LIFE & STYLE

Female Engineers Reinvent their Careers from Home

By Mohammad Ghazal
Jordan Times, Amman

Trying to juggle motherhood and a career, Nermin Saad started working from home in 2000. She is now the employer of several other mothers.

Saad, a mother of three with a degree in mechanical engineering, started working as a freelancer from home over a decade ago, helping her husband — also a mechanical engineer — in major real-estate projects in Saudi Arabia.

As the husband and wife started to get several projects, in 2010 Saad put an advertisement in a local newspaper, seeking female mechanical engineers to work as freelancers to help them in their work, which includes creating blueprints for buildings and detailing interior and exterior designs.

Saad said she was surprised to receive 700 CVs of female mechanical engineers, the majority of whom are mothers.

“Most of those I interviewed were women who used to work, but when they got married and had kids, they had to quit their jobs because they couldn’t balance their responsibilities at home and at work,” Saad told The Jordan Times in a recent interview.

“The huge number of CVs I received encouraged me to establish a company and recruit mothers to work from home,” she said, adding that she co-founded Handasiyat.net, a virtual engineering firm.

Saad, who is the firm’s general manager, said Handasiyat.net currently employs eight mothers who are professionals, who hold degrees in mechanical engineering, and cooperate with many other freelancers based on the projects it gets.

“Many mothers who hold university degrees have a great passion to work, but sometimes raising kids and taking care of the family is an obstacle to realising this passion. But at Handasiyat.net, we are keen to help employ professional mothers,” she said.

The majority of the work is done online and “occasionally” offline staff meetings are held.

After starting her company, Saad said she lacked the needed business administration skills and was in dire need for training on how to market her company.

She applied for the Global Innovation through Science and Technology Initiatives (GIST) Award to receive training and mentorship.

“I needed training on how to develop a business plan and grow my company. I submitted the idea of my start-up to the initiative and was short-listed along with 30 start-ups from across the world,” Saad said.

“I was invited to Kuala Lumpur, where I won the 2013 Best Female Competitor in the [GIST Tech-I 2013],” she added.

Saad was one of 12 Jordanians who won awards and mentorship under the initiative, said Cathleen A. Campbell, president and CEO of the US Civilian Research and Development Foundation, which leads the GIST initiative in partnership with the US Department of State.
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“About 60 Jordanians have applied to benefit from GIST programmes over the past two years. We encourage more Jordanians to apply for the initiative, as we believe there is a huge potential for Jordanian entrepreneurs to benefit from the programme,” Campbell told The Jordan Times.

The GIST initiative builds entrepreneurial ecosystems in 54 countries across the Middle East, Turkey, Asia and Africa by identifying, coaching and funding the most promising technology entrepreneurs through its flagship competitions, start-up acceleration services, online social media platform and interactive mentorship programmes.

The initiative holds several competitions, including the GIST Technology Idea Competition, which is designed to encourage and support technology and science entrepreneurs to launch and/or grow a company in Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Turkey.

In partnership with the MIT Enterprise Forum from the Pan-Arab region, GIST also launched the Business Plan Competition to all technology entrepreneurs with promising new technologies and companies, according to Campbell.

Winners with the best business plans receive cash awards and mentorship under this competition.
“The initiative provided me with mentorship and training. This is what I needed the most,” said Saad.

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