Sahar Sabra has worked for ACC since 2013, as Group IT Manager. On International Women's Day, she shares her insights into being a successful female manager in the male-dominated world of construction.
What was your professional climb up the ladder like? How did you evolve in your career path?
As a teenager, I was fascinated with mathematics and sciences. I graduated from American University Beirut (AUB) in 1988 as a Computer and Communication Engineer (CCE). I was on the first promotion to graduate in CCE from AUB. I joined a reputable airline company working on Application Systems as a programmer, analyst and user coordinator. Obviously my technical skills diverted me to Systems Administration. Accordingly, I was gradually promoted to Head of Security and Network Administration, responsible for all IT back-end systems for Lebanon H/Q and worldwide branches.
When did you join ACC and what is the role you assume at the company?
I joined ACC in 2013 as Group IT Manager leading various units from IT Security, Technical Administration, Operational Services, Applications and Planning and Delivery. IT staff are working homogeneously in teams at the corporate office and the various territories where ACC succeed in delivering iconic construction projects.
How difficult was it to balance your family life and work schedule and still manage to be successful?
I am very lucky to have a loving and supportive family that continues to encourage me by having full faith and confidence in my capabilities. My husband was always proud of my success as a working woman and a leader. It was not easy to cope with all the progressive responsibilities, duties and long working hours without being backed by my family. My husband, daughter and 2 sons understood the challenges I was facing. A sort of complicity emerged between me and the beloved members of my family, giving me the strong support I needed, fulfilling their roles at home and towards me, granting me the encouragement to proceed and succeed in my professional role. Nevertheless, I did my best to fully assume my responsibilities as a mother and wife.
As a woman, do you ever feel discriminated against at work?
I can simply say I am happy to work for ACC. I have never felt discrimination towards women at work, despite the fact that the construction industry is still mostly male dominated in the Middle East and around the world. Due to the nature of construction sites we find the majority of engineers and technicians to be males, however during the past few years we have witnessed an increasing number of skilled female engineers working in construction companies. The company hires professionals for their education and experience; which explains why women occupy a good number of senior positions at ACC, contributing to the success of the business.
What are the challenges and difficulties that a woman in a leadership and authority position faces especially when the majority of the subordinates are males?
I face no particular problems in being a woman leader in the IT Department where staff are mostly men. Due to my accumulated managerial and technical experience, I am a role model for my team who sees me as a trustworthy source of information and a supporting leader versus a female manager. Furthermore, people management is very challenging and I do my best to incorporate the company culture by stressing the importance of teamwork while respecting the specific role and duty of each employee, empowering him/her to better perform duties & excel.
A word of advice to the professional ladies with ambition: What can you tell them?
I encourage every woman to study and work hard so that she is capable of holding key leadership positions as long as she has the drive, vision and supportive environment. On the other hand, I also advise every woman to never underestimate her feminine side nor overlook her family responsibilities. It is in her hand to find the balance between professional and family life to achieve success in both.