Laila Al Amri

Laila Al Amri

Journalist

Hanan Ol-Alayan to head Aramco's refinery business

Accomplished Saudi academic Hanan Al-Olayan has been appointed to a top role at Saudi oil and gas empire Saudi Aramco. She will now be heading the conglomerate’s refinery, processing, and hydrocarbon energy marketing businesses.

Al-Olayan’s appointment marks the first of a Saudi woman to this role. During her years at Saudi Aramco, she struck a number of successes across her various roles. Alongside other Saudi female peers, she broke both the glass ceiling and male-dominated hierarchies in the Saudi energy sector – the backbone of the country’s economy.

Al-Olayan has been with Aramco for over 22 years, during which she grew both academically and professionally into one of the company’s key pillars and decision makers.

The Aramco journey

In a recent report, Saudi newspaper Okaz recounts Al-Olayan’s journey. She joined Aramco in 1995 when she was still a student. When told by the company’s recruitment office that there were no seats available for Aramco’s summer student internship program, Al-Olayan went right after the top-level decision makers to convince them to enroll her. And so they did.

During the two-month program, she stood out with her competence; so much so that the program’s supervisors offered her a job immediately upon her graduation in 1998. She pursued her graduate and master’s studies in business management at her own expense. But her outstanding academic and work performance led Aramco to cover her tuition fees retroactively.

Internal support

Al-Olayan gives credit to the great value added by Aramco throughout her professional experience. She likens the company to an incubator that fosters employees’ skill, self- and professional development. Particularly, Aramco’s “Women leaders” program left an impact on her. She credits it for growing her role and networking opportunities that were pivotal in her transformation into a leader.  

One episode that left a mark on her was when she joined the petroleum products trade division a number of years ago. One of Aramco’s supply ships was suspended at a port for five days after customs officials refused to let it unload its cargo. For 48 hours, Al-Olayan and her team would negotiate to obtain a permit for unloading the cargo, and then, to exempt the company from custom duties estimated at two million Saudi Riyals.

Al-Olayan joins a league of leading women across Aramco’s ranks, including Engineer Nabilah Makki Al-Tunisi – who was ranked among the top 25 women who have left an impact in project management worldwide.

Women in this article

Al-Olayan is the first woman to head refinery, processing and hydrocarbon product marketing at Aramco.

Al-Tunisi is among the top engineers at Aramco.

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