DUBAI // Mey Alleem didn't want to take the popular route of working in a comfortable government or bank job when it came to choosing her career.
Instead she set off on her own path. She studied mechanical engineering and then engineering management at the Higher Colleges of Technology Sharjah before she graduated and took a job at a power station.
"I'm the first Emirati engineer in my field," said Ms Alleem, 25, who was the top student in her class. "I am working as an operations engineer at the Wasit power station, which comes under the Sharjah Electricity and Water Authority.
"I pursued this career because it's a challenging thing, especially for a woman. I like challenges. Everybody was saying a woman was perfect in the kitchen, and I wanted to prove we were better than that and could lead.
"Now I am acting as head of section and have 25 people beneath me and all of them are men. I don't have any problems leading men, I can do it and I have proved that."
She said a number of people who had graduated at the same time as her with the same qualifications took jobs handling paperwork in banks and similar businesses.
"I did not want to do that," she added. "I chose to study engineering because I had a point of view and I wanted to prove it, and if I'd gone to a bank I would have proved that everybody was right and I was wrong. Some people like routine jobs, but some people like challenging things."
Another Emirati who charted his own course when it came to selecting a career is Khaled Al Shehhi, 28, from Abu Dhabi - and the choice he made could not contrast more strongly with the stereotype of a safe office job.
He joined Adnoc's Emiratisation programme, which gave him a scholarship to study marine engineering in the UK.
He now works for Adnoc gas shipping division NGSCO, spending 10 weeks at a time at sea aboard ships that carry fuel from Abu Dhabi to Japan. He has just been promoted to second engineer.
"I didn't want to work in a government office," he said. "My job is in the engine room, maintaining all the machinery and the engine.
"This shipping company used to be managed by a foreign company, BP, but five years ago Abu Dhabi and Adnoc decided they wanted to Emiratise this job and manage their own ships.
"They have a very good programme for Emiratis. I graduated in September 2005 and look at me now: I'm already a second engineer."
He said he found it difficult to leave his family and friends behind to spend more than two months at sea.
"It's very tough," he said. "Sometimes we wake up at night and have to answer alarms and deal with problems.
"In my last ship we lost engine power and the weather was very bad and the ship was drifting towards rocks. We worked on the engine for 24 hours to fix it so we could sail away safely."