Faith and advocacies empower Emirati entrepreneur in a male-dominated field

Published: Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Nadia Abdul Aziz, President, National Association of Freight & Logistics (NAFL-UAE)
Vice President, FIATA Extended Board

Freight and logistics have long been associated with men but in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), women play an equally important role in sustaining and growing these sectors.

Nadia Abdul Aziz, the first female and Emirati president of the National Association of Freight and Logistics (NAFL-UAE), the Arabian Gulf’s first national nonprofit organization that brought together in one body all the major players in the freight forwarding, logistics and shipping industries in 1992, says she felt intimated at first handling the family business—UNASCO, which offers competitive solutions for sea and air freight, trucking and warehousing—but eventually overcame all obstacles.

“I initially felt intimidated. No one took me seriously. I was new and worked so hard to build a reputation through my work experience,” recalled Abdul Aziz when she took over the management of UNASCO in 2003.

Today, she’s at the helm of protecting the interests of more than 400 companies, all members of the nonprofit group NAFL, leading them to an innovative future where technology is utilized for the common good of all.

“I now feel confident and am always supported by my male colleagues and board members. The role of UAE women positively changing has also helped me and many others to be taken more seriously. We have our top leaders believing in us and empowering all females in the UAE and Dubai so I see no obstacles if we are equipped with the relevant experience/training and attitude,” said Abdul Aziz who in 2017 was voted as the Vice President of the Extended Board of FIATA (International Federation of Freight Forwarders), the Geneva-based nonprofit organization representing about 40,000 forwarding and logistics companies in 150 countries.

Abdul Aziz, who has a Bachelor’s Degree in Marketing and Advertising from the American University in Dubai with Master’s Degree in Business Administration who also studied at London Oxford College and Edinburgh University, said serving NAFL is a national duty she takes to the heart.

“I feel motivated & proud/honored to represent my country to more than 150 countries abroad. I also feel great because I am able to assist foreigners in the UAE to handle their business more smoothly via the association. It’s our duty as nationals to help all the people who believe in the UAE.”

Air Cargo Update caught up with this busy entrepreneur and leader who starts her day early in the morning spread over her family-owned business, NAFL and other associations she leads.

Her day doesn’t end until 1 am. In between, she tries to relax by spending time with her parents, family and friends, watch news and replying to countless emails.

But despite her overly loaded schedule, Abdul Aziz still finds time to pray, mentor, share and inspire.

What would you like to tell women who may be interested in making a career in the logistics industry?

I welcome all of them. We have a WILAT-ME network in the UAE. We have NAFL to support them in training, networking as well as work experience/internships. The sky is the limit and this is a niche yet growing industry. A bright future awaits them if they are serious about a career in logistics. Logistics can be in fashion, health care, electronics, FMCG sectors, food, etc. They can visit me at the NAFL office anytime and I will be more than happy to assist them.

How do you handle stress?

I handle stress through faith and prayers. And if it is work related, I try to delegate tasks so I can finish all my work on time. It’s hard, especially, when you’re leading more than four organizations that require time and a lot of efforts.

How do you spend your free time?

As I got older, I spend more time with my parents, sisters and grandmother. I also like to spend time with my nieces and nephew. Sometimes, I take them out or treat them to something they really enjoy.

What is your dream holiday?

My dream holiday is to be with friends in a beautiful clean place with great weather and no work. I love Monaco, Maldives, Paris, etc. These are some of my favorite destinations.

What advocacies are dearest to your heart?

Helping orphans by assisting them in securing professional training, career guidance, etc., so that they can be independent and can stand on their own feet. I also love to help distressed women and children with special needs. I always ensure that all my work has CSR in these areas.