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A Woman in a Man's World

Arrived in the UAE as a Chemist in 1992. Became a Chief Chemist in 1998. Promoted to Technical and General Manager in 1998 and 2000, respectively. And is now the Chief Executive Officer of a vast independent testing laboratory in the Middle East since 2003.Very impressive. With these job designations enumerated, it is but a natural reaction to wonder, who is ‘HE’? Not thinking that it could be of feminine persona. And just when you think you can’t go wrong, you might leave yourself dumbfounded of the fact that SHE actually is—a ‘she’ who goes by the name Engr. Mary Jane Alvero-Al Mahdi. Masculine, her profession may truly be. Yet the warmth and gentleness of a woman certainly emanates from her aura.

Woman Of The Family

Engineer Mary Jane Alvero-Al Mahdi, a. k.a. Madame, Engineer or simply, Jane was born in Makati but spent her childhood in Olongapo, Zambales where she attended primary and secondary school.  An intelligent and diligent pupil, Jane was taught by her father early in life the value of discipline, honesty and thrift—values which she carries on to-date.  Jane grew up in a family filled with love. “We were born and brought up in a closely-knit family filled with understanding and compassion for each member,” Jane shares. However, her family had gone through an economic downturn in the advent of her father’s illness. This prompted Jane to exert her utmost efforts in studies and survival, in general. Meeting the challenges of life head on, Jane was a hardworking, midnight oil burning Chemistry Engineering student at Adamson University on weekdays. On weekends, she would be found working in their modest family business. She also worked in Jollibee as a crew, where her leadership skills first got noticed. Six-months since she began her working-student duties, Jane got promoted as Management Trainee.

The nurturing, loving, value-filled family life has shaped the Jane that we know today—an outstanding woman in a man’s world. “Now that I have my own family, the values that my parents have inculcated in us serve as my inspiration and guidance in educating my child,” she says. Jane realizes that her own family needs the same enthusiasm that she gives her profession. She adds, “Being a family-oriented woman, the key client is my family. I am a devoted and submissive wife to my husband and I do not let my position at work interfere with my responsibilities and attitude towards him. I have drawn a line between family commitment and work responsibility to avoid conflicts in my personal life. We make sure that we travel twice in a year for a holiday pleasure and religious devotion.”

Taking Over a Man’s World

Starting off as the only female Chemist at Al Futtaim Tarmac Laboratories Division in 1992, Jane became the organization’s Chief Chemist six years later. In 1998 she joined Geoscience Testing Laboratory, a vast independent testing laboratory in the Middle East with six branches all over the UAE, as Technical Manager. Her capability and expertise did not go unnoticed, as Jane was promoted to General Manager in 2000; as of date, Jane is   the Chief executive Officer of Geoscience.  Being the organization’s highest-ranking officer, Jane developed the ability to create compelling visions, as well as to articulate these towards other people. “Our vision is to strive to direct the best that science, innovation and technology could offer. We aim to be the trusted, competitive and best service provider in the field of construction, environment, microbiology and other allied industries.” Her years in authority taught her the delicate mix of leadership values: consistent and holistic, focused and tenacious, flexible and agile, humble and just. Add to these her natural warmth and gentleness as a woman and you have the exemplary “big boss” that everyone in her organization respects and admires.

“One of the toughest challenges I face is dealing with change, based on present and future needs and expectations of all stakeholders. I employ different styles of leadership as situations change,” thus her strategic, influential, directive forms of management. The global economic crisis did not spare the laboratory testing industry. But it has not so much shaken the strong foundation which   Jane built for Geoscience Testing Laboratory. A visionary, Jane evenly spread her market to cover both the private and public sector. Now that the private industry is on a slump, it is the public sector that is keeping their organization afloat.

Potent Mix of Iintelligence and Compassion

Jane exceeded the span of her profession when she became a member of the American Management Association and the Society for Human Resources in the United States. Her learning in the field of management reflects on how she operates as Chief Executive Officer. “Trainings and personal development are provided to the staff. All their efforts are recognized, appreciated and rewarded thru financial and non-financial means,” says Jane. She maintains the positive energy among the workforce by ensuring sufficient wellness activities such as sports competitions and annual staff parties, thus continuously boosting their morale. “Our company is involved in many charitable activities. We provide geotechnical testing and soil analysis services free of charge whenever a mosque is to be built. During Ramadan, I make sure that we provide food for the laborers who pray in the mosque during Iftar.  We also provide summer training with allowance and transportation to UAE students who wish to utilize their free time in learning and to experience a working environment as part of growth and development”.

Jane contributes to the Filipino community far more than what she cares to admit. 35% of her staff comprises Filipino engineers and technicians. She lends a helping hand to distressed overseas Filipinos as well as to her cancer-stricken employee. Yet she humbly refrains from explicitly stating the length of her good deeds. “My aim to educate people does not end when I leave my office. I am a volunteer trainer as well as one of the founders and member of the Board of Directors a non-profit Filipino organization, Filipino Digerati Association. We provide free training courses and workshop in Microsoft Office application in basic and advance level, Personality Development and Project Management for our countrymen who cannot afford to pay for these courses. Out of her personal funds, she granted full scholarship to two less-fortunate yet gifted Chemical Engineering students in Philippines.

Jane’s exemplary performance earned her numerous citations and awards. She was Runner-up in the Professional Category of the Emirates Businesswoman Award for 2008, an award that recognizes the contributions of women to the economy of the United Arab Emirates.  The Chemical Engineering Board of the Philippine Professional Regulation Commission named her the Most Distinguished Chemical Engineer for 2009 and as of press time, she is a nominee for the prestigious Bagong Bayani Award. Yet, for her, the recognition that is closest to her heart came  from her Alma Mater—the Adamson University, where she delivered her most heartfelt speech as she received the Most Outstanding Alumni Award last February.

Jane has proved once more that women can thrive and excel in a man’s world. And when we talk about this exemplary individual, know that she is no man, but a woman. Not only a Chemist and CEO but a wife and a mother. Not only a Filipino, but a FILIPINA.

By: Dominique Pechuela-Famador

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