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Meet The Women At GE Aerospace's Middle East Technology Center Who Are Helping Airlines To Soar These three employees, all of whom are working mothers, demonstrate that work-life balance in the aerospace industry is possible.

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GE Aerospace
(Left and right): Katarzyna Paluszkiewicz, Staff Analytics Engineer; Reem Alghumlasi, Customer Project Engineer; and Andrea Casallas Mejia, Staff Analytics Engineer, GE Aerospace

As a child in Poland, Katarzyna Paluszkiewicz would work alongside her father, helping him to fix cars. Building on that experience, she went to university, ultimately earning a master's degree in mechanical engineering, with a specialization in aircraft engines. She had never coded, nor studied data science.

So, it was a complete surprise when Paluszkiewicz was exposed to data engineering at GE Aerospace, and fell in love with the field. "I found that data was my passion," she says. "I could dig in, and make beautiful correlations, and then use my engineering background to explain what that data was saying."

Paluszkiewicz is a Staff Analytics Engineer, and one of several women who work at the GE Aerospace Middle East Technology Center (MTC) in Dubai. She is part of a team of engineers and data analysts who help GE Aerospace and customers use data to enhance safety, reduce costs, improve operations, and extend engine time on wing.

She works on analytics-based maintenance (ABM), which leverages big data analytics and deep aviation and aircraft engine knowledge to give airlines insights that help them anticipate engine maintenance needs, optimize inspection schedules, and plan for engine replacements.

Engineers at MTC, together with GE Aerospace global teams, developed ABM to help operators based in the region address the wear and tear on their engines caused by the hot, harsh and dusty conditions of the Middle East.

ABM was developed by analyzing design and manufacturing details and data generated by engines, aircraft, and climactic conditions, alongside detailed engine inspections and engine failure root cause analyses. The solution helps to extend time on wing, and fuel efficiency, despite the demanding operating environment. It is now being deployed to other markets around the world.

The team also digs deep into the data to help GE Aerospace engineers find ways to extend time on wing, and optimize engine maintenance schedules to avoid unscheduled maintenance by predicting when an engine is likely to require a service.

Andrea Casallas Mejia, also a Staff Analytics Engineer at MTC, uses data to analyze how airlines operate and care for their engines. Her areas of focus include derate- a strategy to use less engine power than normal during takeoff under certain permissible conditions, such as when the aircraft has less cargo or fewer passengers. Even small changes in how hard pilots push engines can extend the time before an engine needs maintenance.

Mejia also examines how carriers wash their engines, looking at engine performance before and after a wash. These washes, either using water or foam, are critically important for maintaining engine performance. If an engine falls short of the typical performance boost after the wash, she will alert the carrier to examine their washing processes to see why the data does not match expectations.

For Mejia, who's originally from Colombia, her work at MTC is a dream-come-true job. Prior to joining GE Aerospace, she worked on the airline side of the business in Colombia and Abu Dhabi, employed as a Flight Operations Engineer, helping the carriers put into practice the recommendations received from engine manufacturers. "Now, I'm on the other side," she says. "I am no longer an operator of the engine– I'm the brain behind the engine. I help with analyzing what airlines are doing, and giving them recommendations on how they can operate the engines differently to hopefully get better performance and outcomes."

Looking to continue building her skills and prior degree in aeronautical engineering, Mejia is now completing a master's degree in computer science from the University of East London.

Another MTC coworker, Reem Alghumlasi, is a Customer Project Engineer, and part of the team supporting airlines in their efforts to improve safety, time on wing, and efficiency. Hailing from the United Arab Emirates, she joined GE Aerospace as part of its Early Career Training program, following her graduation from Emirates Aviation University with a degree in aeronautical engineering. Today, she works directly with customers, helping them understand what steps they can take to improve performance.

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Diversity and balance

These three employees, all of whom are working mothers, demonstrate that work-life balance in the aerospace industry is possible. "It's important for young women to see that you don't need to give up on having a family to have a career, or give up a career to have a family," Mejia says,

Hailing from diverse parts of the world (i.e. Latin America, Europe, and the Middle East), these women also represent the enormous diversity found at MTC, notes its Director, Ali Farah.

Ali Farah, Director, GE Aerospace. Source: GE Aerospace

"Having a team with diverse experiences, perspectives, and ways of thinking is crucial for creativity and innovation," says Ali, who is originally from Somalia, and was raised in London alongside his six sisters, whom he credits with helping him develop his emotional intelligence.

"Our diversity allows us to tap into wider cultures and networks across aspects including gender, nationality and language, ensuring a balance between intelligence quotient (IQ) and emotional quotient (EQ), and creating a positive atmosphere where everyone feels valued and able to contribute effectively," he adds.

As Alghumlasi put it: "Nobody cares where you are from; we all just talk to each other, and work together as colleagues and friends."

For Mejia, who had spent her entire professional career prior to joining GE Aerospace in environments where she was one of the only women on the team, she was "shocked" to arrive at MTC, and see other female engineers like Paluszkiewicz and Alghumlasi. "I was so happy," Mejia says. "I immediately felt I belonged here."

Although things have changed in Poland since earlier in her career, and there is now extensive outreach to encourage girls and young women to pursue STEM careers, during Paluszkiewicz's university studies and early jobs, she was required to "prove myself and work harder than men, since it was taken for granted that men were capable, while for us, we had to continually prove ourselves."

"But, the moment I join GE Aerospace and saw other woman on my team, I felt a relief," she continues. "I knew I wouldn't have to prove myself as a woman, because they already believed in women in engineering."

Mejia adds, "This is the company's culture. Everybody has the same opportunity. All members of the team -both women and men- are heard, respected, and taken seriously."

Both Paluszkiewicz and Mejia also work on employee committees to design process improvements, and share best practices and lessons learned, and are committed to becoming Control Title Holders (CTHs), which means they seek to become among the most senior, experienced, and knowledgeable experts in their fields.

Source: GE Aerospace

For Paluszkiewicz, this is in part because her first mentor at GE Aerospace was a CTH she sought out because of his expertise, who challenged her in ways that helped her rapidly grow her skills and capabilities. Her first mentor, however, was her father, a mechanic who encouraged and inspired her to become an engineer.

"Never give up"

Early in Mejia's career, a line manager encouraged her to build skills that would differentiate her from other aeronautics engineers. She was interested in programming and information technology (IT), so began to study that field as well. She continues to look for ways to grow her capabilities to bring something extra to the table. "It's a refrain in my head that I repeat to this day," she says.

Alghumlasi was inspired by her grandmother, who always encouraged her in her studies, and urged her never to give up "This was because she didn't have the chance to do what I was doing, and she told me about that," she shares. "She made me very aware of the opportunities I had, saying 'You are privileged to be young at this time.'"

The advice Alghumlasi's grandmother gave her to persevere is the same that Paluszkiewicz and Mejia offer today. Speaking to girls and young women, Paluszkiewicz says, "Never give up. Yes, it will be hard, but never give up."

Mejia adds, "Work hard, because success is not easy. Work hard, and you will be able to accomplish whatever you like."

Related: Here's What The F&B Industry Can Do To Support (And Encourage) Its Female Entrepreneurs

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