Saudi women determined to break through as engineers

Published April 3rd, 2017 - 11:57 GMT
General Electric is one of the first companies to offer Saudi women engineers employment opportunities. (Shutterstock)
General Electric is one of the first companies to offer Saudi women engineers employment opportunities. (Shutterstock)

General Electric (GE) is one of the first companies to offer Saudi women engineers employment opportunities in the Kingdom.

Zahra Al-Khalifa, a manufacturing engineer at GE, said she graduated from Tulsa University in Oklahoma in 2012 with a bachelor’s degree in Petroleum Engineering.

“I joined GE in 2013 as a manufacturing engineer at GEMTEC shop. Then in 2016, I moved to commercial operations on a one-year assignment and I worked as commercial manager for repair opportunities,” said Al-Khalifa.

She said she searched for jobs for an entire year after her graduation and could not find any. “I applied to many companies but did not find a suitable position as an engineer. The companies in Saudi Arabia were not ready for women engineers. After a year of searching, GE found my CV and contacted me for an interview,” said Al-Khalifa.

She said she responded and attended the interview, which led to the company hiring her.

“GE helped me build a solid beginning for my career path. I was able to develop professional skills in communication, leadership, and customer service. I had room to learn from my mistakes and recover from my failures.
I also had room to seek out new challenges that will add to my knowledge and accomplishments,” said Al-Khalifa.

She said she was nominated to join the GROW Diversity Development Program back in November 2014. “The program focuses on developing women to take leadership positions in the future by strengthening their skills in essential areas such as project management, building your brand, coaching and networking,” said Al-Khalifa.

The participants also work on actual business projects and have a dedicated weeklong training session once every quarter while on the program where they also get to meet senior regional leaders and have career development sessions with HR, she said.

Being a woman engineer in Saudi Arabia is very challenging, interesting and rewarding. Women are highly capable of working as engineers. More and more Saudi women engineers are graduating and the companies need to be proactive in offering these fresh graduates job opportunities to meet the objectives the Kingdom’s Vision 2030,” said Al-Khalifa.

Fatimah Al-Ibrahim, who is part of the Operations Management Leadership Program (OMLP) at GE, said she earned her bachelor’s degree in engineering management from the University of Portland, Oregon. “I specialized in the mechanical track and joined GE in March 2016 as part of the Operations Management Leadership Program, which includes three 8-month long rotations.

Right after my graduation, I applied to work for GE through their website. I went through the recruitment process and was hired,” said Al-Ibrahim.
She said even though her position in GE was her first job after graduation, she had struggled to find a position related to engineering in Saudi Arabia.

“GE introduced her to a new world of engineering technology. I never worked with turbines before but I was able to expand my knowledge in that field through my position here in GE. I was able to deal with new challenges in the Saudi market and I was also able to take on managerial roles and be responsible for quality assurance and customer satisfaction,” said Al-Ibrahim.

She said the program she joined runs for two years, and comprises three 8-month rotations — one each in a technical, managerial and supervisory role.
“The program also includes five separate weeklong training sessions on leadership skills, as well as activities such as logistics, manufacturing, sourcing, quality and environment, health and safety. Together, the varied roles and training help provide a deeper understanding of the business, functional expertise and leadership skills and contribute to accelerated career growth,” said Al-Ibrahim.

She said GE treats all employees equally regardless of position and gender. “GE provides several career acceleration leadership programs. Employees on these programs get exposure to a set of technical training sessions, hands on rotations locally and globally, as well as leadership development training,” said Al-Ibrahim.

She said graduates from these leadership programs have a variety of job opportunities, including but not limited to sales, commercial, supply chain, field services and others leading into top leadership roles.

By Afnan Linjawi


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