The Leading Event for the Project Cargo and Breakbulk Industries in the Middle East

Alia Janahi: Leading by Example

DP World Executive Offers Sound Advice to Young Professionals

By Simon West

From Issue 1, 2024 of Breakbulk Magazine.

At the heart of DP World’s incredible success overseeing a global network of marine terminals, industrial parks, and economic zones is a new generation of female logistics professionals ready to stamp their mark.

Among this talented group helping to drive the organization forward with their energy, ideas, and technological savvy is 33-year-old Alia Janahi, vice president of DP World’s HSE operations in the Gulf Cooperation Council, or GCC.

Despite her relative youth, Dubai-based Janahi has already spent 10 years at DP World, enlisting in 2013 as a graduate trainee, moving on to become manager of HSE of general cargo operations, then manager of HSE at the company’s parks and zones division, culminating in her current role as head of the entire HSE department.

A decade of hard work and dedication paid off when she was promoted this year to VP, leading a 60-strong team responsible for ensuring workplace safety and environmental compliance across DP World’s Middle East operations.

“I’m happy that I was able to encourage other females to join a male-dominated field and change the stereotyping that revolves around women’s inability to lead and take on certain roles,” Janahi said in an interview with Breakbulk. “Due to our management support, we can now see Emirati females in various departments including HSE, operations, and engineering, which is a great achievement!”

Janahi’s talents were recognized by the sector last year after she picked up the Maritime Standard Young Person in Shipping Award 2022, an achievement she dedicated to her colleagues in HSE.

“It was a great honor to win the award and I’m proud to represent young Emiratis and females in this field,” she said. “Throughout my career I’ve been given opportunities and tremendous support from our senior management that has enabled me to be in this position. I’m continuously sharing the same with our new recruits – opportunities are available to all employees regardless of their gender or educational background if they are enthusiastic and committed.”

Nurturing the Next Generation

When it comes to creating a more inclusive workplace, DP World is not just “flying the flag.” Of the roughly 103,000 workers the company currently employs worldwide, about 17 percent are female; its goal is to increase that share to at least 20 percent by 2025.

To achieve that, the group has launched several initiatives designed to support female professionals and boost their representation in the sector. The MentorHer program, for example, unveiled in 2018, gives all its female employees the opportunity to be mentored by a senior member of the organization. The target is to have 1,000 of its staff complete the program by 2030.

DP World’s “Women on Board” initiative, meanwhile, prepares women for executive positions, with the company last year assigning 12 of its 33 board seats to females, a more-than 37 percent increase from 2021. A further 14 women have joined the program this year.

DP World is also on a mission to support its young workers.

The group this year unveiled the first phase of its “20XEL” talent development program offering young Emirati men and women the chance to develop their leadership skills in trade, logistics and supply chain management.

Participants are given the opportunity to travel to other regions of the world, meet pioneers in their fields, and receive mentoring and guidance from DP World senior executives.

For those about to embark on a career in the sector, Janahi, the first Emirati female to join DP World’s HSE department, offers some sound advice: “Enjoy the process! Things can be overwhelming at the beginning, but we should always remember to enjoy the challenges and the learning experience. Never hesitate to ask questions. We can learn important lessons from all levels of staff whether it’s from a senior manager or a junior team member.”

Facing Up to the Challenge

Given DP World’s extensive portfolio of assets in the UAE alone – this includes Dubai’s Jebel Ali Port, the Middle East’s busiest shipping destination, and the Jebel Ali Free Zone, one of the world’s largest free zones – and the ever-greater pressure to incorporate green-friendly initiatives and digital solutions such as IoT sensors, drones, and artificial intelligence into HSE practices, it is hardly surprising that Janahi’s day is “never routine,” she said.

When she’s not in the office checking emails, chairing meetings, and engaging with her team, the executive is in the field on planned and unplanned site visits, carrying out risk assessments, investigating incidents and getting to grips with the latest industry standards and tech offerings.

“Our ultimate goal is to sustain a safe and healthy environment for our employees and stakeholders and protect the environment in all our locations. Therefore, we need to build on and strengthen our HSE culture in the organization to achieve this target,” she said.

Janahi admitted her job could often be demanding; handling large-scale projects or responding to emergency situations with the right strategy and team support is no easy task. The role has also involved a lot of studying and in-field training, especially early on in her career. Like all good leaders, Janahi refused to shy away from the challenge.

“That required great involvement, dedication, and a willingness to adapt and learn,” she said. “And I’m still learning.”

DP World is the host port at Breakbulk Middle East 2024. The company will also be exhibiting in the main hall – you can meet the team at Stand F10.