The world that Christina Ibrahim oversees at Weatherford, which has more than 600 locations in 80 countries, is a vast one. But through her leadership practices and initiatives like founding the company’s diversity and inclusion network, the executive vice president, general counsel, chief compliance officer, and corporate secretary works hard to make it feel small.
Ibrahim has approximately 145 employees, about 20 of whom make up the global security group, which concerns the movement of people and the safety of Weatherford facilities. The remaining employees are in legal services, which comprises practice groups focused on commercial, investigations, ethics and compliance, mergers and acquisitions, employment, corporate, intellectual property, supply chain, litigation, and geographies including Asia, the Middle East, the Western Hemisphere, Russia and related countries, and Europe and the North Sea. Each practice group has a lead who reports directly to Ibrahim. “My days are full, different, and interesting,” she says.
Even though Ibrahim, who is based in the company’s Houston office, travels at least 30 percent of the year, it’s virtually impossible for her to visit every country her employees work in over a twelve-month period. To make those valuable in-person connections, she tries to meet in the middle. “Whenever I travel, I try to reach out to my team and visit with them,” she says. “If they can meet me where I’m traveling, then at least I can have some face time with them, even if I can’t make it to their specific geography.”
“I feel like we all work harder for each other because we have a relationship. You feel accountable, you feel responsible, and you feel pride to be a part of this team.”
Ibrahim also holds regional meetings to bring all the lawyers in a geographic area together over a couple of days. In this way, she can discuss their strategic projects, listen to their challenges, and learn how she can support their needs. She says it’s also a valuable chance to let them know what’s happening at the corporate level, such as the company’s Chapter 11 proceeding, which she describes as a learning opportunity from which Weatherford will emerge a strong, healthy, and streamlined company. “I try to make sure they feel included and that they know what’s going on,” she says.
For Ibrahim, the relationship building that comes out of these visits is crucial to her team’s success. “I want the most efficient, respected law department that any corporation has ever seen, and the only way to do that is through building trust,” she explains.
That trust goes both ways. “They trust me to live up to my word to them about whatever we’ve been discussing, and I trust them to do the best job that they can. I feel like we all work harder for each other because we have a relationship. You feel accountable, you feel responsible, and you feel proud to be part of this team.”
When she arrived at Weatherford in 2015, Ibrahim noticed there wasn’t a women’s network within the organization. Feeling that an avenue for women to meet and learn from each other was important in the male-dominated industry of oilfield services, she set out to start one. Soon afterward, she expanded her scope to establish a diversity and inclusion program. Four volunteer-led networks focused on women, veterans, young professionals, and LGBTQ persons currently make up the program and provide education, networking, engagement, and other opportunities.
“We spend a lot of hours every week at work, so I want it to be the best possible environment and learning opportunity for all of our employees.”
Ibrahim leads the executive team that provides support and resources to the network, which now has more than 500 participants in approximately 40 countries. She says the entire executive team at Weatherford has embraced the initiative, and the message they hope to send is that employees can come to work as their whole selves and be supported. “You can only be your best self when you’re your whole self,” she says. “We spend a lot of hours every week at work, so I want it to be the best possible environment and learning opportunity for all of our employees.”
Education also plays an important role across the organization. The leadership team worked with Texas A&M to create a custom program that gives the company’s emerging leaders an academic foundation in business, a “mini MBA,” as Ibrahim describes it, that can help position participants for future career advancement. Within her own team, Ibrahim makes it known that education is encouraged and supported for lawyers and nonlawyers alike, whether they want to learn a new practice area or build skills like project management.
“I just want everybody to be fulfilled,” says Ibrahim, who was honored as an outstanding leader in energy in the Houston Business Journal’s 2018 Women Who Mean Business issue. “I think you do that by continually learning and feeling like, as a person, as a professional, you have the opportunity for continuous improvement in your career.”
The Kullman Firm:
“Christina is always thinking dynamically and is shrewd at designing and implementing innovative solutions to complex challenges and problems. Her creative leadership and dedication are unparalleled, and she is truly an asset to Weatherford.”
—Sam Zurik, Shareholder
Ahmad, Zavitsanos, Anaipakos, Alavi & Mensing P.C.:
“Christina Ibrahim is an outstanding legal steward for Weatherford. She approaches projects with a winning mix of wisdom, experience and judgment. Christina is fantastic to work with.”
—Todd Mensing, Partner