Adamson alumna receives award in Dubai
by Raul Agner
“My failures!” Mary Jane Alvero-Al Mahdi minced no words when she answered media people who were asking the secret of her success. This was after she became the first Filipina to win the prestigious Emirates Business Women Award (EBWA 2008) in Dubai last May 20, 2008 at the Grand Hyatt Dubai. Stunned, they asked her to explain. “There’s a big room for improvement in a never-ending road. Life is a continuous learning process. We should not stop learning from our mistakes and failures. My failures are my inspirations to move on. I would not grow professionally if I did not have failures. Don’t be afraid to have failures. Courage is how you face your mistakes, your challenges,” she gladly obliged. Her award thrust her into the limelight of Dubai’s and neighbouring countries’ business circles, a sector traditionally dominated by men.
Mary Jane Alvero-Al Mahdi is a 1991 B.S. Chemical Engineering graduate of Adamson University. Married to an Emirati, she is also a holder of Master in Quality Management degree from the University of Wollongong in Dubai and Master in Engineering Systems Management from the American University of Sharjah. She is also a certified ISO lead auditor, a dedicated certified trainer and one of the founders of the Filipino Digerati Association that assists Philippine emissaries in Dubai to train Filipinos in computer applications for free in the UAE. She started in the Emirates as a chemist but today, she is the CEO of Geoscience, a multi-disciplined testing laboratory owned by business tycoon Abdul Lateef Abdullah Ali Al Gargawi, which is now located in four emirates, including Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
Upon invitation by University President Fr. Gregg L. Bañaga, Jr., C.M., Ms. Al Mahdi visited her Alma Mater last October 2, 2008 and was honoured in a simple testimonial dinner at the President’s Conference Room in the presence of some administrators, alumni, former teachers, and classmates. In her speech, she recalled her days in Adamson as an average student, her brushes with some of the strictest and most intimidating college teachers she ever had, but to whom she is thankful nonetheless for having learned valuable lessons and her off-school adventures with friends and classmates. She expressed her thanks to the president and vowed to support her Alma Mater in whatever way possible, starting with a $1,500 donation to Fr. Gregg’s Bridge Program, a kind of stop-gap financial assistance scheme for graduating students who encounter difficulty finishing their studies because of monetary limitations.
Ms. Alvero Al-Mahdi—whose mother is from Pampanga and whose lawyer-father is from San Pablo, Laguna—was born on April 29, 1970 in Makati. She studied high school at the Columban College in Olongapo and proceeded to Adamson University for her college studies. She chose AdU because it was known for its chemistry and chemical engineering programs, a fact that is acknowledged in Dubai even today where people associate chemistry and chemical engineering with Adamson University. She has in fact met many Palestinian engineers who graduated from Adamson.
With a disciplinarian father, Jane learned early the value of hard work, discipline, thrift, and honesty. From elementary grades to high school, she learned how to stretch her P1.00 daily allowance. She couldn’t have a new pair of shoes unless the old one bore holes. In college, she’d be fetched from her Teresa St. boarding house, Friday evening, so she can earn the next week’s allowance by helping in their family’s small restaurant over the weekend. It was constantly hammered on her and her siblings that every penny they spend should come from their sweat and they should not touch what does not belong to them. As CEO in Dubai, some companies offer her a 1% commission from their annual net profit if she approves their proposal but she always declines because she still believes what her father taught her.
She happily recalled her college days. She was the collection and finance officer of the Adamson University Chemistry Students Society (ADUCHESS), a dancer of the Chemistry dance group which performed in school programs. She loved the inter-university sports fests, the field trips, and even her two-summer OJT at the DENR. In one summer she even worked in Jollibee-Balintawak from 6-12 p.m. where her leadership skills helped her get promoted to management trainee after six months as crew.
Right after graduation, she took and passed the Chemical Engineer Licensure Exam. She left the Philippines in 1992 to work at the Galadari Hoshiery Mills in Dubai, her previous experience as quality control supervisor at the Manila Bay Hoshiery Mills serving her in good stead.
Her education in Adamson, she believes, was thorough enough to prepare her for the job she later took on. In her company’s testing lab in Dubai, the piping system is patterned after that of Adamson University chemistry labs. Environmental waste management, a subject she took up in college, has been useful in the environmental analysis division of her company which deals with, among others, noise pollution. So does qualitative and quantitative analysis. In Dubai, all her subjects from AdU were accredited. Even her English subjects passed the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language), and IELTS (International English Language Testing System) standards. GRP (glass reinforced plastic) was the subject of her feasibility study back in college. Today, when dealing with suppliers, she simply can not be waylaid when it comes to identifying real GRP.
For this reason, Ms. Al Mahdi remains proud of her roots. To those who compliment her on her intelligence and smartness, she says that it’s all “because I am a graduate of Adamson.” Her message to Adamsonian students is based on what she did as a student: “Widen your vision; don’t confine yourself to what you are now. Get out of your comfort zone. Don’t think that because you are intelligent, many will get you. No. My vision was one day I will be somebody. Although I am not as intelligent or as famous as the others, I’ll make it. Then it happened. Even in my dreams, I didn’t dream that I will be known in UAE. I know myself. I knew that I had leadership skills. Learn to turn all your wounds into wisdom.”
The EBWA is the most prestigious award being given to both professionals and business owners for expatriates and the valiant women in the United Arab Emirates, under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, Chairman, Emirates Group, and President, Dubai Department of Civil Aviation. EBWA is also supported by United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Emirates Businesswomen's Council. The criteria for the awards include leadership; future goals and financial performance; business, professional and career achievements; community contributions; and participation and innovation. This year, EBWA aimed to recognize and reward the exemplary contributions of women in the business and professional sectors of the UAE. The original 84 women contenders were from various government and blue chip companies embracing managerial positions to chief operating officers to business owners.
In spite of her huge achievements, Mary Jane still has her feet on the ground. “I know that I’m successful, but I’m still humble like before,” she quipped. “Use success to touch other people’s lives, to let them know God’s blessings. Others forget where they come from,” she added. In Dubai, Mary Jane Alvero-Al Mahdi still joins her former barkada from Adamson whenever she can and feels very much at ease with her kababayan.