahmad (Churchill 2006) has been selected by the World Energy Council onto its exclusive Future Energy Leaders programme.
The interdisciplinary nature of the Cambridge Engineering course has proven very useful to my career, as I have dealt with a wide range of technologies and applications. Understanding the engineering fundamentals behind each application is a skill that I have had to apply to a host of problems.Faraz Ahmad
Faraz is one of just 37 participants globally to have secured a place on the FEL-100 programme designed to inspire, grow and develop the world’s energy leaders of tomorrow.
Currently living in the United States, Faraz now works as an Operations Director for GE Oil & Gas. He hopes through his work with the World Energy Council to inspire students to pursue a career in the energy sector.
We caught up with Faraz to find out more.
Faraz, what does it mean to you to have been selected to take up a place on the FEL-100 programme?
I’m tremendously honoured and humbled to have been selected as one of the 37 global candidates for the Future Energy Leader programme of the World Energy Council. This is a one-year appointment with the possibility of renewal for up to three years. It is an opportunity for me to contribute to the World Energy Council's mission and be part of a unique platform of energy professionals to help shape future energy solutions and frameworks.
I’m excited at the opportunity to build on the creative ideas from the network and the innovative potential we have as participants to challenge conventional thinking and explore new strategies. It also allows me to further my professional development, particularly in relation to critical issues on the energy agenda.
What is first on the agenda for you as part of the programme?
I’m joining the task force on energy efficiency, which will study demand response and prosumers (producer/consumer), as well as the potential impact on energy efficiency following the implementation of these concepts. In particular, the taskforce will analyse the role of information and communication technologies in energy efficiency management by reviewing existing implementation and adaptation of efficiency concepts. The objective will be a final publication on the future potential, both in terms of magnitude and geographical spread. This is a fantastic fit for my education and experience across engineering, electronics and the energy sector.
What did you enjoy the most about your studies at Cambridge and how has this helped you in your career?
I studied Engineering at Cambridge and completed Electrical and Information Sciences during my Part II Tripos, graduating in 2006. I spent my third year as part of the Cambridge-MIT Exchange where I studied at MIT, completing classes in Electronic Engineering, Computer Science and also Management at the MIT Sloan School of Management.
I really enjoyed the intellectual challenge of solving real world problems. I appreciated the rigorous education on the fundamentals of each discipline and enjoyed applying this to real case studies.
I particularly enjoyed the applied classes and projects in my fourth year on control systems, digital signal processing and management of technology. The interdisciplinary nature of the course has proven very useful to my career, as I have dealt with a wide range of technologies and applications. Understanding the engineering fundamentals behind each application is a skill that I have had to apply to a host of problems. These include areas linked to my specialisation such as communications, controls and robotics but also wider engineering fields of power generation, materials and manufacturing processes.
Could you please describe your career since graduation and how this led to the World Energy Council’s FEL-100 programme ?
My fourth year MEng project was completed in collaboration with Cambridge Silicon Radio plc (now acquired by Qualcomm), who were a semiconductor company providing wireless chips for mobile phones and consumer electronics. This led to a permanent role based in Cambridge.
I spent my first full time role as a digital design engineer developing digital systems encompassing design, modelling, software testing and prototyping. I later became really interested in exploring wider sectors of energy and sustainability. I joined Boston Consulting Group in London spending several years on working with energy, government and telecoms clients. I played a key role in publications on the UK's offshore wind and offshore renewables strategy.
In 2011, I joined GE Energy and completed several assignments across multiple industries in different countries; power generation, renewables, grids, rail, mining and marine. In 2012, I was seconded into an internal startup to build a new business in reciprocating engines to provide distributed power generation. This was aimed at market applications where the grid is intermittent or simply not available.
I was the Strategy Director for the Subsea Systems and Drilling business unit of GE Oil & Gas in 2013. This was a varied role focusing on identifying new markets, prioritising product development plans, leading technology commercialisation and investment evaluation. I represented GE externally on a variety of issues: the Indonesian trade delegation, contributed on a national UK publication on Enhanced Oil Recovery and co-authored a paper on how to improve the oil and gas industry’s performance.
In 2015, I was appointed Strategy Lead for the Wellstream business, which is one of the constituent businesses within the business unit. I was part of the leadership team, working with the CEO and functional leads.
My key accomplishments were developing an approach to increase adoption of the business' subsea technology, commercialising composite materials innovation and defining the strategic plan to improve the business' competitive position. My work in the subsea sector was recognised by Subsea UK (industry association) as a finalist for the Emerging Talent Award.
Last year, I was accepted onto GE's newly formed Accelerated Leadership Programme. I relocated to Houston, USA, to manage operations in the offshore drilling business which manufacture and service Blow Out Preventers (BOPs).
The BOP is the piece of equipment that controls the well pressure during drilling to prevent an uncontrolled release. I'm responsible for the deployment of the BOP monitoring systems across GE's global installed fleet. There are two objectives for this: firstly to allow real-time monitoring of the operational status so that continuous data can be collected to a secure site onshore and allow improved decision making. This is also required to meet upcoming US regulations on offshore drilling. Secondly, to use data analytics and engineering assessment to optimise the performance and maintenance of the BOPs. For example, elongating the maintenance interval dependent on their actual condition rather than adopting a time-based approach.
I hope that my journey and current position on the World Energy Council’s FEL-100 programme will inspire students to pursue a career in the energy sector.