About 300 students and others at Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif., crowded into a campus auditorium June 1 to hear Al-Falih talk about his role leading one of the world’s most successful energy companies. His presentation was part of a guest speaker series called “View from the Top” that is hosted by the Stanford Graduate School of Business.
‘Drill a little deeper’
Al-Falih told listeners that he has drawn great inspiration from an icon in the company’s history, Max Steineke – a first generation Aramco pioneer and the former Chief Geologist. Steineke was also a graduate of Stanford University.
“Sent to Saudi Arabia in the mid-1930s by Standard Oil Company of California (which eventually became Saudi Aramco), Steineke’s resilience and optimism overcame almost five years of frustration, as a number of wells were drilled and failed to deliver,” Al-Falih said.
He went on to say that the company’s management had wanted the effort to cease, but Steineke had a keen sense that if they just hung in there a little longer and “drilled a little deeper,” the effort would pay off.
And it did.
In March 1938, Dammam Well No. 7, “Lucky Number Seven,” became the nation’s first gusher. And the rest, as they say, is history.
“Drilling a little deeper” was the mantra that Al-Falih used to further explore the theory and practice of leadership, and to describe Saudi Aramco today and its future aspirations.
“Saudi Aramco’s story is one of success by multiple measures,” he explained. “We’ve produced more oil in our history than any other company on the planet. Over the next 24 hours, we will provide more than 10 million barrels of oil to the global market.”
He went on to talk about the company’s expanding role in natural gas and chemicals, and its push into the downstream sector through significant investment in refining assets, both at home and abroad. He mentioned that he had just been in Texas the previous day to inaugurate an expansion of the company’s joint venture Port Arthur Refinery.
He also touched on the company’s commitment to lead the industry in technology research and innovation, and its important role in serving as the engine of the Kingdom’s economy and source of energy.
He said that even though Saudi Aramco is already one of the world’s largest, most successful enterprises, it is aiming even higher to “unleash its full power and potential” through a transformative change.
Al-Falih talked about Saudi Aramco’s Accelerated Transformation Program (ATP) to help drive the company forward and remain a step ahead in a changing industry and a changing world.
He expounded on the ATP formula, addressing the program’s four main “pillars” that focus on:
- Developing the company’s business portfolio.
- Leveraging its global leadership position for the progress of the Kingdom.
- Expanding its capabilities through staff education and training (especially for a new generation of young men and women).
- Streamlining its business processes.
During his Stanford visit, Al-Falih met with faculty members from the School of Earth Sciences to talk about the latest initiatives involving a trilateral partnership initiated last year between Saudi Aramco, Stanford and King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals to collaborate on research and education in subsurface science and engineering.
Later that evening, Stanford provost John Etchemendy and his wife hosted a private dinner in their home for Al-Falih and other company representatives. The evening was devoted to celebrating the trilateral partnership and honoring the legacy of Max Steineke and his determination to “drill a little deeper” that ended up changing the world of energy.