Women's Day in UAE: Meet the Emirati woman who founded Dubai Airport's legal department

She joined the company as a fresh graduate, and her determination, work ethic helped her climb the ranks to script a success story within a few years


Nasreen Abdulla

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Photo: Supplied
Photo: Supplied

Published: Mon 6 Mar 2023, 5:53 PM

When Mona Al Abdoli joined Dubai Airport in 2004, she had no idea how she would be influential in shaping the future of the organisation. The Emirati lawyer, who joined as a fresh graduate trainee, went on to form the airport’s legal department.

“It has been a very interesting journey,” she said. “There has been a mix of good and bad times, but now when I think back about the bad times, I realise that it all happens for a reason. I have learnt so much from it, and I have learnt to convert my challenges to opportunities.”

Today, Mona is Senior Vice President of Corporate Assurance at Dubai Airport and has three departments reporting to her. “It is a very intense job, but I enjoy it, and I love the team that works for me,” she said.

Single-handed determination

As a young student, studying law had always interested her. Mona changed three universities to find the branch of corporate law she sought. Armed with a fresh degree and a few months of work experience, she joined the Dubai Airport. Her determination and work ethic helped her to climb the ranks as a contracting officer quickly and then manager.

While there, she had an idea of having an in-house legal department for Dubai Airport. “At the time, we had a senior leader in the company who believed in me,” she said. “He asked me to present my idea. I put together a presentation that outlined why it was important to have an in-house legal department as opposed to outsourcing it because an outsourced entity will never have the same understanding of the operations of an airport.”

Impressed by her pitch, the management accepted her proposal and tasked her with setting up the legal department. She single-handedly began the department in 2010, giving it a solid base and structure. Over the next two years, she added two legal officers to the department.

The legal department, which changed how an employee's right was perceived, was the first of its kind policy at the airport level. It protected public funds and circulated an effective system of preserving the right of the corporation, thus winning both Mona and her employer several awards for their groundbreaking work.

One of her achievements has been the ability of Dubai Airports to sign MoUs with four major audit bodies in the country. "This means that auditors will communicate with us a general timing of their visits and offer us some flexibility if we request for it," she said. "We have managed to do this by building years of trust and open communication. This is a huge blessing because when auditors arrive unannounced, a lot of our work gets piled up. If it is during a month when we are busy, it interferes with our productivity and work because all our files get held up."

Team comes first

As a leader, it is important for Mona to make sure her team also grew in their career. One of the first legal officers she hired now heads a department under her. “When you have a great team, you should make them a priority,” she said. “You cannot grow without a team. Everything that I have been able to achieve is because I had a great team. So, it is important for me that provide them with a healthy support system. I need to have a plan for each of them, a roadmap for their career so they can also grow.”

Having been a part of the Mohammed bin Rashid Leadership Development Program, Mona says she has come to realize the huge responsibilities on her shoulders. “There are youngsters looking up to you as role models,” she said. “We need to inspire them. It is our duty to do so.”

Mother to an 8-year-old, Mona says she strives to balance her personal and professional life. “Whenever I get a break, I whisk my husband and daughter off and travel somewhere,” she said. “During my vacation, I switch off completely and devote my time to my family. It helps me recharge and give my work my full energy when I return.”

According to Mona, the biggest blessing has been the leader of this country. “I have worked closely with the Prime Minister’s office and the leaders,” she said. “We, Emirati women, have received exceptional support from them. They have believed in us and have empowered us to become decision-makers. They encourage us to participate in all fields actively, so I feel like it is our duty to make them proud.”


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