How moving to the Middle East has improved my career and broadened my mind

Patrick Gersch
Living in the UAE is an awesome experience for me, my wife and our young children. Full of opportunities, a great base for travel and mind-broadening for all of us.

I was born in Germany and grew up in Australia. My home city was Perth, which was pretty sleepy in my younger days—a complete contrast to the UAE, where I now live with my young family.

This wasn’t something I’d carefully planned. I was working back home in an urban planning role in 2007 when I happened to watch a current affairs show that profiled Australians going to Dubai to work on megaprojects, with all the associated lifestyle and financial benefits. It sounded good to me, and I decided to go for it!

I made the move, joining a large engineering consultancy to work on master-plan developments, and I eventually moved into project management, completing a distance learning Australian project management degree. For several years I lived in Dubai and commuted to Abu Dhabi.

I joined Faithful+Gould in 2015, again based in Dubai. I was attracted by the prospect of working for a bigger consultancy with an impressive client list, a healthy pipeline of work, and the opportunity of a more client-facing role. It’s worked out really well—my work is stimulating, fast-paced and satisfying.

The UAE used to be somewhere where people came to work and sat it out, waiting for the posting to be over. In my time here, it couldn’t be more different from that. Dubai, especially, is electric! So much energy and can-do attitude. We work hard and play hard.

I can recommend the lifestyle here. There’s something for all ages, all cultures and all tastes. The desert is a great place for a motocross enthusiast like me, it’s fun and a major stress-reliever. We enjoy lots of socialising as a family, and we also travel a lot—we’re lucky in that my wife works for an airline.

Our kids were born in Dubai. They’re eight and four now, and they go to an amazing multicultural school with a British curriculum, where they’re learning Arabic and German. They love the beaches, parks, water-parks and cinemas. Like most families, my wife and kids leave in the summer due to the heat.

I really like our kids having a multicultural upbringing. It’s the same at work—such a cool experience to work with people from all across the world. Different beliefs, upbringings… it can be challenging at times, but you learn so much.

Career-wise, you don’t miss out on anything with Faithful+Gould in the Middle East. I was selected for a nine-month management development programme, working with a diverse group alongside UK trainers, which was a very valuable experience. I find our regional lunch & learn sessions are a good opportunity too.

I’ve worked on some exciting projects in my time here. Highlights include the Bulgari Hotel, the Jumeirah Beach Hotel refurb, and Dubai Creek Harbour. I also spent a year working in Saudi Arabia, on an interesting mixed-use development at Al Wedyan, near Riyadh. The crazier days are over, with developers being a bit more cautious now, but actually that’s exciting too—to see the market and methodologies mature, and the environment become more regulated.

Right now I’m working in Abu Dhabi, about an hour’s drive away. I’m seconded to a major Abu Dhabi developer to build sustainable communities and develop strategic mixed-use projects. We’re integrated into the client team to kick-start these projects which will really put our client on the map. Currently we’re focused on a leisure destination with food & beverage, retail, playgrounds, picnic areas and landscaping. There’s a sense of urgency and excitement, and I’m enjoying this exposure to the developer perspective.

If you’re going to pack up and head overseas, you need to have a sense of adventure and be willing to take a risk. I did, and I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything; it’s given me something I’d never have had if I’d stayed in Australia. A different perspective on life, becoming more open, developing more balanced views… I can’t recommend it enough!

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