ABU DHABI // Sawsan Al Ghulifaqi's family warned her that breaking into the real estate sales industry would be challenging.
"They told me 'It's not a normal job, and you may face a lot of barriers'," the Abu Dhabi native said. "They told me it would not be easy."
But Ms Al Ghulifaqi not only made it, she excelled. The only Emirati woman on the sales team on Saadiyat Island for the Tourism Development and Investment Company (TDIC), Ms Al Ghulifaqi is called "the sales star" by colleagues. Plus, in November, she won an award for achieving high sales for her work in showcasing the island's upcoming luxury residential offerings.
Luring potential residents to live on a still-under-construction island development is no easy task, but Ms Al Ghulifaqi said there is nothing else she would rather do.
"I'm not working as a salesperson here," she said. "I am working as a TDIC ambassador, and we're offering an entire experience for tourists, for the public and for residents on Saadiyat.
"We are not creating a usual project. We are selling luxury, high-end and high-quality villas."
Ms Al Ghulifaqi, 28, is the only woman on the four-person sales team at Saadiyat. In an industry dominated by men, Ms Al Ghulifaqi said she is hoping to be a role model for a new generation of Emirati women.
"I am the only Emirati lady in an industry where men prevail, and I hope I can inspire others," she said. "In all industries now, Emirati ladies are passionate about most of the jobs, and we want to challenge the men. We can do anything, actually."
The Saadiyat Island development, valued at Dh91.8 billion, is to eventually be home to an estimated 145,000 residents and is expected to be completed by 2020.
The first phase of the Saadiyat Beach Villas, which includes 345 properties, is to open next year. The three- to six-bedroom villas come in three styles and sizes and are close to beach amenities including the Saadiyat Beach Golf Club and the Monte Carlo Beach Club.
Villas are expected to cost between Dh6.5 million and Dh39m.
Earlier this year, TDIC announced that development on the island was being scaled back, and construction on two of the landmark museums - the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi and the Zayed National Museum - has been delayed.
Still, prospective homeowners come from all over the world to research the location at first hand, and it is Ms Al Ghulifaqi's job to build up the island's fledgling residential population.
"It sort of sells itself," she said. "We're offering a different lifestyle here, a gated community with access to the beach, stunning views and eventually the museums. This community is for people who want to spoil themselves."
Of the Saadiyat team, Ms Al Ghulifaqi has sold the most residential units. Rashid Al Suwaidi, the director of sales and leasing at TDIC, said he expected her to "have a great career as her character is built to be a successful salesperson".
Mr Al Suwaidi said: "She's grown and matured very quickly. She's a professional salesperson who is smart, honest, accountable, and she overachieves the goals set for her."
All of the beach villas in the first phase have been sold, and Ms Ghulifaqi is working on selling the 90 available in Phase 2, in addition to 32 luxury residential villas which are part of the St Regis development.
A graduate of the Higher Colleges of Technology, Ms Al Ghulifaqi is proud of what she has accomplished, but "I am not alone", she said.
"I am part of a family here. My male colleagues are so supportive. We are working as one unit, and we accomplish together."
Nearly two years after Ms Al Ghulifaqi joined the sales team at TDIC, even her family has succumbed to the allure of the island. "I'm so motivated by the project, and I keep inviting them to come over and they're just as interested as anyone," she said.
Handover of the beach villas is expected to begin early next year, with the second phase becoming available in the fourth quarter of 2012.