My UAE: Flying high with the first Emirati Etihad airport manager, Fatima Al Kharousi

A profile of Fatima Al Kharousi, the first Emirati Etihad airport manager in Nagoya, Japan.
Fatima Al Kharousi, the first Emirati female Etihad airport manager, in Nagoya, Japan. Courtesy Etihad
Fatima Al Kharousi, the first Emirati female Etihad airport manager, in Nagoya, Japan. Courtesy Etihad

Fatima Al Kharousi is a modern-day Ibn Battuta. She has travelled extensively in the past five years as part of her job.

Her journey began in 2009 with Etihad Airways.

After completing 18 months of a graduate management programme, Al Kharousi was given a list of career options.

“I chose international airports purposely,” says the 29-year-old. “I have been a very shy person and I am also agoraphobic.”

By choosing to work in airports, she thought, she would break her fear of being in crowded places and eventually become more “assertive”.

At the beginning of her career, Al Kharousi wanted to work in an Australian airport, but Etihad’s chief executive, James Hogan, suggested she try Heathrow in London first.

“At that time, I didn’t fully comprehend the decision to put me in London,” she says, with a laugh. After spending four months as a duty manager in London, she understood.

“Four months in London was sufficient to transform me into the person I desired to be – strong and confident,” she says.

Coming from a conservative family in Al Ain, it took Al Kharousi a while to convince some of her family members to give her the green light to work in such an environment.

After working in airports in Singapore, Doha and Sydney, Al Kharousi proved herself to herself first, then to her family.

“Our families are overprotective. My siblings thought that I would get influenced by the western culture and forgo my values,” she says. “I travelled to many places, but I have remained the same.”

Today, Al Kharousi has climbed the ladder to become the first Emirati female Etihad airport manager, in Nagoya, ­Japan.

How do you unwind?

The best book I have read is Stolen Lives: Twenty Years in a Desert Jail by Malika Oufkir. I read about everything except politics.

What have you learnt during your five-year career in different airports?

Exchanging cultures and learning from them. We are all different human beings. You don’t have to accept everything, but respect it.

Where do you go after work?

When I was in Singapore and Manchester, I visited several museums. I have visited a number of museums in London, such as the British Museum, Science Museum, Natural History Museum and Victoria and Albert Museum. I enjoyed Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Museum the most.

What’s the best country you’ve worked in?

Singapore, without a doubt. Singapore follows a simple philosophy: talk less and do more.

What qualities make you unique?

I am a knowledge seeker. When I learn something new, I try to implement that knowledge in my actions.

What’s the secret ingredient to your success?

My parents. They raised me properly and gave me the right foundation from the start. Now, I can be anywhere in the world and not have the fear of being deviated.

Who’s your role model in life?

After my mother, Oprah Winfrey. Oprah’s life has been a series of struggles, but regardless of her past, she became a great personality and a great Samaritan.

A principle you live by?

Success doesn’t come on a gold plate, you need to strive hard to get it. I worked hard to reach the level I am at today. I went through many obstacles, embarrassment and uncertainty, but reaped the rewards.

In which place have you enjoyed living the most?

Sydney. I have worked with different nationalities, but the Australians I worked with were different in terms of their manner and judgement. I was in Sydney when the Sydney cafe attack occurred. I was a little anxious and feared I might be attacked because of my headscarf, but my Australian colleagues consoled me and told me not to worry, which I found very overwhelming.

aalhameli@thenational.ae

Published: April 23, 2015 04:00 AM

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