Petrofac’s Jamilya Garajayeva: A Journey of Determination

Logistics Manager Found Career Opportunities Where She Least Expected Them

By Heba Hesham

Jamilya Garajayeva, logistics manager for the supply chain function at Petrofac, speaks to Breakbulk about her “love” for logistics, the importance of good mentors and why she is not afraid to confront formidable challenges head-on.

From Issue 3, 2024 of Breakbulk Magazine.

(7-min read)

Jamilya Garajayeva, logistics manager for the supply chain function at Petrofac, is not one to shy away from complex projects. With 15 years of industry experience under her belt, she has steered the logistics and commercial activities for numerous onshore and offshore projects, supporting various multinational companies.

Today, she is responsible for the operational and commercial activities of renewable energy projects at Petrofac, an international service provider to the energy industry. Her transition to the renewables sector came after almost six years in the company’s functional support unit, where she oversaw oil and gas project logistics.

“I was attracted to the logistics industry due to its dynamic nature, constant challenges and its critical role in supply chain management,” Garajayeva said. “I was eager to join logistics and to serve big oil and gas companies. It was so exciting to be part of such important projects.”

Despite her accomplishments, Garajayeva never really planned on a long-term career in logistics. Speaking at Breakbulk Middle East, she said that it all began when she decided to leave her comfort zone and expose herself to new challenges.

“I didn’t even think I would be able to manage all this. To me, it was a complex operational process. However, every day brought new challenges and opportunities to learn, which kept me engaged and motivated.

“What made it even more interesting is that logistics work isn’t something you can learn from books or theory. It’s all about hands-on experience and dealing with real-life challenges, which makes it quite difficult, yet rewarding.”

To break into the industry, she worked tirelessly and trained in logistics, chartering and supply chain management, gaining practical experience.

Her determination to tackle big challenges helped her to build confidence, grow stronger and handle unexpected problems. She embraced every opportunity to learn and grow within the field, eventually establishing herself as a professional in the sector.

The Ascent

Starting her career as a freight forwarder with a UK-based company, working at one of its branch offices in Baku, Azerbaijan, Garajayeva focused on learning all about this aspect of supply chain management. After familiarizing herself with ocean freight forwarding, she moved to other modes of transport, focusing on air and rail shipping for oil and gas companies.

“To be a service provider and a client are two different roles. That is why I invested time in each stage of the logistics chain, as it was complicated and there was so much information. I broke it down into blocks to understand how it all comes together.

“I had to start from scratch and learn everything from the ground up. As a beginner, the most difficult part was becoming certified as a Dangerous Goods specialist, particularly in moving explosives and radioactive sources for drilling activities,” she said.

Soon after, she was asked to handle a major freight-forwarding project for an oilfield service company. It involved delivering explosives for oil-well drilling activities and required her to charter freighters from the United States to the Caspian region.

“I remember it was a weekend, and it was so stressful. I couldn’t find out what was happening with the charter as there was no proper communication. I stayed in the office until the early hours of the morning to make sure the aircraft landed at the airport without issues,” she recalled.

“Thankfully, everything went according to plan and the explosives were successfully delivered. Despite the challenges, I took ownership and initiative to engage myself in complex projects. It was my third year as a freight forwarder, and it moved me to the air freight division.”

Stepping into EPC Logistics

While freight forwarding was mainly about chartering vessels and aircraft, working with EPC logistics was a completely different ballgame. The Middle East was also new territory for Garajayeva, but this did not deter her from joining Petrofac in 2010.

As a long-term expatriate who had previously lived in several countries, including Turkmenistan, Georgia and Azerbaijan, she was particularly drawn to the Middle East’s growing EPC industry and its promising opportunities for career advancement.

“One of the most significant turning points for me was when I first moved from freight forwarding to the EPC sector. There, I had a chance to work with a mentor who played an important role in guiding and shaping my professional growth. His wisdom and guidance were instrumental in helping me to navigate the complexities of the industry and develop the skills I needed to succeed.

“I am also grateful to current management who recognized my potential and encouraged me to step into leadership roles within my organization,” she said. “They challenged me to think strategically and provided valuable support as I refined my professional skills.”

Joining Petrofac as a deputy logistics manager, Garajayeva had a clear goal – to enhance her knowledge on the operational and contractual sides of the business, empowering her to champion the company’s interests effectively.

“When it comes to EPC logistics, every time I stepped into a new project, I realized there was a lot to learn. What helped me was my determination to be part of something important. I wanted to tackle big challenges.”

With her focus today on the renewable energy sector, Garajayeva emphasized the vital role that the breakbulk industry plays in supporting EPC projects like wind farms and in providing logistics solutions for oversized and heavy-lift cargo. She noted that the “industry’s resilience and ability to navigate market fluctuations and complex supply chains make it an integral part of the logistics landscape."

Taking Ownership

As fulfilling as Garajayeva’s career has been, she admits that it entails making compromises. For example, the frequent traveling, oftentimes at short notice, means planning anything more than two weeks in advance is virtually impossible.

Her travel takes her to job sites, fabrication yards, seaports, customs facilities and oilfields, many of which happen to be in remote or developing parts of the world. Not only that, but the nature of the job requires her to be ready to respond to critical matters when they occur.

The industry itself is fast-paced and competitive, and logistics remains predominantly male-dominated. Additionally, pressure can come from external factors. For example, with 30 percent of global container trade transiting through the Suez Canal, the Red Sea shipping crisis that started in October 2023 is disrupting global supply chains and blocking containers and vessels. During such critical times, a logistics manager is expected to mitigate and manage these delays.

In such a demanding environment, achieving a work-life balance is crucial for one’s wellbeing. Garajayeva finds that doing nothing is the best way to recharge after a long week at work. She de-stresses by prioritizing self-care and spending time with family and friends.

Ultimately, however, she finds her career highly rewarding and fulfilling. “It feels good when you achieve milestones as management sets a high bar for projects. Seeing the positive impact of my efforts brings a sense of fulfillment and drives me to continue pushing forward. Also, knowing that I have made a tangible output and contributed to the success of the organization keeps me motivated every day.”

She added that the positive workplace culture and environment has contributed to her professional growth. “People here are friendly and supportive, and I feel valued by the company and my management. They prioritize our growth by organizing diverse training programs aimed to enhance our skills. Ultimately, it’s all about the people.”

Contentment and Aspirations

Garajayeva, who is part of a female leadership program at Petrofac that focuses on empowering women in industry, acknowledged that people still assume it’s hard for women in this technically challenging field. However, she believes that women’s conflict management abilities, attention to detail, organizational skills and flexibility are all valuable assets for the logistics industry.

“Social stereotypes can sometimes limit women from advancing in their careers. That said, many cases have proven that women are up to the challenging circumstances and their inclusion brings benefit to the logistics function as they are part of the energy and oil and gas industries.”

Her advice for women starters who are breaking into the industry is to focus on what they can learn from each opportunity, instead of just considering how an opportunity may advance their career or lead to specific goals.

“See challenges as chances to learn and grow, and focus on your knowledge, skills and the experiences you can gain from every opportunity, regardless of where it may ultimately take you. My career has had highs and lows, but those moments where things didn’t go as planned ended up being the most interesting and rewarding.

“Don’t try to learn everything the hard way. It’s okay to ask for help or advice from experienced people. I have been lucky to have great mentors and colleagues who’ve helped me achieve more than I could alone.”

Garajayeva is clearly in it for the long haul and believes she has a long way to go. “I’m thankful to wake up every day and have a job I love. I enjoy achieving things and coming home to tell my family about them.

“For as long as I can, I will continue to enhance my knowledge. Of course, I have goals and I know what I want to achieve. But I’m also living in the moment, and where I will be in five years from now, life will show.”

Petrofac is a member of the Breakbulk Global Shipper Network.