From intern to manager: Hala Al Zargani shares her success story on Emirati Women’s Day

Her journey thus far has been a success story of a woman determined to make a mark in a male-dominated defence industry


Ashwani Kumar

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Published: Mon 28 Aug 2023, 8:59 AM

Last updated: Mon 28 Aug 2023, 9:00 AM

The future for Emirati women within the defence technology sector holds immense promise and a wealth of opportunities, Hala Al Zargani, a talented citizen in her 20s, underlined on the occasion of Emirati Women’s Day.

In the past few years, Al Zargani has risen in her ranks from an intern to a manager at the US aerospace and defence firm Lockheed Martin’s Center for Innovation and Security Solutions (CISS) in Abu Dhabi.

Her journey thus far has been a success story of a woman determined to make a mark in a male-dominated defence industry.

An exceptionally bright student, she was awarded the Al Nokhba Elite scholarship and graduated with a bachelor of science degree in industrial engineering and a minor in aerospace engineering from the University of Arizona in Tucson, US. Her interest in aeronautical engineering made her join Lockheed Martin’s state-of-the-art centre in Masdar City. Her career started as an intern at CISS under a Tawazun Economic Council programme to develop operation analyst capabilities in the UAE.

“During the internship, I supported both the strategic programme management and the technical development of operation analyst content delivered to the customer,” she told Khaleej Times in an interview.

Al Zargani noted that the operations analysis programme was one of the most challenging projects. “Focused on predictive defence analysis and the formulation of diverse scenarios, this endeavour entailed my participation across all stages, from inception to conclusive outcomes. Notably, this initiative provided me a chance to collaborate alongside esteemed sector experts while also affording me the privilege of showcasing my dedicated contributions to company executives,” she said about creating a positive impact in a challenging task.

“I was mentored and trained by the best engineers and scientists. After long and useful training sessions, I became the first Emirati female engineer to join Lockheed Martin in 2018,” she said about getting hired for a full-time engineering role with the company.

Opportunity for young Emiratis to excel

Currently, she is the manager at the CISS and supports the development and execution of STEM development programmes for Emirati engineers and industry professionals.

“I work extensively with CISS management and Lockheed Martin international leadership to build and align opportunities for STEM partnerships with UAE government entities and leading organisations. This includes strategic long-term planning, and short-term opportunity engagement with Lockheed Martin’s engineering and research organisations. My role also entails leading Lockheed Martin’s annual internship programme and student outreach programme.”

Al Zargani said that Lockheed Martin runs a highly competitive, merit-based, annual training programme targeting UAE nationals, in light of the Emiratisation agenda and STEM training in the UAE.

“This unique opportunity provides young Emiratis with an opportunity to learn the basic skills needed for their professional development.”

Al Zargani underlined the facility offers all the tools and training needed to become an advanced technical professional, including a modular engineering development lab, modeling and simulation equipment, and a corporate office.

“Interns work under mentors from Lockheed Martin in the areas of modeling, simulation, artificial intelligence, and business analysis, for example. The programme is a great challenge for students and graduates from all over the UAE universities and provides them with an excellent opportunity to work on innovative projects and develop the skills they acquired at the university.”

Leaders, Sheikha Fatima empowers women

Al Zargani expressed her gratitude to the UAE’s wise leadership and Her Highness Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak, the ‘Mother of the Nation’ for their constant support and empowerment of Emirati women, and for providing all means and necessary capabilities for their participation in all sectors of work.

“This support has made Emirati women an essential partner in building and developing the country and has contributed significantly to achieving the progress and prosperity that we are experiencing today on the land of the UAE.”

Al Zargani said that currently, Emirati women hold leadership roles and high-ranking positions within technological and defence firms and organisations.

“This accomplishment stands as a testament to their advancement and success within this domain. This achievement can be attributed to the ongoing emphasis on training and professional growth, affording them the chance to learn and attain essential competencies. This preparation equips them to actively engage in delivering pioneering solutions and cutting-edge technology.”

She added that Emirati Women's Day under the slogan ‘We Collaborate for Tomorrow’ is a platform to “amplify and underscore the endeavours” of Emirati women across diverse domains.

“Undoubtedly, the substantial endorsement provided by our sagacious leadership, as well as the unwavering support from Her Highness Sheikha Fatima, magnify the constructive involvement of Emirati women across economic, social, cultural, technological, and defence sectors.”


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