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‘Just Go for It’: The Journey from Tinkering with Telephones and Toys to Repairing Gas Turbines and Jet Engines

When Hind Hajjar was a child, she loved to take things apart to see how they worked. “That included my grandparent’s landline telephone. But when I tried to put it back together, it was a bust!”

Her grandparents were forgiving, and she was undeterred. She enjoyed science classes, and when it was time to choose her university field of study, she picked mechanical engineering.

Today, Hind is a Global Combustion Repair Productivity Leader with GE Gas Power, part of GE Vernova, and is based in Dubai, working with gas turbine repair shops around the world to design engineering solutions to improve shop efficiencies and reduce costs.

Zeina Chakhtoura’s story is similar. She loved to put together her older siblings’ Christmas presents. “I was fascinated by building stuff and understanding how things worked, particularly everything related to space and flight. When I was young, I wanted to be an astronaut.”

In her studies and career, Zeina made several pivots, and today she is a Senior Customer Support Manager at GE Aerospace based in Dubai. In her role, she brings different people from different parts of GE Aerospace together to find solutions to engine repair issues and then implement them with customers.

Engineers are people

Coming from science and engineering backgrounds, the strong “people” component of their jobs is unexpected for both women.

In a role that is never “dull” and where every day brings a new problem-solving puzzle, Zeina relishes the excitement of that, but also, “the human element of dealing with different people within the organization communicating with the customer, identifying root causes, and solving problems together to get better outcomes to customers and meet our purpose, which is to invent the future of flight, to lift people up and bring them home safely.”

Hind also celebrates the human element. “I work with shops in China, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Hungary, the US, and the way people approach solving a problem is so diverse. I’m impressed by people’s passion for their jobs, which, at the end of the day, is about repairing components and helping energize the world.”

One of 400

Both women have spent most of their university and professional lives in spaces with few other women, but both say they have been lucky to have had supportive families that encouraged them to pursue their interests.

“My family had a huge role in encouraging me even when the environment around us was not really supportive, and people said it was crazy to let their 17-year-old travel abroad for university,” said Zeina, who previously worked for an organization where she was the only woman among a staff of 400.

Both have been the only woman on the team or even in the whole organization, but neither was fazed, nor mistreated – a situation they acknowledge is not the case for others.

“I do not think of myself as a woman. I’m just part of the team,” Zeina said. “Maybe I was lucky, but it’s never been the case that I was in a place where I felt unwelcome, unworthy, inferior.”

While Hind has had a similar experience, including being welcomed in workplaces comprised mostly of men, she has welcomed the growing number of women at GE. “I thought it didn’t matter to me, but seeing more women in senior leadership, especially when they visit the repair shop where I’m based,  makes a difference. I’m seeing a change in dynamic that is GE’s commitment to raising diversity as a priority.”

Living diversity

For Zeina, the biggest challenge in her career was not being a woman per se, but trying to get back into the workforce after taking a handful of years off when her children were little.

“Companies made assumptions about people who stop working to take care of their family, that they won’t be dedicated to their jobs.” This was the case, until she learned that GE operates a return-to-work program for women who have taken a career break to have a family.

“GE honestly was fantastic. With this program, they offered me an opportunity to restart my career.”

This program, along with ongoing encouragement to take on new responsibilities and roles, are some of the ways GE has supported Zeina’s professional growth.

Hind sees a willingness at GE to help, to teach, and to mentor employees. “Leaders encourage you in your career. They see things in you and encourage you to move on to the next role and then the next and the next. Really, it’s about the human element. It’s the people that make GE work.”

The advice to girls and women from both Zeina and Hind is the same: “Just go for it and never say “no” to an opportunity. This has truly changed my life. If you don’t get it, what’s the worst thing? You don’t get it, but at least you went for it.

“Think about what you are good at, what you like, what brings you joy and figure out how to do it. Reach out to people good at and like and brings joy. What empowers you and brings out your personality. Then figure out how to do it. Explore, learn more, reach out to people, find mentors.”

Zeina put it this way. “Don’t let anybody deter you. Don’t let being a woman define your dreams. If you’re passionate about something, just go for it.”

Follow us this week while we take a trip around the region, highlighting our amazing women in science.

Read more here about GE’s commitment to diversity and across the Middle East, North Africa, and Turkey region.

Business: Aviation, Innovation

Country: UAE

Keywords: Aircraft Engine, Diversity, Gas Turbine, GE Aerospace, GE Vernova, Maintenance, Problem Solving, Repair, Science, Women in STEM

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