x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

'Even if you have children, it doesn't mean you can't continue working'

Budding petroleum engineers say changing industry more suited to 'wives, sisters and daughters'.

ABU DHABI // Sara al Dhaheri comes from a family of engineers. Her mother is an architect, her aunt is an electrical engineer and her uncle a mechanical engineer. She has always known it would be her career path, too. "My mum always told me that you should do something that challenges you, not just something you're good at," said the second year chemical engineering student. "Our economy is based on the petroleum industry right now and we know the work we do here is all enhancing it."

After her four years at the Petroleum Institute, she hopes to complete a master's degree, work in engineering management and then get some experience on oil rigs before settling down to an office job. It is not the conventional career path of an Emirati woman in previous years. "My family will be fine with me doing rig work," she said. "All my friends are engineers. Maybe before, it wasn't very accepted to do work like this because it's considered hard work for women but now people are more accepting of it."

Amna Adnan, also Emirati and in her first year at the institute, studying chemical engineering, said: "Things have changed a lot. My family actually encouraged me to become an engineer, I didn't have to persuade them that this was a good idea." Nada Abou Sayed, a second year petroleum engineering student, said it was vital for their generation to seek alternative energy solutions. "The oil will run out eventually and we need new ways other than solar that is expensive, so nuclear is the most efficient and is cheaper than the other alternatives."

She chose petroleum engineering at the age of 16, already confident it was to be her future career. It helped that her father is a geoscientist, she said, helping her to gain a greater insight into the industry from a young age. Ms Adnan said that it was vital to have Emiratis in the industry. "If you think of it in a patriotic way, we are motivated to improve our country, more than just looking at this as a job giving us a salary at the end of the month."

She is keen to work on reservoir engineering. "It's a huge challenge and it is one of the most required fields. You need reservoir engineers so you can make the most effective use of the reservoirs. I like something that makes me work a bit harder so this fits perfectly. "Even if you get married and have children, this doesn't mean we will not be able to continue working. Our mothers all work. "It's about getting a balance. It's not as if we don't have family obligations already on top of our long academic schedules. "We are still sisters and daughters so even with a husband, things would not be different." mswan@thenational.ae