DUBAI // Amal Al Suwaidi knows the importance of keeping customers satisfied, but in her case that means about 2 million people.
Ms Al Suwaidi is the vice president of customer relations at the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (Dewa), the emirate's sole utilities supplier.
"It is a big responsibility," she said. "We have about 650,000 accounts all over Dubai and the population is just over 2 million.
"I don't think there is any other government organisation that has such a responsibility towards the community as we do at Dewa. I am also responsible for the call-centre emergency line."
The Emirates Women Award (EWA) judges recognised Ms Al Suwaidi's achievements by giving her the prize in the innovation category last year.
She said this was in recognition of her efforts to involve all of Dewa's divisions and departments in a project to streamline customer service.
Ms Al Suwaidi had won awards before but was especially pleased to receive recognition from the EWA scheme.
"I was particularly proud to gain the award because it was on the level of the UAE, it was not only Dubai," she said.
"There was a wider range of competition and the nominees were all in high positions."
Ms Al Suwaidi said she would urge any women who were considering entering this year's EWA round to go for it. And she had some advice for them.
"There are so many things women need to learn in the working environment so they are able to reach senior positions and gain recognition," she said. "They need to recognise themselves first; they have to believe in themselves.
"No matter how many skills you have, if you don't show the others that you have the ability and you have the confidence they will never trust you."
Ms Al Suwaidi has worked for Dewa since January 1992, the year it was formed through the merger of the Dubai Electric Company with the Dubai Water Department.
She began in the personnel department before moving to human resources and then customer relations.
"I used to feel shy at the beginning of my career," Ms Al Suwaidi said.
"I was a junior graduate and I got involved in heavy meetings with the higher management on many occasions. The majority of the senior staff in any organisation are male.
"When I was in meetings and they discussed things about electricity and water I felt hesitant to show an opinion, but when one of them expressed some of his opinions I was blaming myself because it was on the tip of my tongue to say the same things.
"That happened a few times at the beginning and then I learnt to come up with whatever I thought it was, even though it was wrong sometimes. That doesn't matter. I started to build my confidence from that time until now."
Ms Al Suwaidi, 43, from Dubai, faces the problem encountered by all busy and successful women in striking a balance between work and home.
She has three children - Khalid, 14, Sara, 10, and Hind, 8.
"There is no secret to keeping the balance, it is very difficult," she said. "I try to give my family and my younger kids especially, at least the basic time that they need with some bonuses.
"But it is not easy to keep the balance. I would be lying if I said it's easy. There is a price but it's worth it, especially when women make it to the top.
"My family now are proud of me, especially my kids. They are very proud of their mum and it's satisfying from that angle.
"You give them ambitions also. You make them have their own dreams."
The closing date for applications for the Emirates Women Award, which are run by the Dubai Quality Group, is next Thursday. Details are available at www.ewa.ae.