ABU DHABI // As an Emirati who largely grew up abroad, Maytha Al Habsi felt she was in danger of never fully learning her culture or language.
“I meet them all the time: educated, competent and experienced young Emiratis who struggle due to their limited grasp of their heritage,” said the 37-year-old.
The daughter of a diplomat stationed abroad, Ms Al Habsi said her parents went to great lengths to ensure that she absorbed Emirati culture. This included after-school Arabic and Islamic lessons as well as celebrating the UAE’s public holidays by dressing in traditional garb and eating traditional food.
“If it wasn’t for them I wouldn’t be in the position I am today,” said the deputy chief executive of the Emirates Foundation.
Having helped launch the philanthropic organisation in 2005 and overseeing the creation of Takatof – a 60,000-strong social volunteering initiative – as well as running its six flagship projects, Ms Al Habsi said she owed much of her success to her family’s support.
This included her father’s backing when she opted to follow her passion and switched from engineering to graphic design and communication one year into her studies at the American University in Washington DC.
“He told me ‘make your own decision, but be responsible for your own decision’ and it’s a lesson I still apply to myself to this day,” she said.
Soon after landing a job in communications with Dolphin Energy, a Mubadala company, upon her return to the UAE, the opportunity with the foundation came up. It was the perfect fit.
Being able to use the communication skills she learnt from her parents helped her engage Emirati youth in programmes while her experiences of living overseas allowed her to meet the demands of working in a multi-cultural environment.
“You have to hold on to your heritage – your language, culture, religion – while at the same time being open, tolerant and progressive,” Ms Al Habsi said.
She has been able to balance her family and career thanks to the support of her husband. To ensure that neither her profession or life at home suffer, Ms Al Habsi makes certain one does not encroach on the other.
“I’ve seen too many examples of women have successful careers at the expense of their situation at home,” said the mother of three toddlers.
Adapting to new realities is important, not only in her position and organisation, but for all Emirati youth in the current economic environment, she said.
“Even for the people we hire, it’s no longer just about your education and personality. You must have the soft and technical skills required for the jobs.
“We used to contact volunteers by SMS. Now, it’s through social media. Yesterday Instagram was popular but today it’s Snapchat – it changes fast and you have to keep up.”
Although Ms Al Habsi said she was happy with the progress made by women in the country, she looks forward to seeing more women on executive boards in the future.
As a female Emirati professional, she said she never felt she was at an advantage or disadvantage in her career.
“I was always judged on my abilities and potential but the important thing was my talents were recognised,” said Ms Al Habsi. “Organisations have to single out those with special skills and foster their abilities.”
Source: uae news