x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

My UAE: the aerospace employee Mariam Al Jaberi’s career takes flight

A profile of the Emirati aerospace team leader Mariam Al Jaberi.

Mariam Al Jaberi used to work as an administrator, but found it unsatisfying. She eventually joined Strata, an aerospace manufacturing company, and is now thriving as a team leader. Sammy Dallal / The National
Mariam Al Jaberi used to work as an administrator, but found it unsatisfying. She eventually joined Strata, an aerospace manufacturing company, and is now thriving as a team leader. Sammy Dallal / The National

Emirati women traditionally have not ventured into technical career paths such as engineering. However, 28-year-old Mariam Al Jaberi, from Al Ain, is part of a new generation of women entering technical industries and challenging stereotypes.

Al Jaberi works as a team leader at Strata, a Mubadala-owned aerostructures manufacturing facility in Al Ain. Last year she won the company’s Employee of the Year award. For someone who has only been in the industry for three years, she certainly is flying high, leading a team that builds parts for Airbus 330/340 wings.

Before she joined, though, Al Jaberi held an uninspiring administrative position, working on an office help desk. “Every day it was the same; talking to people, solving problems over email, helping operators. When you’re working in the office doing paperwork you have to think, but you don’t see the result. My salary there was double what I earned when I first joined Strata, but I wanted to learn new things.”

She is also getting a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering. She studies in the morning and works at Strata from 1pm until around 10pm. “But you don’t feel the time. When you’re installing brackets and screws, it flies by.”

Al Jaberi says Strata has been “fantastic” from the very start. She began her tenure with a 10-month course learning the basics about airplanes and the aerospace industry. After another year-long practical course and 1,700 hours of training, she joined the assembly team.

The last two months of training took Al Jaberi to Italy; the first time she had ever been to Europe, and her first time travelling alone.

“People at Strata aren’t just focused on work; they don’t just think about the money. They focus on people. They try to support them all the time and help them improve. When you’re working by your own hands, building parts of an aircraft, you see the difference. One day, if I see an aircraft flying – maybe it has a part I made with my own hands.”

Who is your biggest inspiration?

My mother has always been very supportive of me. I still remember that day when I left to Italy without anyone from my family, and she said “goodbye” for the first time. She called me every day, telling me that I chose my work and it was what I had to do.

Do you have any other passions apart from work?

I like to support Al Ain football club. I don’t accept anyone talking about them. When I watch a match at home, I take the remote and nobody is allowed to change the channel. If someone touches it – khalas, this is the end.

Do you have any other skills?

I like to use programs like Photoshop. When I first started Photoshop, before I started working, I used to make and edit pictures for occasions like Eid and Ramadan and send them to my friends over MMS.

How do you measure your own success?

My father passed away nine years ago. Every day when I wake up, I just think: if he was still alive, I know he would be proud of me.

How do you get to work?

I drive a Honda Civic. I like driving. It means I can go to work whenever I want.

Outside of training, do you have any memorable memories of your trip to Italy?

One day we went to the cinema, but it was all in Italian and we couldn’t understand a single word. Everyone was laughing but us.

Do you have any favourite books?

My favourite book is by Ibrahim Al Thaqi. It’s an Arabic book about how to understand language. I like to read books that aren’t just stories, but something real that has happened.

Do you ever go to racetracks or anything like that?

We finished our target for this year early, so a group of about 22 of us went go-karting. It was a fantastic day. There were maybe six of us ladies and the rest men.

Any other interests or hobbies?

I like to draw. I like to take photographs too – such as today, when it rained. Sometimes I might take photographs of children playing; when you take a photograph, with a focus, you can capture every motion.


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