CHRISTMAS came early for Mary Jane Alvero Al-Mahdi, Chief Executive Officer of the Geoscience Testing Laboratory, the biggest independent testing laboratory operating in the Middle East.
Al Mahdi was honored by no less than President Benigno S. Aquino III on December 5, 2012 at Malacañang Palace, as one of the recipients of the 2012 Presidential Awards for Filipino Individuals and Organizations Overseas.
Al Mahdi received the Pamana ng Pilipino Award, given to Filipino individuals overseas who have brought the country honor and recognition through excellence and distinction in the pursuit of their work or profession.
Aside from her individual award, Al Mahdi was doubly honored because a non-profit organization which she co-founded, the Filipino Digerati Association, was also honored with the Banaag Award.
Filipino Digirati is a non-profit organization composed of IT professionals that enhances the skills of overseas Filipino workers in the UAE.
Climb to the top
Born in Makati City but raised in Olongapo, Zambales by her grandparents, Al Mahdi said in a story at Gulfnews.com, that she and her four siblings grew up in a close-knit family.
Her father, Renato Alvero, was a well-to-do businessman while her mother, Martha, operated a small restaurant.
They worked in Manila and came home to Olongapo every weekend to visit Al Mahdi and her siblings.
Unfortunately, her father was stricken with a lung disease which forced him to stop working, and which affected the family’s finances.
A consistent honor student in elementary and high school, Al Mahdi was determined to help her mother and siblings, even while she studied hard to earn a degree in chemical engineering from Adamson University in Manila.
While helping her mother in the restaurant, Al Mahdi also worked as a part-time crewmember in Jollibee.
Upon graduation, Al Mahdi joined a textile factory as its Quality Control Engineer. Then, she applied for the position of a quality assurance officer of a textile company in the United Arab Emirates. Her father died shortly before she left for UAE.
In the Gulfnews.com interview, Al Mahdi shared the story of her climb to the top of her profession.
“I arrived in Dubai in 1992. My boss was impressed with a quality control process I created for him and recognizing that I was over-qualified for the position, he gave me the freedom to move, even extending me moral support as I interviewed with Al Futtaim Wimpey Laboratories for the position of chemist. There I undertook a range of civil engineering and infrastructure projects, and had a testing and analysis division. When the Chief Chemist left, I was promoted to fill his position. After six years, I was headhunted for the Geoscience Testing Laboratory and I accepted to join as the Quality Assurance Officer,” said Al Mahdi.
When Al Mahdi joined Geoscience in 1998, the company had a staff of eight people. She worked hard and persevered. Gradually, she rose to the top of the company, until she became general manager in 2000 and CEO in 2003.
The hardworking engineer established a series of changes, re-structuring and re-engineering the whole operational system.
Under Al Mahdi’s leadership, Geoscience’s staff has grown from eight to over 500 today.
From a lab space of 1,000 square feet in the Al Rashidiya area in Dubai, Geoscience today has a 140,000 square feet sprawling lab complex at Dubai Industrial City. Their reputation and market shares steadily grew. They were awarded with many prestigious and numerous projects from the government and the private sectors. She has led the organization to work on mega projects such as Downtown Burj Dubai – which included the Burj Khalifa – the Dubai Metro, and Emirates Road.
Awards and accolades
With her success as an outstanding woman in a man’s world, Al Mahdi received many awards and recognitions. 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.
Al Mahdi also got the ‘Woman of Substance 2009 Honoree Award.’ The Chemical Engineering Board of the Philippine Professional Regulation Commission named her the Most Distinguished Chemical Engineer for 2009. She also received the Most Outstanding Alumni Award from her Alma Mater, the Adamson University.
ABS-CBN Global News reported that Al Mahdi contributes significantly to the Filipino community. 35 percent of her staff is composed of Filipino engineers and technicians.
She lends a helping hand to distressed overseas Filipinos, as well as to her employees in need.
She is a volunteer trainer, as well as one of the founders and members of the Board of Directors of a non-profit Filipino organization, Filipino Digerati Association.
She has also given full scholarships to two underprivileged Chemical Engineering students in the Philippines.
Despite her success in business, Al Mahdi admits that she is a “family-oriented woman.” She told ABS-CBN that “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.”
Mary Jane Alvero-Al Mahdi is married to Mohammad Al Mahdi Lari, with whom she has two children: Humaid (8) and Noor (1). Her husband’s children from his former marriage Ali, Abdulla, and Hanan, complete their family.
“There is no greater treasure than a loving family who find it in their hearts to be there for one another in times of need,” she says. “Every step of the way, I’ve received a lot of love and encouragement from my husband and my parents-in-law. They are so proud of me! I only wish my father could have also seen what his daughter has achieved today,” she added.
In her GulfNews interview, Al Mahdi shared her philosophy that has helped her through the years.
“Life is like a series of mountains to be climbed. Once you reach a peak, you don’t stop; you just find a higher mountain to climb. Mistakes should be viewed as stepping stones to rise up again. Everyone fails, don’t be afraid,” advised the Presidential Awardee.
(LA Weekend January 5-8, 2013 Sec. A pg.10)