Middle East Business News caught up with Linn Tonsberg from Air BP in Dubai and discussed her career to date, current role and how she is finding living and working in the MiddleEast…
Tell us about yourself and how you ended up in the Middle East and working at BP?
Being Norwegian, I grew up in an oil and gas and shipping-type environment. I always had ambitions to get into the energy sector.
I studied International Relations with a focus on foreign policy analysis and entrepreneurial leadership at Tufts University in Boston. I then completed an MBA at INSEAD. I had worked for four years in the consumer goods sector prior to my MBA. Therefore anMBA helped me transition fromconsumer goods to the oil and gas industry.I was recruited into BP’s Future Leaders Programme (FLP) after my MBA and started at the firm in June 2013.
Prior to my MBA I worked at Voss, a start-up Norwegian water company. At Voss I travelled to South and North East Asia, where I was responsible for managing the distributor and trying to build the brand in that market. I like to experience new working cultures – that’s one of the reasons why I’m in the Middle East right now.
My first role at BP was strategy implementation manager – which was cross-functional – I did everything from project management, to looking at new market entry.
I enjoyed it, but what I really wanted to do next was move into a sales and marketing role. I really wanted to be on the front-line and to be an external negotiator and revenue generator on behalf of BP.
As of January 2016 I have been an account manager for Air BP in Dubai, which is a hub for our commercial airline business. I cover the Middle East, Africa, and the Indian subcontinent.
What do you in your current role?
I have a portfolio of 14 customers, including the big commercial airlines in the region, and I am responsible for internal and external stakeholder management. As an account manager, internally, I am the representative for our customers. Externally, it’s selling BP and trying to find ways and opportunities to deliver above and beyond what our competitors do.
I am tasked with managing my portfolio and building relationships,understanding what makes our customers tick, and using those insights to benefit the customer and develop strategies to help grow the BP business further. The way airlines work is that they put out tenders, and oil companies bid on those tenders and then they award business. It’s trying to think a bit more broadly about it – what can we deliver, to take us out of this regular tender cycle that we’re usually in.
How does working in the Middle East differ from other markets?
Moving to the Middle East and working in Oil & Gas was a bit of a challenge in the beginning culturally. With time, I felt like I’d really broken a barrier and it made me realize that no matter where in the world you are, if you deliver and are a good team player, people will accept you and they will work with you. It felt significant and like a break through.
Personally, moving to the Middle East is the biggest highlight of my career overall. I have greatly enjoyed joining BP in the Dubai office and the experiences that I’ve had here, working with diverse counterparties with different cultural backgrounds on common goals.