By VCU Office of Development and Alumni Relations
Update: Fahad Saif Harhara, Ph.D., is now chief programs officer for the Tawazun Economic Council, a government project launched in 1992 to diversify the United Arab Emirates economy and increase domestic production. In his new role, Harhara oversees government spending in defense industries for Tawazun.
Fahad Saif Harhara, Ph.D., who earned his undergraduate degree in electrical engineering in 2000, has been named the VCU School of Engineering Alumni Star for 2017. VCU’s Office of Development and Alumni Relations recognizes one Alumni Star per school for extraordinary achievements and contributions to the field. He and the other Alumni Stars will be honored at a reception Nov. 3, 2017, at the Science Museum of Virginia.
Harhara, who also has two master’s degrees and a doctorate from other universities, is CEO of Abu Dhabi-based NIMR Automotive, the leading manufacturer of military vehicles in the Middle East and North Africa.
The VCU School of Engineering opened in 1996 with a leap of faith and a freshman class of 100 students, including Harhara. Since then, the school has grown in size, enrollment and reputation and Harhara embarked on an international career that inspired Arabian Business magazine to dub him “the iron man of the Middle East.”
As a dean’s list student at VCU, Harhara was one of many student workers hired to help set up the first floor of the engineering school’s C. Kenneth and Dianne Harris Wright Virginia Microelectronics Center. He returned to VCU for an emotional visit in 2016.
“To walk through the campus buildings I once paced as a young international student was overwhelming,” he says. “We were the founding class. It was a career risk taken by both the students and the school. Twenty years later, the successful outcome of that risk speaks volumes.”
Guiding him from Monroe Park to the United Arab Emirates was the advice of Hadis Morkoç, Ph.D., Founders Professor of Electrical Engineering and Physics in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering: “You will be judged by the result of your work; the effort to achieve the goal is your own self.”
Early in his career, Harhara held a number of leading positions in utilities, telecommunications and economic councils. He has led NIMR Automotive to its status as the leading manufacturer of light- and medium-weight wheeled military vehicles in the Middle East and North Africa region. During his tenure, NIMR has increased its workforce tenfold to 850 and doubled production to 80 vehicles per month.
In addition to his NIMR responsibilities, Harhara sits on the boards of numerous transport and economic committees.
“The knowledge gained at VCU was the main foundation for critical thinking,” he says. “The engineering degree was an enabler to understand non-engineering fields. In my career, I went from running a successful $300 million technology fund to establishing a tier-one military original equipment manufacturer with orders of more than $2 billion as well as running knowledge transfer projects with major industry players. The continuous challenges and the opportunity to meet the leaders of technology firms is an aspect I enjoy the most in my career. Military manufacturing is about protection and saving lives.”