Nouf Aljalaud is SITA's Customer Success Manager based in Riyadh in Saudi Arabia. She talks to us about fighting gender stereotypes and advocating for equity in the workplace by sharing her journey and what she expects to see in the future of women in aviation.
Nouf is one of the winners of the KSA Excellence Awards, in the category Inspirational – Woman of the Year. This initiative celebrates the journey of inspiring and innovative women in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
What was your journey to becoming a Customer Success Manager?
I have a bachelor's degree in Computer Engineering, and at the time I chose this option, it wasn't common for a woman to study anything related to the engineering schools in Saudi Arabia.
I always had an interest in engineering and everything related to science-fiction and space. These were the main motives that made me choose my area of study and start a career in aviation.
I started my career in 2012 at the business aviation department at Aramco Company, the Oil & Gas company here in Saudi Arabia, and then joined Saudi Ground Services.
At the beginning of my career, I faced many of the same challenges I know many other women faced: I simply was not taken seriously as a woman.
In people's perception, being a woman will, at some point, compromise your productivity and career progression. I heard someone saying to me: "Why would you want this project if at some point you can get married and have kids and then no longer want it." Falling back was not an option, but it was overwhelming at the early beginning of my career.
Can you describe your current role as Customer Success Manager?
As a Customer Success Manager, I'm responsible for supporting our customers with their day-to-day requirements and understanding where SITA can support them. Part of my duties is to guarantee that the values of our company are present in the services we deliver and that the customer is satisfied with what we provide.
Although I am a full-time SITA employee, I have the opportunity to work closely with our customers, making sure that their voices are heard within the multiple teams in SITA. My daily routines start by checking possible updates for unsolved questions and ensuring that all SITA teams are aligned to assist the customers. I see my role as the critical connector between SITA and the customer.
I think that this role is perfect for a woman because I believe we have a tendency to be problem-solvers and resourceful. In history, we see women as multi-taskers between family, work, and community life, and I see that with the evolution of societies, this reflects the way we perform in our jobs.
How do you see the participation of women in aviation these days? And what else do you expect to see as an evolution?
Early in my career, I thought that the participation of women in a specific sector was directly related to a culture or geographic location. However, after joining the work market and interacting with women from different places, backgrounds, and contexts, I realized the need to increase participation in various sectors worldwide.
Taking a step further, the vision of women in aviation usually can be stereotyped into some specific roles, but the truth is that we are everywhere in the industry, from pilots to engineers, finance, and many other services.
To break the bias in the sector also means to have everybody, not only women, together overcome any type of gender stereotype. We need strong leadership support and to be advocates for women, with a clear company vision and set objectives to increase diversity and inclusion.
As evolution and for the future of women in aviation, we need to stay strong. It's important to know that being empowered is not only for me as an individual but also for all women who will join this industry one day. I don't care if I achieve this now, but I want to ensure that whoever follows me into this career will not encounter the same challenges.
I also believe in being a role model and inspiring future generations. If another woman sees a woman pilot, she will say: "One day that will be me."
In your perspective, what sets SITA apart?
SITA is a company guided by values reflected in the way employees are treated. Apart from being people-centric where employees and customers are at the center of all its activities, our global standards allow us to guarantee equity for all women in all geographies.
What words of encouragement can you share with women in Saudi Arabia who wish to follow a career in aviation?
Women in aviation are brave, and this is the way it should be. Remember that women have been part of the industry from its inception. Women are part of the history of aviation but not always mentioned.
To finalize, I would like to also leave a word to men when we talk about women's empowerment. Men also need to be brave to say "yes" and accept that women participate in this industry. Men also need to change their behavior towards women to guarantee equal inclusion in the system.
It's also important to point out that we are making significant progress: as the example of a famous terminology often used to refer to aviators changed from Notice to Airmen to Notice to Air Mission.