Empowering women in Engineering: Sara's story at Applus+ in Saudi Arabia


    Meet Sara, a civil engineer excelling at Applus+ in Riyadh as a Key Account Manager. With over five years of experience at Applus+, Sara's journey is a testament to her ability to overcome challenges in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA). Starting from her early days as a civil engineer collaborating with the Ministry of Transport, Sara now manages relationships with high-profile clients. Her role involves mediating between parties to ensure seamless communication from the initial client contact through project definition and scheduling, to overseeing project execution. This article illuminates Sara's experiences, her contributions, and the positive changes she embodies as a woman engineer in KSA.



    Overcoming challenges and making an impact

    Sara relocated from Venezuela to Riyadh with her family in 2017, initially encountering challenges in securing a job in a predominantly male-dominated workforce within a country where women were just beginning to step into professional roles and leadership positions. Despite this, her journey reflects the positive cultural shift unfolding in Saudi Arabia. "The support system at Applus+ has been phenomenal," Sara emphasizes. "They guided me through these challenges and enabled me to thrive in my career."

    Her dedication left a lasting impression on her team at Applus+. The company took a gradual approach in introducing Sara to projects. However, she quickly proved herself more than capable.

    Her determination was inspired by her upbringing in a small town in Southwest Venezuela, where she aimed to prove that women could excel in sectors traditionally managed by men. Despite starting with limited work experience, Sara built a professional path and defined a unique role for herself as a non-Arab in Saudi Arabia.

    Growing in the Engineering field

    Sara's growth at Applus+ has been significantly supported by Santiago Penabella, Applus+ Country Manager in Saudi Arabia and the extended management team. This support has enabled flexible work hours, allowing Sara to balance her professional and personal life effectively.

    Sara's professional journey at Applus+ is marked by substantial contributions to the company. She has coordinated numerous geotechnical investigations in NEOM, one of Saudi Arabia's most ambitious and futuristic mega-projects. Additionally, she played a pivotal role in coordinating a geotechnical investigation for a military project, with the final clients being the Saudi Arabia Ministry of Defense (MOD) and the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE).

    Sara also conducted reviews of road maintenance costs and penalties related to overloaded vehicles across multiple countries. As the lead developer for a Portland Cement Concrete Manual tailored for KSA, she ensured strict alignment with ACI Standards and Ministry of Transport guidelines. Furthermore, she enhanced Applus+ engineering standards by authoring a Hot-Mix Asphalt Manual for KSA, integrating international best practices, and reviewing concrete and asphalt design standards from diverse global sources.

    Fostering a supportive environment for future generations

    Sara emphasizes the importance of offering internships to female engineers to help them understand the real work dynamics in Saudi Arabia. She also stands for improving recruitment and retention by selecting promising interns and ensuring their salaries and benefits increase with their contributions. Sara believes flexible work schedules aligned with school hours should be particularly beneficial for mothers and advocates for positive representation of women succeeding in senior positions, revealing that there is upward mobility for women.

    Sara's approach to career development reflects her own experiences at Applus+. "Understanding my strengths and setting ambitious goals has been pivotal in my career," she reflects. "It's about pushing myself to lead impactful projects and contribute to industry standards, which has been incredibly fulfilling." Her advice to young women in engineering resonates with her belief that with self-awareness, focused goals, and unwavering determination, they too can forge successful careers and leave a lasting mark in their chosen field.

    "Sara's dedication and contributions are invaluable to our team," remarks Santiago Penabella, acknowledging her integral role at Applus+. "Her ability to bridge cultural gaps and her unwavering commitment to excellence set a high standard for all of us." Sara's journey exemplifies the positive societal changes unfolding in Saudi Arabia, underscoring the impact of women in traditionally male dominated industries. Her story serves as a testament to the power of inclusivity and support in cultivating an environment where all individuals, regardless of gender, can achieve exceptional success in engineering and beyond.

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