Military and Strategic Journal
Issued by the Directorate of Morale Guidance at the General Command of the Armed Forces
United Arab Emirates
Founded in August 1971


Future is Female Celebrating Women Engineers in Defence

On the occasion of International Women in Engineering Day, which is being celebrated this month, Nation Shield spoke with inspiring women from various EDGE entities. These trailblazers shared their experiences working in the defence sector, shedding light on both their achievements and the challenges they encounter in a traditionally male-dominated field.

The interviewees include May Al Shami, Mechanical Development Engineer, ADVANCED CONCEPTS; Sarah Alkaabi, Business Development Engineer, EPI; Elena Mutescu, Data Researcher, ORYXLABS; and Fatema Al Shehhi, Planning Engineer, ADSB.
Their stories not only highlight their resilience but also underscore the importance of diversity and inclusion in driving excellence in the defence industry. Excerpts:
Q: Describe your current role and contributions to the entity.
May Al Shami: My role as a Mechanical Development Engineer at ADVANCED CONCEPTS includes a large scope of work, primarily contributing to the design and testing phase of our autonomous unmanned aircraft and smart weapons projects and ensuring compliance of mechanical components and systems. I am also working as a technical project manager and adviser on development projects, helping to expand our in-house skills and resources, establish a new department, and bring other young engineers up to speed on our research and development projects.
Sarah Alkaabi: I joined EPI in 2022 as the first Emirati Surface Treatment Quality Engineer within the Safety, Health, Environment, and Quality (SHEQ) Department. Currently, I am part of the Business Development Department, working as a Business Development Engineer. I utilise my technical skills to contribute to the research, development, and implementation of technologies and systems crucial for aerospace, defence, and oil and gas industries. My contributions to EPI encompass a combination of research and practical applications aimed at optimising processes and advancing technology.
Elena Mutescu: As a Data Researcher at ORYXLABS, I engage in cybersecurity investigations and perform data analytics to deliver valuable insights to our clients and our country’s leadership. My contributions are highlighted in detailed reports and critical findings that enhance the security readiness of organisations across the UAE. By transforming complex data into actionable intelligence, I enable stakeholders to make informed decisions that bolster their cybersecurity strategies.
Fatema Al Shehhi: In my role as a Planning Engineer at ADSB, I help develop and oversee the planning processes for mission-critical maritime projects. I also play an important role in ensuring that our complex, time-sensitive company initiatives meet the rigorous technical specifications and tight deadlines that are the standard within the naval sector.
Q: Why did you choose the defence domain for your profession?
May Al Shami: I chose to work in the UAE’s fast-growing defence industry because it is how I can best serve my country and people. ADVANCED CONCEPTS has been incredibly supportive of my academic pursuits, and I am fortunate that the UAE has created an environment and provides the necessary support for female professionals in this industry to flourish. 
Sarah Alkaabi: The engineering sector offers a unique opportunity to apply engineering concepts to develop advanced technologies and systems that play a crucial role in building our nation’s sovereign capabilities, which significantly impact the global defence and aerospace industries. As a female chemical engineer in this domain, I chose this profession because of a deep interest in problem-solving, as well as my passion for technology and science. 
Elena Mutescu:  I chose a profession in the defence industry because it offers the perfect blend of complex problem-solving, intellectual stimulation, and professional rewards. The challenges in this field are sophisticated and multifaceted, requiring innovative solutions and critical thinking – which I find both engaging and fulfilling. Additionally, the defence sector provides ample opportunities for advancement and specialisation in various areas, allowing me to continuously grow and develop my expertise. Whether it’s cybersecurity, intelligence analysis, or engineering, the diverse career paths keep the work exciting and enable me to find my niche that suits my abilities and skills.
Fatema Al Shehhi: As a proud Emirati woman, I have always had a desire to actively contribute towards the UAE’s success within the advanced technology and military sectors – including developing its range of sovereign defence capabilities. 
Q: As a woman working in the defence sector, what are the challenges you face? And how did you overcome them?
May Al Shami: In my experience, having attended universities and internships around the world, we live in one of very few countries that makes a tangible and concerted effort to encourage and provide opportunities for women to excel in academia and all industries. Our Senior Vice President, Saeed Al Mansoori, is playing a crucial role in developing the next generation of Emirati engineers in the defence industry, giving us opportunities for career growth, and equipping us with the skills to give back to our country. 
Sarah Alkaabi: The engineering sector is historically male-dominated and sometimes women experience stereotyping. One challenge I faced in the earlier days was the insufficient representation of women in technical roles, which sometimes made it difficult for me to find relatable female role models and mentors. To overcome these challenges, with the support of both EPI and EDGE Group, I focused on building a strong support network.

By actively seeking opportunities for growth and development in the chemical engineering field, I was able to enhance my skills and knowledge, which, in turn, boosted my confidence and helped me navigate the challenges I encountered.
Elena Mutescu: As a woman in a male-dominated industry, one of my biggest challenges was ensuring my opinions were heard. Early in my career, I often struggled with self-assurance in this environment. To overcome this, I actively participated in meetings and shared my thoughts more freely.
Fatema Al Shehhi: As a proud Emirati woman, I have always had a desire to actively contribute towards the UAE’s success within the advanced technology and military sectors – including developing its range of sovereign defence capabilities. 
Q: How are your ambitions and capabilities supporting your country’s national defence capabilities?
May Al Shami: My ambition is to see substantial and sustainable output in our nation’s defence industry, and my capabilities as a mechanical engineer support this ambition. It’s critical to understand that we are developing advanced technology platforms and solutions and building the defence industry’s industrial and scientific capabilities. All of which play a direct role in enhancing the nation’s defence capabilities, and the deployment of what we develop is critical to safeguarding our sovereignty.
Sarah Alkaabi: I am grateful to the UAE leaders who provide such incredible opportunities for young talent in various sectors. I work on projects related to the development of advanced machined materials, surface treatment, chemical protection, and other areas that directly contribute to strengthening our country’s national manufacturing capabilities. My aim is to ensure that the UAE remains at the forefront of precision engineering technology, and I hope to make a meaningful impression as a woman engineer for my country.
Elena Mutescu: My passion for complex problem-solving and intellectual stimulation drives me to address sophisticated challenges that demand innovative solutions and critical thinking. 
 Fatema Al Shehhi: My role, as part of the wider team effort at EDGE Group helps protect the wider UAE’s defence and maritime interests. Specifically, my work at ADSB helps to ensure the successful execution of shipbuilding projects that are critical to national maritime security. Whether I am conducting precise planning or resource utilisation, I am driven by the prospect of advancing our sovereign military technological capabilities, while driving our operational strategies.
Breaking Barriers
As seen above, these trailblazers are not only excelling in their roles but also paving the way for more women to enter and thrive in the defence sector. As they continue to break barriers and lead with expertise and passion, the defence industry stands to benefit immensely from their unique perspectives and talents. The future of defence engineering is brighter and stronger, thanks to these remarkable women.

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