Emirati IT specialist grateful for education

Saeed Al Romaithi, the information and communications director at TransAD, said the UAE has given its citizens so much that they need to give back by serving and making a meaningful contribution.
Saeed Al Romaithi, the head of IT Development at TransAD. As a student he went to California to pursue his undergraduate degree and says it was a huge learning experience for him. Lee Hoagland / The National
Saeed Al Romaithi, the head of IT Development at TransAD. As a student he went to California to pursue his undergraduate degree and says it was a huge learning experience for him. Lee Hoagland / The National

ABU DHABI // Saeed Al Romaithi is a grateful man. And after nearly a decade overseas spent furthering his education and learning to be independent, he returned home to prove it.

Mr Al Romaithi, 45, left school early and worked as an immigration officer and with the traffic police. In 1990, at the age of 22, he decided that the next step was the United States.

“One can work simply for personal gain, but I wanted to make a meaningful contribution to my country,” he says. “I chose to leave the UAE, get a good education in America and then come back to serve.”

After he had spent a couple of years in the US, including a one-year English language course at the Riverside Community College in California, his mother asked him to return.

“She pointed out that one of my friends graduated after two years,” he says. “Anyone can buy a degree but what’s the point of returning to the UAE when you cannot even serve your country?

“From that day on, she stopped trying to talk me out of my decision to continue my studies.”

Mr Al Romaithi was granted a government-sponsored scholarship and obtained an associate degree in computer science from Riverside in 1994.

He continued his studies, and in 1999 he graduated from California State University, San Bernardino, with a BSc in computer science.

During his time in the United States Mr Al Romaithi learnt to live independently, cooking for himself and doing all his own cleaning, washing and ironing.

In 1995 he had a glimpse of his future career when he took part in beta testing for the Microsoft Windows computer operating system – to his knowledge, the only Emirati to do so.

He describes receiving a certificate from the Microsoft founder Bill Gates as one of his proudest moments.

In July 1999 Mr Al Romaithi returned to Abu Dhabi with the intention of taking a year’s break, but fate had other ideas.

“The same week, I was offered a job as head of IT at the Deputy Prime Minister Diwan,” he says. “I spent two years, two months and 22 days there.”

Later Mr Al Romaithi worked as software development manager for the General Authority of Health Services, which became the Health Authority Abu Dhabi, and as IT director at Sheikh Khalifa Medical City.

He set up a design company with his cousin in 2002, opened an Arabic clothing shop a year later, and then ventured into the food business in 2006 with Sweet & Spicy restaurant.

“Customers are like an umbrella,” he says. “When you take care of them, you will have a shade over your head.”

He considers his stint in 2005 on the staff of the Emirates Palace hotel as one of the best experiences in his life.

“I worked an average of 12 hours a day, but I loved it,” he says. “I was able to meet and interact with a lot people from different nationalities.”

In July 2007, Mr Al Romaithi joined Abu Dhabi’s taxi regulator, the Centre for Regulation of Transport by Hire Cars, or TransAD, as director of corporate services. It launched its fleet of silver taxis four months later.

“I joined TransAD because the Government appreciated my knowledge and expertise,” said Mr Al Romaithi, who is now the agency’s information and communications technology director. “We are so blessed because of our leaders.”

Sheikh Zayed had at one time encouraged Mr Al Romaithi’s family to get an education, he said.

“Back then my father told him, ‘We are fishermen, we bring more money’,” Mr Al Romaithi said. “Sheikh Zayed had a vision and it was to educate and train his people.

“Sheikh Khalifa followed in his father’s footsteps and continued his vision and wise leadership. We need to return the favour, to give back to a country that has given us so much.”

rruiz@thenational.ae

Published: May 31, 2014 04:00 AM

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