In Porsche Middle East’s latest campaign, Drive Defines Her, the German luxury automobile and sports car brand delves into the mind of Dr. Eng. Suaad Al Shamsi, the first female Emirati aircraft engineer leading the charge in aviation and helming most of the high-profile projects in the region.

Here, Emirates Woman chats to Suaad to discover what fuels her passions – on and off the ground – and how she soared to the top of her field.

How does it feel to be part of Porsche Middle East’s ‘Drive Defines Her’ campaign?

Being part of Porsche Middle East’s “Drive Defines Her” campaign is truly an honour for me. As a proud owner of both the Porsche 911 4S and the 911 GT3, my passion for Porsche has a long history. This campaign holds special significance because it challenges stereotypes about women’s vehicle choices. I feel like a role model for women, breaking the perception that mothers only drive family-friendly cars. When you experience the speed and sound of a Porsche, especially the iconic 911, you understand that it’s more than just a car – it’s in the DNA. This campaign has deepened my loyalty and passion for Porsche.

What were the challenges that came with it and how do put these negative emotions and thoughts to good use?

My passion for aviation is at the core of my professional journey. I hold the distinction of being the first female Emirati aircraft engineer, technical advisor, and Arab female aviation researcher. Achieving the first Ph.D. in Aerospace Engineering and entering the Arab aviation industry as a female researcher has been both challenging and rewarding. Aviation offers a unique blend of excitement and energy, much like the experience of driving my Porsche. After spending over two decades in the industry, from completing my degree to becoming a technical advisor and university lecturer, aviation has become my non-routine job. Aviation is different from every other industry: it energises me (I’d hate having a desk-bound job) while allowing me to inspire the youth to pursue their dreams.

What were the challenges that came with it and how do put these negative emotions and thoughts to good use?

Entering the aviation industry as a woman presented its own set of challenges, but the changing mindsets of today has made a difference. But misconceptions and judgments persist, especially regarding women’s success and personal life. If they see you succeeding in your career, they say that you cannot possibly “get married”, or that you are trying to copy men. But aviation is like any other field, such as medicine or the media, where women excel. Women who are passionate about their career or hobby come under extra scrutiny, and especially since I’m a mother of two – it’s always about how do I juggle both? Prioritising is key to achieving the right balance between career and family.

During challenging times, how do you drive yourself?

During challenging times, my family, especially my two boys, have been my driving force. They share my passion and even played a role in choosing the colour of my second car. Art is another outlet that recharges me, enabling me to continue my work in the university and my career.

How things are changing for Emirati women in UAE and in the region?

Emirati women in the UAE and the region are experiencing positive changes. We are lucky to receive so much support from our leaders and the government, which has paved the way for women to enter various sectors, including aviation. Courses and education opportunities that were once unavailable are now accessible, allowing women to pursue careers as pilots, air traffic controllers and more. The country’s commitment to motivating women to enter diverse industries is evident in the progress we see today.

How do you hope to pave the way for future younger generations?

Paving the way for future generations involves raising awareness among the youth. I don’t think they fully appreciate what they have, as they are lost in today’s social media. While they may face challenges, they also have unprecedented access to experts and leaders, also thanks to the digital age. I hope the new generation understands the responsibility they hold for the future of our community. We can prepare the next generation for the future but we cannot prepare the future for the next generation.

Was there a time you have been on the receiving end of such support from other women – how did that make you feel?

Throughout my career and university journey, I found myself surrounded by zero female peers. The one woman who consistently provided unwavering support is my mother. She played a crucial role in shaping my path, encouraging me to pursue my dreams and instilling in me the belief that achievement is a continuous journey. Even when I accomplished significant milestones, my mother always emphasised the importance of aiming for more, inspiring me to keep pushing boundaries.

Who have been the female role models in your life and why do you admire them?

My mother stands out as a paramount female role model in my life. She not only guided me but also instilled in me the necessity of supporting other young women in the field. She tasked me with helping out two women every week. This motivated my persistence efforts and also helped shape my perspective on the importance of mentorship and uplifting others.

Aside from aviation, what are your other main passions in life?

Beyond aviation, my life is enriched by various passions. Firstly, I find solace in my art workshop, where I lock the door and immerse myself in the process of mixing colours. This creative outlet allows me to reflect on my life journey and reinforces the idea of continuous progress. Secondly, driving holds a special place in my heart. The experience of driving on highways, feeling the engine’s roar (I won’t mention my speed!) is liberating. The sound of the engine serves as a reminder of being alive and capable of giving more. Of course, my primary passion is always my family.

How do you make time for yourself after a long day?

Making time for myself is a deliberate practice in my routine, especially after a long day. I allocate one day off, usually on Sundays, where I disconnect from my mobile and social media. This dedicated me-time lets me focus solely on myself, providing a much-needed opportunity to recharge. Many women overlook the importance of breaks, but I believe it’s crucial for our personal well-being. Additionally, I take a holiday once a year, where I travel by myself just to be in touch with who I am – outside of my career, kids or family. You have to reward yourself, as giving yourself that boost or going on vacation makes you appreciate yourself and inspires you to achieve more.

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