The Risk Taker: Fatin Rostam Relishes Daily Challenges That Use Both Sides of the Brain

Fatin Rostam, Senior Project Manager, GE Gas Power

Dubai, UAE: Born in Bahrain, raised in Morocco and now based in Dubai, Fatin Rostam, a Senior Project Manager with GE Gas Power, is the epitome of the young, modern Arab woman, following her dreams and inspiring others around her every day. She’s willing to rise to any challenge and sees the opportunity in risk.

When she realized her management consulting job in Morocco was not the right fit, Fatin – just 24 at the time – jumped on a plane and headed to Dubai, with little more than an instinct that this was the right move.

She also had her mother’s advice ringing in her ears, “Do whatever you want, but make your choices based not only on what will move you forward but what will really challenge you.”

She dove into the job hunt, focused primarily on her experience in financial services. Ironically, the only two offers that came her way were outside that field. “It turned out to be the better path,” she recalls fondly.

The offer she accepted was from GE, where she joined the Graduate Management Program, working in strategic marketing. From there, she went on to work with GE Oil & Gas and was then selected for GE’s prestigious, two-year Project Management Leadership Program (PMLP) for high-potential employees.

She explains she enjoyed the PMLP because from the beginning, “I saw I would be doing new things and learning new things, which I love. In the first week of training, I could see I would never get bored doing this!”

While on the PLMP, she found she loved being on construction sites. In her first rotation, she spent an initial four months working from the office, but then went to a project site in Bahrain as part of her role. For the rest of the program, she remained working at the job site.

“I like putting on the hardhat, reflective vest, safety boots, glasses and going on site. You see the activity; you can encourage the teams. You feel like you’re in the middle of the action, not just managing from the outside. Also, when you put on the safety gear, it changes the dynamic completely and you’re just another worker like everybody else: you’re all contributing towards achieving the same goal.”

The greatest professional success for Fatin, now 29, came from her work on  a project  where she was asked to develop from scratch a new process to better manage the financial aspect.

After doing extensive study and analysis, consulting with various experts and team members, she started applying the process in her daily work.

“It was my proudest day, when that process was reviewed and audited by our Chief Compliance Officer for GE in the Middle East, North Africa and Turkey at the time, and he didn’t find any gaps.”

Today, Fatin is based in the UAE, working on GE Gas Power projects in Bahrain and Tunisia, responsible for maintaining budgets and schedules, making sure all work stays on track, risks are managed and issues are resolved with the relevant stakeholders.

She’s passionate about the job because, “Every day is different. It’s true that this is challenging, but it also allows the other part of the brain to come into play – the creative part. You’re not only analyzing situations or mechanically executing the project; you’re also using creativity to find out-of-the-box solutions. I encourage my team to think the same way.”

Fatin grew up surrounded by strong and independent women, including her mother, aunt, and school principal. She gives them credit for helping turn her into the woman she is today.

Her success at GE reflects a history of accomplishment. She was a strong student in secondary school, which caught the attention of the principal, a woman she deeply admires.

“She always encouraged me to go forward and do more. She also inspired me with her own story: one time while she was pregnant and studying at a top university in Morocco, she was taking a final exam and went into labor. Yet, she didn’t leave the exam until she finished the test. I always remember that. She was very strong, very compassionate. She’s a big part of my journey.”

Her mother and aunt are as well. Hers was a single mother, and both were raising their children as a close-knit family with the strong influence of Fatin’s grandmother. None of the three older women running the house had attended university – although her aunt owned and ran a successful industrial equipment supply company. Nevertheless, they encouraged Fatin and her cousins to read a lot and “gain as much knowledge as possible.”

My aunt and mother always said, “If we stopped our education at high school, then you have to go further. The next generation has got to do better.”

As Fatin looks to the future, she aspires to be a CEO, but without compromising her values.

“When I become CEO, I want to do it in a way where I stay true to myself – maintaining my integrity, compassion and honesty. I know at that level, you often have to make difficult decisions, but I want to make them while also being fair, understanding and compassionate.

“Ultimately, I’d like to show my grandchildren and other women that you can have it all and stay true to yourself through every stage of your life.”