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‘It was a great experience representing the UAE in the HVACR field’

Roudha Bin Bahr, an Emirati undergraduate student specialising in Chemical Engineering at STS, Al Ain, speaks with Hannah Jo Uy of Climate Control Middle East on her participation as the first and only Arab woman in the World Skills Competition 2017, the importance of skills training and capacity building and her thoughts on the future the HVACR industry holds for Emirati youth. Excerpts…

| | Dec 14, 2017 | 11:49 pm
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Congratulations on your participation in the World Skills 2017 competition. Could you share with readers the preparation you had to undergo in the build-up to the event and your overall experience?

I started preparations for the competition on January 15, 2017. I spent around nine months training, five days a week. I started from zero, I didn’t know anything about welding. Two weeks [were spent] just for training on brazing, [then] electrical installation, piping, cutting and testing. There was also some training for troubleshooting. And all of this was in nine months.

It was a great experience for me, representing the country in a new field that no one has entered before, [as well as] competing with 23 other countries that are leading in the air conditioning [sector], meeting experts in the field from all around the world, exchanging experience and knowing more about air conditioning. Being the only lady in the competition was [also] a very special thing.

Everyone was surprised because the competition [started] in 1950, around 60 or 75 years ago. At the time they started the refrigeration and air conditioning category, there were no ladies that participated; and overall as Arab countries, only Bahrain and Oman had participated a few times. There were no Arab countries around, so a Muslim lady from an Arab country… the organisers were waiting [to see me]. They had a list of those participating and pictures from all the competitors. On the day of the competition, they met me and said: “Hi! It’s a new experience for us and for you also.” I think after this experience, I’m going to open the chance [for more women to enter the industry]. 

What sparked your interest to enter the refrigeration and air conditioning category?

In the beginning, I had no interest. I just knew about the competition and wanted to participate. Since I’m a chemical engineer, I deal with cooling and heating processes. I also deal with refrigerants and thermodynamics. When I saw the category, I thought I had some knowledge in it.

When I started with more technical work, I thought it was interesting, I didn’t do it before. It was a new experience for me. From day one during training I started to become more interested. Now, I’m going to choose a future in refrigeration and cooling, because it has interesting, real-life applications. We all need it here in the Gulf countries. In the GCC [region], the weather is not [always] good, so air conditioning and refrigeration is the future for us.

What role did Danfoss play in terms of training and mentorship?

I was having training [sessions] at SKM, which as a company is dealing with Danfoss. I was ordering some equipment from Danfoss. SKM ordered for me, and then Danfoss came to know about me. They started providing the materials for free.

Before supporting me, they had already provided the materials for free, and then they asked for a meeting to [discuss] providing more support. Around six weeks before the competition, I was officially sponsored by Danfoss and had about three weeks of preparation with [my mentor], Sami Jamil, who is Manager, Application Support OEMs, Middle East, at Danfoss Cooling Segment.

It was a very great experience, and I think that if Danfoss had not been there and not supporting me I would not have gone on to reach that [level of] knowledge. Danfoss added something special. They sponsored me, and they gave [technical] support as well as emotional support. They encouraged me to choose HVACR as a future career. They are still supporting me, even after the competition.

Do you feel that with enthusiastic people, such as yourself, the UAE can eventually export its knowledge of best practices in HVACR?

I think the UAE, in general, has started to have interest in air conditioning. Once we were done competing, [the questions rose on] how to open the opportunity to all ladies or young people [in the country]. The UAE is not just fast in terms of growing and expanding, we are also always leaders in innovation and technology. I think it is possible for the UAE to compete in air conditioning and refrigeration all over the world.

[The country] is showing interest, so we have support. I’m sure we will have big support and [be provided] everything. In perhaps a few years, we will be leaders. Maybe not worldwide so fast but certainly in the GCC region and in the Arab world.

How do you plan to align yourself to the larger cause of UAE Vision 2021 and help the country safeguard the environment?

As you know, some of the refrigerants used in air cooling systems are toxic. While I was having my training, I was wearing a mask. People the world over are doing research to come up with more environmentally friendly refrigerants. As a chemical engineer, I would like to conduct research on new types of refrigerants. It’s interesting for me, because the UAE is showing interest in research [and development]. I think this will be a chance for me to contribute to the UAE by looking into new types of refrigerants.

What kind of leadership role in the HVACR industry would you like to take up in the coming years?

I really like the practical part of giving training to people, as what Sami is doing. I have had good support, and by continuing in this [field] I will have more support. I can reach a number of people around the world. I already feel the importance of having a good trainer and a good expert that gives you all the information needed. I would like to be this trainer and expert that gives this information to people. I was suffering with connecting information and technical work, and when Danfoss came on the scene, all the issues were solved. I would like to be that kind of trainer for people around the world. 

What are your plans? What do you hope to contribute to the HVACR industry?

I’m going to graduate in six months. After that, I would like to concentrate on different topics in refrigeration and air conditioning, not only related to split units. I was thinking of getting training in [working with] air conditioning in aircraft. I became interested in this, because my colleague from the World Skills Competition was doing some tests for aircraft maintenance. I really like this area and I see the possibility of entering it, having knowledge in air conditioning and applying that [towards aviation]. No one can travel without air conditioning. It’s a bit unique, [I’m] just looking to combine my interests in a big way.

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