Raheeq Al-Harbi: A female IT pioneer in Saudi healthcare

Raheeq Al-Harbi: A female IT pioneer in Saudi healthcare
Raheeq Al-Harbi
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Updated 08 March 2021

Raheeq Al-Harbi: A female IT pioneer in Saudi healthcare

Raheeq Al-Harbi: A female IT pioneer in Saudi healthcare

RIYADH: Raheeq Al-Harbi received nearly perfect grades in her secondary school exams. In Saudi Arabia, that usually means a career in medicine. 

Today, however, her career journey, spanning almost a decade in the digital healthcare industry, is a booming success, and did not involve going to medical school.

Although excited at the prospect of a medical career in her early years, Al-Harbi was dissuaded from becoming a doctor by her family. 

“They feared the long nightshifts at the hospital and essentially giving up my life,” she said. “So I thought OK, I’ll follow my older sister’s lead and pursue software engineering instead.”

Indeed, Al-Harbi went on to earn a BA in information technology (IT) from King Saud University (KSU) in Riyadh. She fell in love with analytics and software engineering the day she attended her first lecture. 

 

New beginnings

After graduation, Al-Harbi worked briefly at a local bank, providing IT treasury back-office support. 

“I worked in the treasury department, which was a core section of the bank. While it was a very challenging experience, I was still able to prove myself,” she said. 

“But I could tell that working in finance — 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. in a cubicle, with only the computer to keep me company — wasn’t for me. Yes I love software engineering, but I also love to interact with real people, solving problems together. Most importantly, I wanted to utilize my skills to improve the quality of life of those in need.”

So Al-Harbi decided to bring her IT expertise to the healthcare arena and joined King Fahad Medical City (KFMC), one of the largest medical and research centers in Saudi Arabia. “I remember the first day after I got the job, I thought yes, this is me, I belong here,” she said.

Ironically, her family’s concerns about her spending all her time at a hospital did come true. “I practically lived there, from morning to late at night. At one point, I even slept in the ER because I was working on an important project setting up the ER system,” she said. 

“Despite all the sleepless nights, however, I was happy and passionate about working together with my team on something tangible. You could see the impact of our work on the people — the patients whom we served. It was really satisfying.”

Over the next few years, Al-Harbi won a number of awards, including the Saudi Healthcare Innovation Award at KFMC for designing patient pathways to reduce crowding in different departments. 

That year, not only was she the youngest person to be considered for such an award, but she was also the only woman to receive one.

At that point, she was faced with another dilemma as her work had earned her a scholarship to pursue a master’s degree in the US. 

She enjoyed her job so much she did not want to leave it behind, so as an efficient multitasker, she continued working while studying part-time, earning her MBA from Prince Sultan University. 

 

‘Wings to fly’
Shortly after getting her MBA, she was approached by GE Healthcare and “jumped” at the opportunity.

“It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. GE has given me the wings to fly, so to speak,” she said.

“I’m grateful for the opportunities that GE has provided for both my professional and personal growth — from project management to presales, from purely analytical roles all the way to the commercial world.”

Today, Al-Harbi is a senior solution architect with GE Digital, responsible for the business aspects of customer solutions. 

This means she is well-versed in understanding customers’ needs and pain points, and is well-equipped to design solutions that deliver optimal business results.

“What I love about my work is that I’m constantly on the lookout for new ideas finding solutions to problems. Each project is like a jigsaw puzzle that needs to be solved,” she said.

“This is the beauty of our work — no two days are ever the same. We strive to be innovative and challenge the status quo in every situation, and every customer has their own set of challenges and opportunities.”

While at GE Digital, she has supported the Saudi Health Ministry’s major electronic medical records digital transformation project, as well as its highly regarded Mawid patient appointments app.

Notably, she created a patient journey blueprint for ministry hospitals called the “Golden Package.” 

This initiative has been implemented in ministry hospitals across the Kingdom, and is considered the standard that needs to be followed. 

 

Perks and challenges

Al-Harbi has attended many international conferences throughout her career, and has actively participated in a number of panel discussions, including the 2018 Top CEO Arab Women Forum on empowering women entrepreneurs in the Middle East. 

She spoke about the key role women’s empowerment plays in advancing businesses and the customer experience, as well as women’s careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, and beyond. 

Looking back at her career so far, the most important piece of advice Al-Harbi has for young Saudi women is: “Invest in yourself — it’s the best return on investment you’ll ever get.”

She also puts great weight on being authentic and true to oneself. “Be real. Present yourself as you really are,” she said.

“With social media platforms nowadays and everything being remote and virtual, we sometimes crave authenticity and care.” 

That even extends to one’s job title. “What does it really mean?” she asked. “Find a vision you truly believe in, and contribute your skills and gifts to help advance that vision.” 

Lastly, “don’t take no for an answer,” she said. “Go above and beyond the call of duty, and give 110 percent.”


Who’s Who: Hisham Abdulaziz Al-Makhdoub, vice president of engineering and operations at Advanced Electronics Company

Who’s Who: Hisham Abdulaziz Al-Makhdoub, vice president of engineering and operations at Advanced Electronics Company
Updated 18 September 2021

Who’s Who: Hisham Abdulaziz Al-Makhdoub, vice president of engineering and operations at Advanced Electronics Company

Who’s Who: Hisham Abdulaziz Al-Makhdoub, vice president of engineering and operations at Advanced Electronics Company

Hisham Abdulaziz Al-Makhdoub is executive vice president of engineering and operations at Advanced Electronics Co., a Saudi Arabian Military Industries company.
He is responsible for all the technical and operational activities of AEC, including manufacturing, MRO, engineering, development, quality and supply chain management, and IT.
A seasoned senior technology executive with more than three decades of professional experience, Al-Makhdoub has proven expertise in strategically strengthening local high-tech capabilities, localization and technology transfer in electronics manufacturing and digital industries.
Having joined the research and development department of AEC as a project manager in 2000, Al-Makhdoub rose through the organization’s ranks during his illustrious career, serving in various roles, including director of engineering and then senior vice president of engineering and development.
Leveraging his extensive experience in strengthening indigenous capabilities, Al-Makhdoub actively contributes to AEC’s efforts to raise the Kingdom’s local capabilities in military manufacturing to 50 percent by 2030.
Before joining AEC, Al-Makhdoub held various engineering roles at the Space Research Institute at King Abdulaziz City for Science & Technology, where he began his career in 1991.
Al-Makhdoub holds a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering (communications) from King Saud University in Riyadh.
He is an advisory board member of the College of Engineering, Prince Sultan University, and is both a leader and member of several AEC committees.


Saudi forces showcase combat readiness at Bright Star drill

Saudi forces showcase combat readiness at Bright Star drill
Updated 18 September 2021

Saudi forces showcase combat readiness at Bright Star drill

Saudi forces showcase combat readiness at Bright Star drill

RIYADH: The joint military exercises Bright Star 2021 concluded at Mohamed Naguib Military Base in Egypt on Friday in the presence of the Egyptian Minister of Defense and Military Production Lt. General Mohammed Zaki, and Commander of the Royal Saudi Land Forces Lt. General Fahd Al-Mutair.

Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the US, the UK, Greece, Jordan, Pakistan, and Cyprus participated in the joint exercises, with another 13 states observing.

The conclusion of the exercises included simulations of combat scenarios including support operations carried out with live ammunition and airdrops of special forces and armored vehicles from combat helicopters.

Bright Star is considered one of the most important military training programs in the region, due to the diversity of participating forces and terrain.


Causing a stir: A generational shift in Saudi relationship with coffee

Saudi barista Sara Al-Ali, a runner-up in the 2016 MENA Cezve/Ibrik coffee-making competition and a World Cezve/Ibrik championship finalist the same year, now owns and runs That coffee shop in her hometown Riyadh. (Supplied)
Saudi barista Sara Al-Ali, a runner-up in the 2016 MENA Cezve/Ibrik coffee-making competition and a World Cezve/Ibrik championship finalist the same year, now owns and runs That coffee shop in her hometown Riyadh. (Supplied)
Updated 18 September 2021

Causing a stir: A generational shift in Saudi relationship with coffee

Saudi barista Sara Al-Ali, a runner-up in the 2016 MENA Cezve/Ibrik coffee-making competition and a World Cezve/Ibrik championship finalist the same year, now owns and runs That coffee shop in her hometown Riyadh. (Supplied)
  • Specialty flavors are fueling billion-dollar cafe growth as the ancient brew gets a modern makeover

JEDDAH: Tea or Arabic coffee? For growing numbers of Saudis, the choice is more likely to be a latte, cappuccino, frappe or macchiato served in one of the many cafes that have popped up around the Kingdom in recent years.

In every region of Saudi Arabia today, coffee is replacing traditional beverages as a central part of the modern lifestyle.
Grabbing an early morning and lunchtime coffee has become a part of office workers’ daily routine, while others visit a cafe to enjoy their favorite cup while sitting and chatting.

FASTFACTS

• Amid growing demand for new cafes and restaurants, official statistics show that investment in the sector has reached SR221 billion ($58.9 billion), with growth rates of about 8 percent expected by the end of the year.

• Meanwhile, as coffee’s popularity soars in the Kingdom, the value of imports has risen to SR1.16 billion annually, or SR3.18 million per day, authorities say. Saudi Arabia imported about 80,000 tons of coffee in 2019-2020.

The global market is feeling the effects of this change in taste as well. According to Wail Olia, trainer and member of the Specialty Coffee Association, Saudi Arabia is among countries where consumers are developing a taste not only for robusta, the beans mainly used in instant coffee, but also the high-quality arabica bean.
Olia told Arab News that Saudi Arabia’s love of coffee goes back to the days of the Ottoman empire when coffee houses in Makkah were used as religious meeting places.
“Later, religious leaders thought that coffee was an intoxicating beverage, so the governor of Makkah ordered all cafes to close,” he said.
“Cafes are the fast-growing segment of the hospitality industry worldwide. Five years ago, in my city neighborhood in Jeddah, I could count the number of cafes on one hand. Now there are so many.”
Olia has studied and trained in Milan and Florence, and is now a certified instructor for the SCA, which allows him to teach young Saudis and share his insights into coffee — something he enjoys immensely.
As more Saudi women enter the private sector, some are deciding to work as baristas and waitresses in coffee shops.

Wail Olia has studied and trained in Milan and Florence, and is now a certified instructor for the SCA, which allows him to teach young Saudis and share his insights into coffee — something he enjoys immensely.

Saudi barista Sara Al-Ali, a runner-up in the 2016 MENA Cezve/Ibrik coffee-making competition and a World Cezve/Ibrik championship finalist the same year, now owns and runs That coffee shop in her hometown Riyadh and is an authorized SCA trainer.
Coffee culture in the Kingdom is changing rapidly, she told Arab News. “Specialty coffee started only recently, but it is catching up surprisingly quickly. More coffee shops are opening. It’s at a high this year and is predicted to grow even more next year,” she said.
“As for me, specialty coffee is a product that follows quality standards at every stage of production.”
Al-Ali said that in Arab societies, coffee is part of an ancient cultural heritage.
“The big demand for coffee among all segments of our society is a healthy phenomenon and a reflection of what the Kingdom is witnessing in terms of development, prosperity and openness to different cultures,” she said.
Many Saudis are looking for innovative coffee flavors and new tastes to complement traditional styles. Al-Ali studied coffee-making in Canada after falling in love with the drink, then went to France to study further.
“It began as a habit, but after I returned to Saudi Arabia I decided to focus on coffee. The moment I made my first espresso, I realized that was what I wanted to do with my life.”
Al-Ali said that she is happy to see many cafes become places for family gatherings, business deals, or to study and even surf the internet.
Meanwhile, the growing taste for coffee in the Kingdom is also highlighting a divide between the generations when it comes to their favorite brew.
According to tea-maker Saleh Al-Husaiki, 53, older people still view Saudi Arabia as a tea-drinking nation.

I can see that the new-style coffee shops have opened side by side across the town, and more young people go to specialty cafes. But lots of people still come to us and enjoy the old tea prepared on fire.

Saleh Al-Husaiki, Tea-maker

Al-Husaiki serves the famous Taifi tea (with mint) and normal dark tea on the street, all brewed on an open coal fire.
“I can see that the new-style coffee shops have opened side by side across the town, and more young people go to specialty cafes. But lots of people still come to us and enjoy the old tea prepared on fire,” he told Arab News.
The older generation is still loyal to traditional hot drinks such as tea, Turkish coffee or espresso, according to Al-Husaiki, who is also a government employee.
“I agree that Saudis’ attitudes to coffee has changed recently with a new generation, but for me and others who belong to the old school, things are still the same — we prefer the Saudi traditional coffee, the regular black tea and the Turkish coffee,” he said.
Mohammed bin Abdul Hakim Al-Saadi, a Saudi businessman and investor in restaurants and cafes, said that the sector has fully recovered from the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, thanks to various support packages provided by the government, which mounted 150 initiatives for the private sector and its workers.
Amid growing demand for new cafes and restaurants, official statistics show that investment in the sector has reached SR221 billion ($58.9 billion), with growth rates of about 8 percent expected by the end of the year.
According to recent statistics, the Ministry of Commerce has received applications for 30,000 licenses to establish cafes in the Kingdom.
Meanwhile, as coffee’s popularity soars in the Kingdom, the value of imports has risen to SR1.16 billion annually, or SR3.18 million per day, authorities say. Saudi Arabia imported about 80,000 tons of coffee in 2019-2020.


Saudi ministry reveals 10 million pilgrims have performed Umrah since launch of safety procedures

 Muslim pilgrims, keeping social distance and wearing face masks, perform Tawaf during the annual Hajj pilgrimage, in the holy city of Makkah, Saudi Arabia July 20, 2021. (REUTERS)
Muslim pilgrims, keeping social distance and wearing face masks, perform Tawaf during the annual Hajj pilgrimage, in the holy city of Makkah, Saudi Arabia July 20, 2021. (REUTERS)
Updated 18 September 2021

Saudi ministry reveals 10 million pilgrims have performed Umrah since launch of safety procedures

 Muslim pilgrims, keeping social distance and wearing face masks, perform Tawaf during the annual Hajj pilgrimage, in the holy city of Makkah, Saudi Arabia July 20, 2021. (REUTERS)
  • More than 12,000 visas have been issued since the Kingdom once again began to welcome pilgrims from other countries on Aug. 10 this year

JEDDAH: The Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umrah has announced that 10 million pilgrims have successfully performed Umrah since Oct. 4 last year, following the launch of its “safe Umrah” procedures and the gradual return of pilgrims to the Two Holy Mosques.

It also revealed that more than 12,000 visas have been issued since the Kingdom once again began to welcome pilgrims from other countries on Aug. 10 this year.
The ministry said it continues to make every effort to protect the health and safety of pilgrims, worshippers and visitors to the mosques, and urged everyone to follow all instructions and adhere to the precautionary measures designed to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Officials aim to reach a capacity of 3.5 million pilgrims, visitors and worshippers a month. Abdulfattah bin Sulaiman Mashat, the deputy minister of Hajj and Umrah, said the current capacity is 70,000 pilgrims a day.
He added that full vaccination is a prerequisite for the granting of permits to Umrah pilgrims and other worshippers who wish to visit the Grand Mosque and Prophet’s Mosque. The permits are issued through the Tawakkalna application. Health authorities in the Kingdom have approved the use of vaccines for all people over the age of 12 years old.

HIGHLIGHT

Officials aim to reach a capacity of 3.5 million pilgrims, visitors and worshippers a month. Abdulfattah bin Sulaiman Mashat, the deputy minister of Hajj and Umrah, said the current capacity is 70,000 pilgrims a day.

Mashat said that the ministry reopened Umrah for pilgrims from other countries on Aug. 10. A system of procedures, controls and requirements for their arrival, including a recognized certificate confirming immunization with an approved vaccine, was prepared in coordination with all relevant authorities to ensure the safety of all pilgrims, he added.
Saudi authorities said they are continually updating the list of countries from which pilgrims can enter the Kingdom, based on pandemic developments and health indicators, and the minister said the number arriving from other nations is steadily increasing.
International visitors are advised to register their vaccination status on the Muqeem platform 72 hours before traveling to the Kingdom. Pilgrims can also receive assistance from Ministry of Hajj and Umrah care centers.


Saudi Food and Drug Authority organizes patient awareness seminars

Saudi Food and Drug Authority’s participation in marking this day reflects its eagerness to support public health programs and patient safety. (SPA)
Saudi Food and Drug Authority’s participation in marking this day reflects its eagerness to support public health programs and patient safety. (SPA)
Updated 18 September 2021

Saudi Food and Drug Authority organizes patient awareness seminars

Saudi Food and Drug Authority’s participation in marking this day reflects its eagerness to support public health programs and patient safety. (SPA)
  • The event tackled issues regarding the safe use of medical devices, pharmacological vigilance during pregnancy, preventative measures to reduce the need for medicine

RIYADH: The Kingdom joined the world in celebrating World Patient Safety Day, marked annually on Sept. 17, with the Saudi Food and Drug Authority on Friday organizing a series of seminars that aim to raise patient awareness on matters related to health and safety.
The event tackled issues regarding the safe use of medical devices, pharmacological vigilance during pregnancy, preventative measures to reduce the need for medicine, as well as regulations related to the way information on pregnancy and lactation is written and displayed on product leaflets. The SFDA’s participation in marking this day reflects its eagerness to support public health programs and patient safety.