Moving To The Middle East: My Experience As A Project Manager

Shyam Visavadia
My move to Faithful+Gould Middle East has helped to build a strong foundation for my future career. Read more about how I made the decision to leave the UK and my advice for anyone considering doing the same.

After spending two years as a graduate working in London, I decided to take a leap of faith and relocate to the Middle East. The decision to move would provide greater exposure to the world of surveying and bolster my experience within the construction industry.

International experience has always appealed to me, and whilst employed at another consultancy firm in London, I was fortunate to take advantage of several exchange and diversity programmes. This opened up opportunities internally and formed the basis of my professional network.

When deciding if a move to the Middle East was right for me, I did a lot of research and used social platforms such as LinkedIn to contact other young professionals who had already made the move. There’s so much information to sift through on Google so getting first-hand information was invaluable and provided reassurance and confidence that the decision to relocate was the right one.

At the time my key aspiration was to build my capability within project management and I strongly believed that moving to the Middle East would be the ideal setting to achieve this due to the innovative visions for and scale of the projects. In hindsight, it is one of the best decisions I have made.

Since moving, I have been fortunate enough to deliver a range of projects for several leading clients across the UAE and I’m currently working on Kings College Hospital, a G+7, 100-bed hospital in Dubai. Faithful+Gould has also equipped me with the right tools and mentors to attain to numerous professional qualifications including The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (MRICS), the Chartered Institute of Building (MCIOB) and the Association for Project Management (MAPM).

So You're Thinking About A Move To The Middle East? This Is My Advice…

Since arriving in October 2014, I have been exposed to a number of different roles within project management including secondments to government authorities, multinational firms and start-ups.

The initial few months are challenging as you are dealing with new processes and regulations which can be different to those of the UK. For example, in the Middle East, we use primarily FIDIC form of contracts, whilst in the UK I was only privy to JCT (Design & Build). Project teams are diverse as such you are dealing with contractors and consultants from all cultures and backgrounds. What helped me overcome this was shadowing other senior project managers to help provide reassurance and confidence during and through projects.

... I have been exposed to a number of different roles within project management including secondments to government authorities, multinational firms and start-ups.

Work aside, Dubai is located in the heart of the Middle East, and it holds true to Islamic rules. Typically, working days fall from Sunday – Thursday, however, it is not uncommon for some main contractors to work on Saturdays. Culturally, expats should be aware of what is acceptable and what is not. Faithful+Gould provide all new starters with an induction which provides clear guidance to living and working in the Middle East.

Dubai is home to around 80% expatriates, of which many are from the UK. Meeting people comes easily as there are lots of opportunity for socialising during the week and at weekends. Faithful+Gould organises events throughout the year including Christmas parties and an annual Iftar (breaking fast during Ramadan). The company also promotes inter-professional networking events and encourages employees’ involvement and contribution to CSR (corporate social responsibility) initiatives.

Overall, this move has allowed me to grow both personally and professionally. I have matured as a person and this has helped me build a strong foundation for my future career. Having the benefit of not paying tax has allowed me to put a down payment on a house which for most young people these days is difficult.

Living and working in Dubai has changed my life and I would highly recommend international experience to anyone.

For those thinking of taking their career abroad my advice would be to build your professional network – having access to a global network helped me make informed decisions about my future. I like to have multiple options and having a large network has given me access to the best and impartial advice. Create a plan and stick to it. Although most employers will guide you through the process make sure you understand the transfer and transition process i.e. banking, degree attestation, residence visas, taxation, employment contracts, healthcare etc. If you are looking to move short term, start thinking about a savings plan.

Living and working in Dubai has changed my life and I would highly recommend international experience to anyone. Being part of a leading global consultancy that encourages worldwide mobility provides me with the opportunity to relocate and experience the working culture in some of the best places in the world so watch this space, my next feature could be written from Singapore!

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