GE Women in STEM: A Passion for ‘Things That Move’
When Emirati engineer Noora Al-Kheily was a young girl, she wanted to be an astronaut, but at the time, the UAE didn’t have a space program. Although the UAE is now aiming for Mars, Noora today is helping power her nation and the entire region, right here on the ground.
She’s achieving this as Lead Engineer, Fleet Management for GE’s Power Services business across the Middle East and Africa. She is part of a team that brings decades of GE expertise in power technology and services in the UAE and across the MEA region. She started as a junior mechanical engineer solving Gas Turbine daily issues and major failures that require deep dive studies. Now she gathers her team’s expertise to lead her own team to optimize the availability and reliability of more than 2,000 gas turbines, steam turbines and generators.
And yet, her route to GE was never a sure thing. Although she was always technically minded, while studying at the American University of Sharjah, she initially debated what field to pursue. Should she study architecture like her sister or mechanical engineering?
Her professor at the time, and one of her first mentors, asked her a simple question: “Do you want to design still structures, or things that move?”
“I told him, ‘definitely things that move!’ So, I chose mechanical engineering,” she said.
During her first college internship, she worked for an international oilfield services engineering firm, as she didn’t know GE had a headquarters in the UAE. When it was time for her second internship, it was GE that contacted Noora.
Her success at GE during the internship resulted in her being offered a permanent role as an engineer with the company.
Supporting her career
“I’ve been very fortunate to have great mentors. My first manager really pushed my career, gave me opportunities to travel to the United States to spend time in the gas turbine factory and work with the design team. Then, when I was only in my second year, I started handling one of GE’s biggest customers in the region. I’m still the technical representative for the same customer supporting one of their largest installed fleet.”
Noora, mother of one daughter and expecting her second child, has been with GE for six years and is one of more than 300 female GE employees working in STEM fields across the Middle East, North Africa and Turkey region.
GE is committed to significantly increasing female employment and job opportunities as part of the company’s global initiative to employ 20,000 women in STEM fields by 2020.
Her most significant advocate
As a result of Noora’s achievements, knowledge, expertise, and willingness to push herself, Noora’s second manager at GE supported her move to a position of greater responsibility, as Lead Engineer, where she now manages her own team for the first time.
Noora says that the most significant encouragement she has received was from her husband. “He supported my demanding working hours, traveling, increasing responsibilities; I was also blessed to have an incredible mom.” Noora is one of seven sisters raised by their mother.
“She pushed for our education more than anything else, encouraged our traveling and accompanied us. No matter what relatives or anyone else said, she always said, ‘My daughters will pursue their education even outside the UAE. They will work, drive and travel.’ Because of her support, I was able to travel around the world and become a mechanical engineer working at GE”.
From her own experience, Noora tells young Emirati women: “Do what you love. Despite perceptions and people telling you otherwise. Don’t let other people dictate your future. Own your future and do what you love.”
‘Own what you do’
To young women looking to pursue careers in the fields of science, technology, engineering or math (STEM), she says they should be themselves. “There’s no need to be ‘muscular’. You need to be knowledgeable. Focus on your learning and your growth. Focus on your career. Show interest in your work, but remember that it’s only by achieving assigned targets and deliverables that you will get growth opportunities.”
She also encourages these young women to “own what you do. Work hard, because hard work always pays off. Also, never stop learning, particularly in technical fields, where there’s always something new as a result of the continuous R&Ds”.
You can learn more about GE’s commitment to diversity and efforts to encourage and employ women, both in the MENAT region and globally, by following this link, or for more specific information about the GE Women’s Network, click here.