Overcoming significant challenges, Dr. Eng. Suaad Al Shamsi accomplished a remarkable feat by becoming the pioneering Emirati woman in the field of Aviation Engineering.
Following her successful completion of studies at a university in the United Kingdom, Dr. Suaad embarked on her journey in the world of aviation. Her story took a significant turn when she joined the prestigious Emirates airline, assuming the role of the UAE’s inaugural female Emirati aircraft engineer. This pivotal moment marked not only her personal achievement but also a historic milestone for gender equality in the industry.
Al Shamsi’s unwavering dedication and exceptional aptitude allowed her to thrive in an environment that was predominantly male-dominated. As she continued to make her mark, her trajectory served as a source of inspiration and empowerment for countless other women aspiring to break the glass ceiling. Her trailblazing journey stands as a testament to the power of perseverance, shattering stereotypes and redefining the possibilities for women in traditionally male-centric fields.
Through her remarkable accomplishments, Al Shamsi not only contributed to the advancement of aviation technology but also catalyzed a cultural shift within the UAE and beyond. Her story reverberates as a beacon of hope, inviting women from all walks of life to pursue their passions and carve their own paths, regardless of societal expectations.
In a detailed chat with Emirates Woman on the occasion of Emirati Women’s Day 2023, she talks about picking an unchartered path, evolutionising the industry and making a difference in society.
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Can you tell us about your journey as an aircraft engineer and aviation advisor and what inspired you to pursue this career?
I have always loved the aviation industry. When I was a child, I would count how many aircraft flew overhead from my mother’s house, that’s when I knew I wanted to work with aircraft. In 2000, I was awarded a scholarship to study aeronautical engineering at the University of Hertfordshire in the UK. After graduating, I returned to the UAE as the first female Emirati to hold an aeronautical engineering degree. I worked in a male-dominated environment, often working 12-hour days in a hangar. I am now an advisor for one of the biggest projects in the UAE and I also teach aerodynamics as a part-time researcher and lecturer. It took me over a year to be accepted into the program I dreamed of studying because others believed I was just a dreamer who couldn’t work in such a field. The words of HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, “In the UAE, anything is possible” really inspired and cancelled out the negative comments others had about my dream.This belief motivated me to pursue my dream and succeed, leading me to encourage and help others achieve their dreams.
In addition to my work in the aviation industry I have also been judge for the James Dyson Awards for the last six years since its inception in the UAE. Through this I have had the opportunity to see some great engineering projects from students across the country. I have been inspired by their creativity, their passion, and their commitment to making a difference in the world. I am passionate about the aviation industry, and I am proud to have made a difference in this field. I hope that my story will inspire other young women to pursue their dreams in STEM fields.
You’ve had the opportunity to work with many prominent companies. How have these experiences contributed to your expertise in the aviation and engineering sectors?
During my time at various aviation and engineering companies, I have worked on a number of notable projects and achievements. One of the special program I was part of was “Woman Empowerment in Aviation”. The aim of this program was to educate young girls on aviation industry encouraging them to pursue careers in it. This program has graduated over 13,000 students and received the Najm Award from HH Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed al Maktoum. Having been founder for ten years with Women in Aviation organization in the Middle East, which focuses on promoting women in all areas of the aviation industry. I am also currently working on a new program called “Top Takeoff,” which focuses on aviation sustainability. In addition to my work with these organizations, I have also been a judge for the James Dyson Award for the past 6 years. This award recognizes the best student engineering innovations from around the world. I am passionate about supporting young innovators, and I am honored to be a part of this award.
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Given your experience, what advice would you offer to aspiring female aircraft engineers and those looking to make a mark in the aviation sector?
As Vice President of Women in Aviation, I am committed to inspiring and empowering women in the aviation industry. We are a fun, passionate, and supportive organization that believes in the power of women to achieve great things. Passion, patience, focus, and a love of learning are essential skills for success in the aviation industry. The field is constantly evolving, so it is important to be able to learn and adapt quickly. Aspiring female aircraft engineers and those looking to make a mark in the aviation sector should believe in themselves and their abilities. They should not listen to the naysayers or let gender stereotypes hold them back, rather follow their heart and do what they are passionate about. Getting involved in extracurricular activities, attending conferences and workshops, and volunteering time to aviation-related organizations can help aspiring female aircraft engineers to develop the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in their careers.
Technology and innovation play a crucial role in aviation. How do you see the industry evolving in terms of engineering advancements and technological innovation?
The aviation industry has always been at the forefront of technological advancement, and new technologies continue to shape its future. Innovation in aviation helps to enhance safety, security, and efficiency, and to modernize aviation infrastructure. It also broadens the benefits of aviation to civil society and business. Technology and innovation are set to play an increasingly important role in the future of the aviation industry, with the potential to improve safety, efficiency, aircraft design, aircraft maintenance, passenger experience, and reduce environmental impact. However, as with any new technology, there are also challenges and risks that need to be carefully managed. The James Dyson Award is a great example of how innovation can be used to improve the aviation industry. The award recognizes and celebrates engineering students who have developed innovative solutions to real-world problems. In the past, James Dyson Award winners have developed technologies that have improved aircraft efficiency, reduced noise pollution, and made flying more comfortable for passengers.
“We Collaborate for Tomorrow” is the theme for this year’s Emirati Women’s Day. What does this mean to you?
The theme “We Collaborate for Tomorrow” is a powerful reminder that women can achieve more when we work together. By sharing our ideas, resources, and support, we can create a better future for ourselves, our families, and our communities.Together, we can make a difference in the world.
What are the opportunities for youth in the UAE to make a difference?
The UAE is a land of opportunity for youth, with many programs and initiatives designed to help them succeed. One such opportunity is the James Dyson Award, an international award that recognizes and celebrates engineering students who have developed innovative solutions to real-world problems. The UAE is one of the participating countries in this award, and it is a great opportunity for youth to showcase their skills and ideas. By taking advantage of opportunities like the James Dyson Award, youth in the UAE can make a real difference in the world.
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You recently were on the Judging Panel for the James Dyson Award could you please tell us about your experience?
I was recently honored to be a judge for the James Dyson Award, an international design award that celebrates, encourages, and inspires engineers and designers to find solutions to real-world problems. The experience was truly amazing. I had the opportunity to see some remarkable work from the brightest young minds in the world, and to see firsthand the incredible innovations that they are developing. I am proud to be a part of this award, and I look forward to seeing what the next generation of engineers and designers will accomplish. The future of youth in the UAE is bright, with many exciting trends on the horizon. Technology, diversity, entrepreneurship, and sustainability are all important trends that will shape the future of youth in the UAE. By investing in youth and creating the right conditions to help them realize their full potential, the UAE can ensure that its youth are prepared to meet the challenges and opportunities of the future.
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