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Posted on: Monday 15 April, 2019 1:31 pm
Feature: SAS and Saudization


Countries with sizeable populations are often tasked with converting their human resources, traditionally seen as a liability, into an asset. The key here is to convert as high a percentage of this population into socio-economically performing and contributing members of society. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has outlined exactly this principle in ‘Vision 2030’ – tasking the Government and the business community to take advantage of the Kingdom’s populace and together prepare for a brighter future.


A more diversified economy will result in improved economic performance, building on the average growth rate of four per cent over the last few years. Relevant and rewarding employment opportunities for people of all ages will continue to be a key factor in driving this economic transformation. While the Vision 2030 directly calls upon local businesses to step up their Saudization efforts, it is a positive sign to see multinational corporations often taking the lead here, with SAS being an example.



SAS, a global leader in data analytics, strongly believes that an engaged workforce can bring about the best results, and they operate under the philosophy that employees are the company’s greatest asset. The company has been consistently listed in international rankings such as ‘Great Place to Work’, ‘Best Workplaces in Technology’, ‘Best Workplaces for Giving Back’, and Fortune’s ‘Best Workplace for Millennials’, among others.


Alaa Youssef, Managing Director – Middle East, SAS, believes that the corporate culture of valuing employees at SAS has a global impact, attracting the best talent and also ensuring that they stay with the company for a longer time. “At SAS, we believe that our contributions to nations, Governments, and businesses are towards a broad goal of overall development of the nation, and we believe that skills development is a key aspect of this. We attract, hire, train, and motivate the best talent, and through this, we directly impact the overall quality and quantity of available talent in the country in the future.”


“In the Middle East, we have brought the best of SAS’ employment philosophies to strengthen our relationship with our employees. Our people are our key differentiators, enabling us to bring innovative solutions to the market and address our clients’ needs in unique and effective ways”, he added.



The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has earmarked various aspects of technology as pillars on which the success of the Vision 2030 will be built. Whether it is in expanding the telecommunications network coverage, building a sophisticated digital infrastructure, embracing an e-Government model, or realizing technology potential through the National Transformation Plan, a strong requirement for the near-term and the long-term is for skilled and qualified talent. The Government’s outlook from Saudization is not only with a view to reduce unemployment, but to also address ‘under-employment’ – where skilled and qualified Saudi talent are employed in roles below their capacity, and which do not allow them to realize their full potential.


Zafir Junaid, Regional Manager – Saudi Arabia, SAS, says that building a team that includes Saudi nationals in strategic roles is not just to meet quotas, but to benefit from the wealth of talent that already exists in the Kingdom. “In Saudi Arabia particularly, we have built a team that is comprised of qualified, creative and extremely well talented Saudi youth, who bring a strong understanding of local culture and processes, as well as a direct connection to the community within which we operate. This is also a sign of our commitment to the markets where we are present – we strongly support the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 and are committed to playing our part in bringing the pillars of this Vision to fruition.”


Drawing on its focus towards investing in the national skill base, SAS often hires interns, fresh graduates, and professionals looking to explore new challenges. This calls for the expanding of resources towards training and development of SAS employees in the Kingdom, but with the advantage of a well-equipped, work-ready employee pool, who would add to SAS’ business efforts in the Kingdom and also go on to add value to the Kingdom in future roles and endeavors.



Abdulaziz Albakr, who joined SAS in 29th Jan 2017, found that foregoing the frequent preference for a public sector job has resulted in a much steeper learning curve, and exposure to international standards of innovation, technical know-how, and corporate exposure. “My experience with SAS has been very valuable, and my professional development has been accelerated through matchless exposure and experiences. I strongly believe that an opportunity for global exposure is invaluable at any stage in one’s career, and having the advantage of an early start, I am optimistic about my future.”


Under the umbrella of the Vision 2030 are various elements that are expected to boost employment opportunities in the Kingdom, mainly from the privatization of public sector undertakings, development of industries through the local production requirement, among others. Recent trends such as the issuing of driving licences to women will also provide a boost to the available talent in the market, as women can now travel independently to their workplaces. These initiatives are also resulting in an improved business climate in the Kingdom, as organisations operate in an economic environment that is closer in nature to other similar markets in the region and beyond.


Drawn to the culture at SAS in a time of unprecedented opportunity and growth in the Kingdom, Nouf Aldrees, who joined SAS in April 2017, is of the opinion that a role in a multinational private sector entity propels one’s learning and professional development at a fast pace. “I can witness trends that are emerging and evolving in the industry and how the market is now responsive to innovation and technology at a pace with the rest of the world. Working with SAS has brought me to the forefront of this transition. I feel that I am at the right place at the right time, and I look forward to the future of the Kingdom as we all work towards achieving Vision 2030.”



Since the announcement of the Vision 2030 economic reform plan in 2016, the Government of Saudi Arabia has been tasked with implementing a range of changes aimed at economic reform and transformation. Apart from focus on boosting the private sector and privatization, attracting investment, and increasing innovation, a primary agenda is around generating employment, and bridging the gap between the output from the higher education system and the job market needs.


With employment in the public sector largely saturated, the focus is now on guiding the private sector to align with this employment-generation strategy, aside from the key role that the private sector will play in strengthening the economy through diversified revenue sources.


The Saudization program continues to bring new jobs and sectors under its purview frequently, ensuring that there is the systematic build-up of Saudi nationals in the workforce, with sufficient time given for training and development of skills required for these roles.


The IT industry has a huge role to play in the transformation plan towards the Vision, and given the pervasiveness of large multinational companies in this space, Alaa Youssef believes that it is up to these companies to implement their own Saudization strategies in advance of Government regulations. “This will help organizations build up their talent pool before a sudden, government-mandated rush to hire quality talent, and invest time and effort in advance for training, development, and building global exposure”, he said.


“Ultimately, if companies are going to build success on the back of the huge potential in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, it is critical   to involve Saudis in this journey, and together work towards the Kingdom of 2030”, he concluded.


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