Saudi graduates working at NEOM complete ‘high-performance’ Formula E placement

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Two Saudi graduates working at NEOM recently completed a secondment scheme with Mercedes’ EQ Formula E team in the UK that aimed to develop their professional skills.

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Ahmed al-Hussain, a design engineer, and Duaa al-Zaher, who worked with Mercedes’ digital team, described the impact of the year-long placement at Mercedes F1 HQ in Brackley with Al Arabiya English.

“I learned to continuously embrace curiosity and challenge myself, which helped me gain invaluable insight into how far I can push my limits,” said Duaa.

“My time here with the team has piqued my curiosity and motivated me to broaden my knowledge and expertise, learning from everyone and everything around me,” Ahmed added.

Some of the skills picked up by candidates are vital when working on a project with such a grand vision as NEOM, according to Neal Coupland, NEOM’s Partnerships Director.

“NEOM has a purpose, but it’s a long goal in terms of creating The Line et cetera, of Vision 2030,” he said. “And we need to sometimes reflect on the fact that we’ve got to get some short term wins and we have to have a culture that lets us do that so we don’t drift too much on a weekly or monthly basis, and we don’t reassess things too many times.”

Coupland described what a drastic effect the placement had on the two graduates: “They looked more confident, they sounded more confident, they spoke with purpose.”

“I've honestly rarely seen a change so dramatically between two people. I almost wasn’t sure I was speaking to the same two people,” he said.

The Mercedes EQ Formula E Team celebrating success in the eight season of the sport. (Supplied)
The Mercedes EQ Formula E Team celebrating success in the eight season of the sport. (Supplied)

Dr Katherine Bond, an expert in sports psychology, also spoke to Al Arabiya English about how working with high-performance teams such as Mercedes’ Formula E can impart transferrable skills onto young graduates entering the workforce.

Professional athletes transitioning from sports into other careers are sought-after, she said, due to strengths in teamwork and coachability.

“The notion that secondments or internments in a high performing team or high performance sports environment develop those skills and qualities in early-career individuals is a well-proven practice,” she added.

“And so it was demonstrated really well in this instance with the NEOM grads having that year with the Mercedes Formula E team.”

Key takeaways from the year spent abroad involved learning the importance of “transparent communication and empathy,” said Duaa.

For Ahmed, the secondment taught him the value of trial and error: “The earlier you do your own test and trial, and make a few mistakes along the way, the more you learn and the faster you boost the quality of your output.”

The secondment coming to an end also marks the conclusion of the partnership between NEOM and Mercedes-EQ Formula E, in which the team has secured victories in the ABB FIA Formula E Teams’ and Drivers’ Championships.

But as Duaa and Ahmed return to work at NEOM as part of its Graduate Opportunities in Work (GrOW) program, the futuristic city project is set to partner with McLaren for future secondments.

While only two candidates were selected this year, more than 20 will work with McLaren next year, said Coupland.

“There’s no limit really then on how many young people we can get into this kind of program,” he explained.

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