Abu Dhabi: Creating a balance between a fruitful career and taking care of the household is no easy feat for working women these days. However, for one particular Emirati woman it is doable.
With two young children, ages 1 and 4, and only in her 20s, Shaikha Al Maskari makes it possible for a woman to handle seniority in the workplace while spending quality time taking care of her kids and husband.
Shaikha is the Abu Dhabi Airport Company's (ADAC) Vice-President for Corporate Affairs. Her role is to support all requirements and expectations for the ADAC management and translate the 2030 transportation strategic vision set by the government of Abu Dhabi into a reality.
Shaikha speaks to Gulf News about how she manages her time, keeping up with all her responsibilities while being heavily involved in project after project that will help transform the Abu Dhabi Airport into a five-star entity.
Gulf News: How do you manage your time? How do you keep up with both a career and the household?
SHAIKHA AL MASKARI: I'm a perfectionist who loves challenge and risk! When I first started my career, I was working as an intern IT administrator. While people around me would rather work for fewer hours, I enjoyed the learning experience, and before I knew it I became an IT and Systems Manager in 2000.
As a student and during the first few years of my career path, my parents supported me the most; my parents are my biggest fans.
Then, four years ago, I met my husband through a work venue and shortly after that we got married. He's been very supportive and being a Harvard graduate himself and currently the chief operating officer for Mubadala, he understands how important it is to pursue a career.
Tell us about your academic and professional background before working in ADAC. How did you reach where you are right now?
I completed my bachelors degree in business information and technology - Management Information Systems - at the Higher Colleges of Technology. I was also the president of the student's council.
After working in IT & Systems Management, I was offered a challenging position at Injazat Data Systems where I was in charge of client delivery and handling certain outsourced accounts of different governmental departments such as ADACH (Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage), the Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority, the Executive Council, et cetera. I worked from 7.30am to 7.30pm daily. It was a tough challenging period for me, but I was persistent to get a job well done.
How about your career path in ADAC?
My current boss is Khalifa Al Mazroui, chairman of the ADAC. He used to work with me in my previous company and asked me to join ADAC by October 2007, which is when I started off as a business support services director. I gained experience in human resources and procurement. Exactly one year later I was promoted to vice-president corporate affairs.
What is your day-to-day schedule like? Do you get a chance to spend enough time with your children?
I get up at 6.00am and drop Ahmad, 4, [at] school every morning and Alyazia, 1, tags along because I miss her so much during the day.
I then drop Alyazia back home, get ready for work and arrive in the office between 8.30 and 9.00am. If I run a bit late, I'm blessed with a very understanding boss who knows that I'm a working mother.
I end up staying in the office till about 8.00pm most days, go home and enjoy the rest of the evening playing with my kids and watching TV with my husband.
I feel a career for a woman these days is very important, especially if she has children. It helps to have your child proud of their mother. These are the golden times for any female who wants to shine. Opportunities are out there, you just need to grab to them and manage your time properly.
What are some of the current steps you and your department are taking to help make Abu Dhabi airport a five star international facility?
We are open to receiving comments and criticisms from passengers, we take them very seriously, because that's the only way we'll improve. We also go out of our way to reach the public and try to cater to their needs. We're involved in a lot of travelling throughout the year to other five star international airports located in Asia-Pacific, where we try to learn from them.
What are some of the Dh25 billion redevelopment projects that ADAC has recently finalised or has in the pipeline?
In January 2009, the airport received the first advanced airport classification CAT IIIB (a fully independent runway system), the opening of terminal 3 with its full retail outlets and the Abu Dhabi International Airport Midfield Terminal Complex (MTC), which will be located between the airport's two runways, given its name.
Tell us about the MTC.
Groundbreaking for the MTC started one month ago and is due to be completed by 2012.
In its first year of operation, the planned capacity of this facility is expected to reach 20 million passengers, gradually increasing to 40 million per annum.
The MTC's terminal building will be the largest in the emirate and one of the region's most architecturally impressive structures. It will be 580,000 square metres in size and visible from more than 1.5 kilometres away.
Environmental consultants have played an important part in making the MTC an environmental friendly building, such as angled glass to avoid heat exposure; an outdoor parking which will be able to accommodate up to 3,000 cars and covered with photo-voltaic cells to provide electricity for the building; and water will be conserved by using grey water for irrigation of outer plants.
There will be 47 gates and 121 check-in desks; provision for up to 10 lounges and between 20,000-25,000 square metres space for retail and food and beverages; 165 lifts and 4,000 cameras.
A 180 room transit-hotel will also be built within the grounds of the airport, adjacent to the business park.
What message would you like to give to fresh graduates and young Emirati females who are confused about their career paths?
Don't be afraid to be a risk taker and go for any opportunity out there. Always get back on your feet again if you ever fall.
The whole idea is being able to find yourself, see what it is you want from life and work around getting it, take the time to discover yourself. And if you are looking for the right partner, the keyword is honesty. Don't beat around the bush or lie or act, because no one gets away with pretending to be something they are not.