How this UAE expat went from earning Dh1,000 a month to running a group of companies

Photo by Shihab/Khaleej Times
Photo by Shihab/Khaleej Times

Dubai - She has carved out a niche for herself in the multicultural UAE society.

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By Joydeep Sen Gupta

Published: Sat 12 Jun 2021, 8:35 PM

Last updated: Sat 12 Jun 2021, 8:44 PM

When Dr Mary Jane Alvero-Al Mahdi arrived in Dubai 29 years ago as a 22-year-old Filipina chemical engineer, she just wanted to provide for her mother and younger siblings, after losing her father to a chronic lung condition. Little did she know that she would scale dizzy heights in a land of opportunity.

From earning Dh1,000 monthly as a quality control officer at a textile company in Jebel Ali, she is now the group chief executive officer of Prime Group of Companies that has partners and branch offices in Europe, India, China, Japan and back home in the Philippines.

She has carved out a niche for herself in the multicultural UAE society and her integration with the Arab society came full circle following her marriage with Mohammed Al Mahdi, an Emirati, in 2003.

Dr Alvero-Al Mahdi, 51, has been winning the hearts and minds of her employees because of her excellent people’s skills and work ethics.

The raging Covid-19 pandemic failed to thwart her entrepreneurial spirit and managerial abilities as the healthcare emergency saw Prime Group of Companies emerge stronger, despite the “sporadic downside in business activities due to a temporary disruption in cash flow”.

Dr Alvero-Al Mahdi, a chemical engineer by profession, who also holds a postgraduate degree in Business Administration and Doctor of Philosophy in Business Management, went into a huddle with her employees — most of whom are chemists, researchers and laboratory technicians — to chart out a roadmap to win over the pandemic challenges.

“Data shows that our growth has been upwards of 15 per cent, as I ensured that there were no job cuts due to the pandemic. Our staff strength has held the line at over 600, despite the unexpected headwinds posed by the contagion,” she told Khaleej Times.

Innovation and decisive business moves proved to be the key, as Dr Alvero-Al Mahdi worked in tandem with her staff to manufacture a range of hand sanitisers to keep the contagion at bay.

Hagienex was launched at the height of the viral outbreak as a homegrown hand-sanitising product that uses ecologically friendly and organic materials, which “owes its inception to the pandemic”.

An affable and genial Dr Alvero-Al Mahdi underlined people’s management as her key pandemic learning: “Our businesses can only grow if we trust our employees. Human resources are the pillar of any enterprise and their utility comes to the fore during these hard times,” she said.

A noble hero

A role model for the 700,000 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in the UAE, Dr Alvero-Al Mahdi was named as one of seven Dakilang Bayani (Noble Heroes) this year, as part of Philippine Independence Day celebrations.

It was the latest addition to the numerous trophies in her spacious office, a recognition of her hard work and can be likened to hiking, one of her hobbies, as she overcame several obstacles to the top.

The goal-orientated professional has distinguished herself and her organisation in several mega-projects, including the Burj Khalifa, the Dubai Metro, and Emirates Road.

She was honoured as the runner-up of the Emirates Businesswoman Award in 2008. The then President of the Philippines Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo had hailed her as “an outstanding and exemplary OFW” in the same year.

However, as she has gone on from strength to strength to receive more laurels and never believes in sitting on any one of them, she harbours a singular regret: “I wish my father would’ve been around to see what his daughter has achieved today on a foreign land,” she said wistfully.

At the end of the day, it’s her hard work that has made Dr Alvero-Al Mahdi a leading light of the OFW, as she reminisced of the several evenings when she even slept in the laboratory.

The Philippines’ Ambassador to the UAE, Hjayceelyn M. Quintana, had told Khaleej Times in an exclusive interview recently about the exemplary traits of her kababayan (compatriots).

“It’s our people’s resilience, hard work, loyalty, and an ability to overcome any adversity that makes us special and wanted in any job market across the globe.”

Filipinos can, indeed, overcome any adversity.

And, there’s no shining example for the OFWs in the UAE than Alvero-Al Mahdi.

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