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“I have never believed there is a sector that is too challenging for women:” Majda Rochdi

Majda Rochdi, Director, Marketing & Communications at UD Trucks Middle East, shares with Swaliha Shanavas her views and experience in the automotive sector.

April 28 2022
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There are many positive changes happening in every industry around the world, and most companies have been taking progressive measures in terms of sustainability, diversity and inclusion, and women have been making a mark in most fields including the automotive sector. 

How did your interest in the automotive sector start?

This is a topic close to my heart. My interest in automotive started when I was a little kid. Even as a child, I was attracted to bikes and cars; anything with an engine in general. My dad used to bike a lot and used to change cars a lot. I was very keen to start driving and learn other aspects related to vehicles at an early age.

Did you work in any other sector prior to this, and what are the learnings you might have been able to apply to your work in this industry?

After I graduated, I worked in event management for almost two years and it was an enriching experience. I worked with different products, industries, and events, and met a lot of people. It was a lot of hard work as in events management you engage in the project from the planning or pitching phase until the execution, and you get to see the whole process. So it really taught me to be very agile and flexible, and to adapt to different clients, different styles. I learned a lot about project management, planning and execution. So it was a very enriching experience.

What do you enjoy most about working in the automotive sector?

The automotive sector is one that keeps evolving. I started in this sector about 13 years ago, working with Infinity Cars at the Nissan head office here. This is a very dynamic sector and there are new products and new features being introduced, and enhancements made especially in terms of safety. I can say that over the past decade the sector has really evolved in terms of comfort, safety regulations, etc.

What is very interesting for me in this sector is its dynamic nature as you are always working on a new project or on something new to enhance the customer experience. I have also seen a big shift in terms of customer expectations. It has moved from merely buying a car or truck to expecting a full solution so they can focus on their core business.

What qualities do you think have contributed to your success in this sector?

I don’t think the qualities are specific to a certain sector, it is human qualities in general. Especially being in a city like Dubai which is multicultural in different aspects, I believe respect for diversity is something important because you could learn from anyone around. Being humble and understanding that anyone can be your teacher or that you can learn from any experience is important.

In my view, the main qualities in the corporate world is having empathy, being open minded, respecting other people’s opinions, and having a common goal for everyone to grow and for the company to grow.

In what way has your company contributed to your growth?

I started with Volvo Group in 2013 and there have been a lot of opportunities for growth. I’ve had great bosses throughout my career who have encouraged me to grow, to travel and to take on new projects. There were amazing training programmes and career development plans in place. I also made use of the opportunities that were given to me and am grateful to the company and the leadership. As you know, UD Trucks was acquired by Isuzu Motors about a year ago and today we are finding our place within the group, and setting up new systems and adapting to the new company culture. I think this would also be a new exciting experience.

What is the most challenging aspect of working in this sector and are there any challenges specific to women?

I don’t believe there is a sector that is too challenging for women. It has to do with your own beliefs and if you believe that you can succeed in any sector, that is exactly what will happen. In the automotive in general, when I was in the car industry I had more women colleagues, had leaders that were women and have never seen anything that would make a woman less successful in this sector. Now that I moved to the trucking business, it is true that the percentage of women is less, but it doesn’t mean that it is not a sector that is open to women, or one where women cannot succeed. If you believe in yourself you will get that respect from your colleagues and customers.

What are your thoughts on the highly contested topic of women entering a male dominated industry?

I think it is really changing. Over the past decade we have seen more and more women enter industries that were male dominated. Women also have a responsibility to make use of their ability to enter industries that they feel passionate about and not be intimidated by any industry or situation. I don’t think there is any industry that is not suitable for women and they can succeed in any sector.

In your view, how has this sector in the Middle East evolved over time? Has the industry changed to welcome more women?

In the past five years, there are two topics I have read a lot about and that have even come up for discussions among friends who work for other companies. Many multinationals now have a sustainability agenda, and a diversity and inclusion agenda. Most of the big companies across industries have understood the importance of having the right number of women within the workforce because they bring a different energy, a different perspective. I think having a woman in a team actually changes the dynamic of the team. I have also seen concrete actions being taken in terms of hiring more women, and we see the value that the gender balance brings to the whole dynamic in the office.

What advice would you give to women who would like to start their journey in this industry?

I just want to tell them that they should not be afraid of any industry and if they have the passion and drive they will definitely succeed in any sector. And the advice I would like to give not only to women, but to young people in general, is that they should do what they are passionate about and they will succeed.

One last thing I’d like to add is that it’s also okay to try different industries, different types of work environments as it would be enriching, and even if you understand that it is not meant for you, it doesn’t mean that you failed. It just means that you experienced something, it didn’t work out and you learned from it.