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Interview with Aisha Al Muhairi, Assistant Director of IT Support Services at Sharjah Airport


Jun 5, 2023

How would you describe yourself?

I am the Assistant Director of Support Services for IT at Sharjah Airport. I have a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Engineering from American University in Sharjah and began working at the airport as a software engineer right after graduation. My thesis was on using RFID for baggage tracking. I am highly motivated to excel in my career and am committed to the IT field in aviation, having dedicated 16 years to it. I have also earned a Master’s degree and an Executive MBA from the University of Sharjah. In 2017, I completed the Leadership Program of the Sharjah Tatweer Forum. My goal is to contribute to the solutions that Sharjah Airport needs in IT, in order to become one of the best airlines in the industry. I have gained valuable experience through attending aviation exhibitions, conventions, and conferences and have taken multiple innovation and technology training programs to enhance my technical knowledge and skills. Though I did not originally intend to pursue computer engineering, I am now deeply passionate about my career.  Established and handling the digital transformation strategy at Sharjah airport authority and leading the smart travel team by providing innovative solutions for the passenger’s journeys. 

What does your typical workday look like?

My typical workday is hectic and jam-packed with various responsibilities. A typical day for me involves a lot of meetings, both in-person and over the phone, to stay up-to-date on the progress of various projects and initiatives. I also spend a significant amount of time on email correspondence, responding to urgent requests and keeping in touch with my team and stakeholders. Additionally, I invest a considerable amount of effort into preparing presentations and reports, outlining strategies and presenting updates on our technology advancements. Occasional travel is also part of my work routine, as I visit other offices, vendor sites, and other locations to meet with stakeholders and ensure seamless operations. Overall, my workday requires a high level of organisation, attention to detail, and effective time management to keep up with the fast-paced demands of my role.

What are your key responsibilities in the organisation?

As the Assistant Director of Support Services in IT for Sharjah Airport, I am tasked with leading the digital transformation strategy at the airport. My responsibilities include managing a team of IT professionals, ensuring the smooth operation of all IT systems and services, and providing technical support to employees. I also develop and implement IT policies and procedures, as well as manage budgets and resources related to IT support. By collaborating with other departments within the company, such as operations, I ensure that technology aligns with the overall goals and objectives of the company and supports the company’s mission. Additionally, I am ensuring that the company’s IT infrastructure is always up-to-date and secure.

How do you leverage technology to help your organisation achieve its business goals?

As the Assistant Director of Support Services for IT at Sharjah Airport, I understand the importance of utilising technology to achieve the organisation’s business goals. I believe that by leveraging the following technologies, the airport can improve its operations and increase efficiency:

Automation: By automating repetitive tasks and processes, we can save time and reduce the risk of human error. For example, airlines can use automated systems for flight bookings, check-ins, and baggage handling, which can improve customer service and efficiency.

Data analytics: The aviation industry generates a large amount of data, such as flight information and passenger behaviour. By leveraging data analytics, we can gain valuable insights into customer preferences and patterns, which can be used to improve operations and increase revenue.

Predictive maintenance: Maintenance is a critical aspect of the aviation industry and technology can be used to predict when maintenance will be needed. By using sensors and advanced analytics, we can identify potential problems before they occur, reducing downtime and maintenance costs.

Virtual reality and augmented reality: Virtual and augmented reality technology can be used to provide training to pilots and ground staff. It can also be used to provide immersive experiences for passengers, such as virtual tours of destinations, and can help airlines to promote their brands.

Internet of Things (IoT): IoT technology can be used to track and monitor aircraft and ground equipment in real time, providing valuable information about their status and location. This can help organisations to optimise flight schedules, reduce delays, and improve safety.

By utilising these technologies, Sharjah Airport can improve its operations, increase efficiency, and ultimately achieve its business goals. I am excited about the potential for technology to enhance the airport’s operations and am committed to working with my team to implement and integrate these technologies to the fullest extent.

What are the main challenges you face and how do you overcome them?

As the Assistant Director of Support Services in IT for Sharjah Airport, I am responsible for ensuring the smooth operation of all IT systems and services that support the airport’s safe, efficient, and cost-effective operations. However, the aviation industry faces several challenges that can affect the performance of these IT systems. 

One of the most pressing challenges is cybersecurity. Airport information management systems, flight management systems, and other critical systems are highly vulnerable to cyber-attacks that can disrupt operations and put lives at risk. To mitigate this risk, it is essential to implement robust security measures such as firewalls, intrusion detection systems, and regular security audits. Additionally, having a clear incident response plan in place to quickly and effectively address any security breaches is essential.

Another challenge is the integration of different systems used by airlines, airports, and other industry stakeholders. This can make it difficult to share information and coordinate activities, but this challenge can be overcome by adopting industry-wide standards for data exchange and using middleware solutions to connect different systems. A clear governance structure that manages the integration process and ensures all stakeholders are on board is also crucial.

Maintaining and upgrading IT systems is also a major challenge. These systems are critical to the safe and efficient operation of flights, and any downtime can have a significant impact on operations. To mitigate this risk, it is essential to have a clear maintenance and upgrade plan in place that includes regular maintenance and testing, as well as a schedule for upgrades and replacements. It is also critical to have a disaster recovery plan in place to quickly restore critical systems in the event of failure.

Data management is another concern, as Sharjah Airport generates a large amount of data from flight schedules, passenger information, weather data, and maintenance records. Managing this data can be a major challenge, as it is essential to ensure the data is accurate, up-to-date, and easily accessible. By adopting a data management strategy that includes data warehousing, data mining, and data analytics, and having a clear governance structure in place to manage the data and ensure it is used for the benefit of the airport, this challenge can be overcome.

In conclusion, the IT systems that support Sharjah Airport’s operations face several challenges that can affect the entire industry. However, by implementing robust security measures, integrating systems, maintaining and upgrading systems, and managing data effectively, these challenges can be overcome, and the airport can continue to provide safe, efficient, and cost-effective operations for the benefit of all stakeholders.

How do you stay up to date with current technology trends?

Staying current on technology trends in the aviation industry is crucial for professionals like me, as it can lead to improvements in safety, efficiency, and cost savings for Sharjah Airport. To stay informed, I attend conferences and trade shows, follow industry news and blogs, join professional organisations, and take courses and training programs.

Attending conferences and trade shows provides me with the opportunity to learn from industry leaders, experts, and innovators about the latest technology advancements. It also allows me to network with other professionals in the industry and explore new partnerships and collaborations.

Following industry news and blogs, such as Aerospace Technology, Aviation Week, and FlightGlobal, keeps me informed about new technologies and their potential applications at Sharjah Airport. Joining professional organisations also offers access to events and opportunities to network with other professionals in the industry.

Continuing my education through courses and training programs helps me stay up to date with the latest technology advancements and their applications in the aviation industry. By staying informed, I am able to improve safety, efficiency, and cost savings at Sharjah Airport, while also staying competitive in the industry.

What are the key technology trends that you consider implementing?

The aviation industry is constantly evolving, and staying up-to-date with the latest technology trends is crucial for Sharjah Airport to remain competitive and efficient. In order to achieve this, the airport should consider incorporating the following technological advancements:

Big Data and Analytics: By collecting and analysing data on customer behaviour, flight patterns, and maintenance needs, the airport can make more informed decisions and improve its bottom line.

Artificial Intelligence (AI): AI can be used to automate various tasks and improve decision-making in areas such as scheduling, maintenance, and customer service. For example, the airport can use AI-powered chatbots to interact with customers and provide them with information about their flights.

Internet of Things (IoT): IoT allows the airport to connect and communicate with various systems, devices, and sensors in real-time, improving the efficiency of operations such as baggage handling and enabling airlines to better predict and prevent maintenance issues and passenger flow management systems.

Electric and Hybrid Propulsion: These systems can reduce the environmental impact of aviation and lower operating costs. The airport can implement electric or hybrid-electric propulsion systems in smaller aircraft, while larger aircraft may use hybrid propulsion systems that use a combination of electric and traditional fuel.

Blockchain Technology: Blockchain technology provides a secure and transparent way for the airport to record and track information such as flight schedules, passenger information, and cargo. This can help to improve efficiency and reduce the risk of errors.

5G Networks: 5G networks provide faster and more reliable connectivity for operations, enabling the airport to improve communication with ground operations and enhance in-flight entertainment and connectivity for passengers.

It is important for the airport to carefully evaluate the costs and benefits of new technology before investing in it. By implementing these technology trends, Sharjah Airport can improve its operations, reduce costs, and enhance the customer experience.

In your opinion, how do you see the future of your industry? And how technology will play a role?

As the aviation industry continues to expand, it is essential for companies to keep pace with the latest technological advancements to remain competitive and efficient. The incorporation of electric and autonomous aircraft is a significant trend that holds enormous potential to not only decrease fuel consumption and emissions but also improve safety and efficiency of operations. The integration of Artificial Intelligence and data analytics is also expected to play a crucial role in the industry. These technologies have the potential to revolutionise various aspects of the industry, including flight scheduling, maintenance, customer service and personalization, providing airlines with valuable insights and enabling them to make more informed decisions. It is critical for airlines to stay abreast of these developments and evaluate their potential benefits, as they can greatly enhance the overall customer experience and contribute to the success of the company.