I’ve been in Saudi Arabia for a year now and it’s my second international relocation since joining Faithful+Gould in 2008. I first joined the cost management team in the Leeds office and two years later, an opportunity arose in Malta and I jumped at the chance. My wife and I had often talked about living abroad, but had assumed that family life with three kids made it too difficult. On this occasion we figured there was nothing to lose, so I applied and was soon on a flight to meet Faithful+Gould’s client.
I relocated to Malta and my family joined me a month later. We were there for five years and it was a great experience, for both work and family life. We met many people that I’m sure I’ll maintain friendships with for many years to come. When my project eventually needed less attention, I wondered what was next for me – and found myself ticking ‘yes’ to the question ‘would you consider working elsewhere in the world?’ in my annual performance review.
In September 2014 I moved to Saudi Arabia, and found that life here is very different to the way it may have been 20 years ago. There’s a wide mix of people, including lots of expats and a sociable lifestyle is the norm.
Faithful+Gould made the relocation very easy, with visas, flights and temporary hotel accommodation all arranged for me.
Faithful+Gould made the relocation very easy, with visas, flights and temporary hotel accommodation all arranged for me. I’m now based in Riyadh where I share a house on a lively compound with two colleagues, which was my choice. The new four-bedroom villa has access to a nice pool and gym, and a lovely park nearby. Actually it’s a bit of a bachelor pad and my health and fitness have certainly benefited from the lack of bars! The company enters into the lease agreement on your behalf, unless you’ve been here long enough to get a resident’s permit.
Living with colleagues gives me a ready-made social life, and we try to go out together at least once a week. Eating out in Saudi Arabia is very cheap and there’s plenty of restaurants and different cuisines to choose from. There’s lots of sports activities to get involved with and clubs and teams to join and groups for different interests.
Working hours are 8.30 to 6.00 and our weekend is Friday and Saturday. The office is very friendly and we’ll often all go to the mall at lunchtime, or after work, to eat together. Typically we get exposure to bigger projects here, with large teams, which is an exciting experience. I’m really enjoying managing my projects, which include a US$400 million iconic mixed-mode transport station on the new Riyadh metro project, featuring a parkland roof with over 200 palm trees, as well as new high rise buildings in the Riyadh financial district, and a 100-bed hospital and medical centre.
Career progression is just as possible in the Middle East as in other Faithful+Gould locations, and I was lucky to be nominated for the Management Development Programme (MDP).
Career progression is just as possible in the Middle East as in other Faithful+Gould locations, and I was lucky to be nominated for the Management Development Programme (MDP). The MDP prepares you to take the next step into the leadership arena, and it’s a key enabler for staff here. I’m part of a cohort of 12 undertaking the programme. We finished the formal training in June and we’re now working on our presentations of solutions to real business challenges set by senior management. As alumni, we’ll be expected to encourage and mentor the next cohort – I’m looking forward to that, as I’ve certainly benefited from the great training sessions and opportunities on the programme.
I’d definitely encourage anyone with a taste for adventure to consider Saudi Arabia and the other GCC countries – there’s huge opportunity around the built environment and it’s a satisfying challenge to be a part of that. The experiences that you gain working overseas are fantastic and it’s certainly not something you just put up with to save money. Learning about new cultures, visiting different places and working with local people broadens your perspective and makes you more open-minded.