March Spotlight On: Susan Furness – Founder Strategic Solutions Dubai

  1. Tell us about you, your experience and time in the Middle East.
    31,000. The number of days if we live to be 85.
    13,140. At 58, the number of days I have lived in the Middle East.
    My crystal ball shows I am likely to notch up at least 3,000 more. And, I so appreciate each one.
    My 23rd birthday was spent in Bahrain, with new-found friends, bobbing around on a boat on the Arabian Gulf.
    I arrived a few months earlier in July, stepping into the summer heat and my first Ramadan (the Holy Month of Sawm, or Fasting).
    I loved that summer of ‘81 and I adored my Ramadan inhiation. Just as I cherish each since. Heat ‘n all.
    Akin to most 20-somethings, I literally danced through the 80’s forging lifelong friendships and etching unforgettable times. Bahrain provided me a post-grad at the University of Life.
    My entrepreneurial savvy was also tickled into action.
    In tandem with amazing corporate roles, each feeding my fledgling leadership edge, a fiery yet innocent courage reared. Over the decade to 1992, I stoked at least four successful start-up partnerships, straddling bespoke haute couture to Public Relations!
    Fast forward – as I fast forward to my 60th birthday, looming in 2019 – my business-entrepreneur Hat Collection grows with me.
    A quick count assigns a start-up to each of my ten fingers. The legacy line-up spans the region’s first photographic image library, to three precious Montessori schools in South East London.
    1995 saw the launch of Strategic Solutions, a corporate communications advisory that continues to perform with a joyful resilience.
    Indeed, thinking about it, 22 years for a privately-owned PR firm to remain in play, is sacred.
    It was easy to be swallowed up by a larger player, the GFC (global financial crisis), or just pure ‘I’ve had enough’ feeling. Well, it feels a privilege actually. A privilege to have sailed this ship across all sorts to waters with a myriad of crew and eclectic fellow passengers.
    Daily, the Middle East continues to capture the ‘photo album’ that is my life – or in today’s digital age – cloud-storing Facebook Memories and Videologs!
    2.How would you describe the business culture of the Middle East.
    The region’s business culture is woven of a myriad styles, textures and colours, literally!

Depending whose eye, whose count on what day, and who is counting, the Middle East embraces 20 nations. I notice that each is different as is similar; the similarity stemming from the inside out – in difference we are on

I adore that each nation is ‘uniquely’ rich in national culture, most overflowing with a deep-rooted national pride, in turn with a deep-rooted penchant of past constellations comprising family, his-story, relationships and experiences.

It warms to to know that guidance and experiences are born as much in the ‘majlis’ (the neighourhood sitting room – one each for men and women – where daily news is shared and counsel absorbed, guided by the elder’s saging), as in the home, in school playgrounds, in commercial and capital market places, as well as the board room.

And, of course, guidance continues five times a day with the Call to Prayer – vocal across all Middle East nations. Islam is the religion that guides most nationals across the region**. Word of Mouth continues to prove its good worth, even in the marketing industry! There is nothing more precious than a positive referral, or the sharing of a post!

Sharia’a law, born from Islam, also underpins much of the region’s family-centered, respect full lifestyle. It also guides business practice although commercial law plucks much of it’s code and conduct from the globally-respected English legal system. In compliment, English language is widely spoken, and the Premier League Football revered!

As a woman walking the Middle East market place for near-on four decades, I have encountered as much opportunity and I have resistance – both external to me and internal of me.

Also, I have received a warm welcome by men and women, alike.

On the flip side, I have experienced close encounters of all kinds, with both men and women. All part of life’s rich tapestry. I swiftly learnt that I can bring my own yarn to the party.

I can only imagine that this would be much the same had I focus career growth in London, or New York, for that matter.

Indeed, often my work – and penchant for study – takes me overseas.

Yes, the beat and amp may be different (than the multi-national Downtown Dubai) on Oxford Street, again on Fifth Avenue, and most defiantly on the Champs Elysee but as long as I wear my heart open and connect-to- connect, eye to eye, I find No Alien. Barriers to entry are lifted. Like my experience as an entrepreneur in the Middle East. If business wants to be done, it will be done.

It’s then up to me, the collaborative, and our co-creation to make something that sticks.

Sometimes we are using non-stick pans, and it doesn’t.

That’s (show) business! Most certainly, that’s life!

More good news; the Opportunity Culture in the Middle East is alive! The curtains remain up and the daily dance with eclectic profiles, personalities and personas constantly uncovers new steps, new rhythm, new camaraderie, and new opportunities to go out and play.

(**Side note: Israel follows Judism. Meanwhile, Lebanon has evolved as the most diverse religious society in the region – just over 50% follow either Shite or Suni Islam, more than 40% Christianity, and a small percentage either Druze, Sufi or Alawits. Five of the Gulf Cooperation Council States – Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the UAE, have long-since established places of worship across the variety of denominations practiced by the crucial, welcomed diverse visitors, residents and work place.)

3. What are your biggest challenges in the next 5 years?
I’m a bit of a Word Smith. It’s the legacy PR Person in me!

So, when I look at the word Challenge, I actually see ‘All Angels’ (ch-all-angels).

In tandem, I hear the positive polarity of the word: I hear an invitation to take part …to do really, really well, sprinting over barriers, removing obstacles. Even collaboratively re-writing the rule book in favour of the knowing what is right to do, for the common good for the common purpose (of the challenging opportunity)!

Given that, here’s a ‘blink’ of my top three Angels in the next five years:

Energy Retention, fueling Energy Increase. Our collective wisdom fueled by the ‘time this is’ – the Internet of Things (IoT), Smart Everything, Nike Trainers, Global Connectivity (transport, digital, media et al) – means the proverbial ‘New York Minute’ has long since bitten the dust, and even the Facebook Moment has been ‘under siege’ from SnapChat’s Second In Time. Meaning … I (we) not only must keep the mo-jo elated, but energy levels must show aging, that speed is not best measured in MPH (miles per hour) rather in Flow and Felt Shift (FFS) – in myself and others, constantly moving us forwards and upwards, together. Indeed, absolutely all energy (re)sources deserve such consideration – be it from food, fuel, finance or freedom.
Bridge Building For Social Sustainability By Conscious Social Responsibility. It feels imperative that everything I/we do is a brick in the foundation of a sustainable forever, experienced today. The All-Angel, All Angle Challenging Opportunity is to ensure a bridge is built from here to (t)here, always, all ways for all people. To help support this, I have joined a collaborative of strong, wise women and together we are committed to (writing the) new guidebook to energise true, lasting social value.
Implementing Inspiration. The world remains hungry for new ideas, new services, new product, new blood, new systems (political, economical, financial, societal…) even new borders, and most certainly new leadership. The All-Angel, All Angel Challeniging Opportunty is ‘how’? How do we best observe in harmony, what fits, now and tomorrow? How do we most elegantly identify the new-paradigm leaders? How do we encourage and energise them to lead so we can follow, with grace? How do we energise more excitement and courage over the polarity power points of sadness and fear? How, How, How?
Extra-Extra-Extra xxxooo

I know you didn’t ask, but I feel full with some ‘strategic, so(u)lutions’. Here’s my ‘off the cuff’ suggestion this morning. See how this sits, fits and stirs creativity masked as chaos!

We find truth in observation, not opinion.
We appreciatively welcome at least three languages of the world, of the people – Computer Coding (we are not going anywhere without this now!); Sign Language; English – which we look to rename, so it losses the connection to a nation and becomes the common language of People, while national languages are embraced and encouraged with love.
We morph the various (creed) commandments, mix with AA’s 12 Steps, stir in EQs schema solutions, pepper with the 21 skills of SQ (spiritual intelligence), sit in stillness (source) for at least 15 minutes a day, move more (ideally in dance with Mother Nature), eat natural and whole, we go out to ‘play’ with our friends in leisure time affording the same joie de vivre to our colleagues and customers at work (in government, in commerce, in community) while engaging in generative conversation not stoking debate-ladened dialogue.
We stand really brave, and detox and re-model or financial and economic ‘systems’.
4. What is your philosophy?
My inner knowledge and my living reality has long-since whispered that helping to increase the level of love, prosperity and peace on earth for all, among all, by all is the reason for my existence. I am now alive to this and in service to this, for all my life time(s).

About Susan Furness The Consciously Strategic Marketing Coach

Susan is a born and bred Londoner, who swapped the River Thames for Dubai Creek in 1992, but not before spending a glorious decade living on the archipelago of Bahrain, in the Arabian Gulf. She has navigated an eclectic career path, fusing the corporate world of the Middle East with the entrepreneurial opportunities that an ‘emerging market’ brings in its wake. Presently she can count at least a dozen business start-ups under her watch, including the legacy business launched in 1995 in Dubai and still going strong today – Strategic Solutions. Susan’s professional education and implementation focuses the Retail sector, Marketing, Advertising, PR, Digital and Social Media, as well as Early Years Education, Tourism & Hospitality, Publishing, and the Finance and Solar Energy Markets. In tandem, Susan’s tipple is Learning and Development. Especially since the early 90’s she has gathered pace – and depth – in Internal Communications, Spirituality and Wellbeing. In the Gulf Region, she is currently the only certified coach in Spiritual Intelligence (, Edgewalking ( and Integral Facilitation, where she holds a professional development certification ( Most recently, Susan brought a new three-realm modality into her portfolio. Selfistry flows between meditation, movement, and observation. Susan is certified teacher ( Susan’s approach to marketing communications, brand management and PR is ‘dramatically different’ and crucially needed in today’s ‘crowded and clouded global marketplace’ because she encourages her clients and their teams to ‘look in new places for the right answers’ (to business strategy, message development and campaigns). She sits on the board of a handful of Family businesses, plus advisory councils, and most recently joined the Executive Team of the Global Prosperity and Peace Initiative (GPPI), plus taking the reins of the remit in the Middle East


March Spotlight: Vinay Patel Student Counselor Intelligent Partners

Intelligent partners





How would you describe the culture of your business?

Intelligent Partners is a consulting center with years of experience in fulfilling students’ aspirations with respect to higher education in the US, UK, Canada, Germany, Malaysia and Australia.

We work with students to help them discover the best fit in terms of  course selection and the college search. Our students come from all nationalities. We support educational needs of students as young as 12 years old to Undergraduate, Masters, or PHD programs.
3.   How easy is it for you to get direct access to the decision makers in your company?

We are empowered to take short term decisions on the spot, however longer term decisions such as staffing , major changes in workflow etc would require senior management approval. In general, decision making is quite fast as I have direct access to senior management in my company.

4.   What are your biggest challenges in the next 5 years?

There is too much generic information available online and all of it not relevant to guidance that students  require. This creates more confusion than helping students as a piece of information may not be applicable to all because grading scales for each education system are different and requirements may be different for each nationality.  It is difficult for the student to understand these nuances in the application process.  Applying for a particular university abroad requires assessment based on multiple aspects other than rankings. It is a big challenge to undo the information overload suffered by students/parents and help them focus on their specific situation and needs.
5.   What is your philosophy?

We at Intelligent Partners focus work as a perfect match maker i.e. recommending universities based on students profile and specific needs. We go through an elaborate process of understanding students’ expectations from university education, areas of interest, strengths, career aspirations and long term goals. Our relationship with students does not end once admission is secured, but we continue to seek feedback through the education with the objective of providing further support as needed and to continuously refine our knowledge and approach through the feedback received. This makes us a very credible partner to prospective students.

March Spotlight Dr. Narimane Hadj- Hamou, CEO of CLICKS

Dr Nariman




1. Tell Us about your experience in the Middle East

I have worked within Higher Education in the region for almost 15 years ,and was during this period quiet privileged to work on quite exciting projects and initiatives. Initially, I started my career as a faculty member teaching computer science related subjects and have slowly moved into leadership positions including acting as a director for e-learning, a dean for Learning and Technologies and Students’ services a provost and now a CEO for a newly established organization named CLICKS. Prior to the establishment of CLICKS (The Center for Learning Innovations and Customized Knowledge Solutions), I have been involved with leading the academic vision of the first online institution to be recognized in the UAE (the Hamdan Bin Mohamed Smart University) . During this period I worked extensively on matters related to strategic planning, policy development, academic portfolio development and enhancement, QA, accreditation and of course e-learning.

Today, leading an initiative such as CLICKS where we support institutional and individual capacity building for higher education across the Arab region has given me the opportunity to work beyond the context of one particular country and learn about various higher educational systems in different Arab countries and grasp a better understanding of regional reforms and developments undergoing.

I also have been fortunate to be involved in establishing and leading a number of initiatives including the Middle East e-Learning Association, the International Consortium for Teaching and Learning, the MENA Association of University Presidents among others. Today, along with other colleagues, we also run a bi-annual forum addressed at decision makers and leaders of higher education from across the region and beyond (The MENA Higher Education Leadership Forum).

I continue to engage with delivering keynote addresses, workshops, presentations, etc. both locally and internationally in line with my areas of expertise and research interests and act as a UNSECO consultant and a reviewer for accreditation commissions.

  1. Tell us more about your business?

The Center for Learning Innovations and Customized Knowledge Solutions- CLICKS  was recently established with the aim of supporting the advancement of higher education and vocational learning within the MENA region. We support Universities, Colleges and other institutions of higher learning including vocational training institution  in specific areas that are new, evolving and very much required to enable academic excellence. Currently the Center focuses on 5 key areas which involve:

 1-           Strategic Planning and Performance Management

2-           Leadership Development and Governance

3-           Quality and Accreditation

4-           Technology integration in higher education

5-           Research in Higher Education

In each of the above areas, the Center offers capacity building programs ranging from short courses to certificate programs, institutional mentoring and coaching, knowledge solutions and consultancy activities. CLICKS’ activities have so far reached several countries including:  Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman, Nigeria, Algeria, Jordan, Sudan, Iran, and of course the UAE and we are considering further expanding our outreach to other countries within North Africa in the near future. Our centre works through an international network of high caliber experts who are carefully selected and mentored to ensure their deep understanding of the region; and is guided by a high level international advisory board comprising 11 members.

Since2012, the Center has established a number of international partnerships including collaborations with the Leadership Foundation in Higher Education and the Higher Education Academy in the UK, the university of Texas at Austin, the Arab Association of universities, the New Zeeland Curriculum institute, among others.

  1. Who are your key clients?

Primarily our work is involved with higher education institutions including universities, colleges and institutes involved with delivering degree programs as well as ministries of higher education and other regulatory bodies. We also have started recently working with organizations involved with vocational learning across the region.

When involved in capacity building and training, we engage with all levels of the institutions from the leadership team to the staff working in supporting functions.

  1. What are in your views the biggest challenges facing HE in the region in the next 5 years?
  1. Address the Skill gap dilemma; there continue to be a need for higher education institutions to emphasis more on preparing graduates for the workplace. Despite being a ‘hot topic’ at the moment both regionally and internationally, aligning graduate skills and competencies with market needs continues to be a challenge in many countries which needs to be addressed.
  2. Technology advancement and the recognizing new forms of education; with the current developments in ICT, and the emergence of new forms of learning including hybrid learning, online learning and recently MOOCs; it will become crucial for ministries of higher education and accreditation agencies to start recognizing non-traditional degrees and set up standards and frameworks to regulate the quality of such programs.
  3. Strengthening research, knowledge creation and innovation as drivers for the growth of nations and a mean to shape the social and economic development of countries.
  4. Improving and sustaining quality of learning and the student experience in line with international standards.
  5. Continuing to build internal capacity among administrators, faculty and staff.
  1. What are the skills and competencies that you would need to train in order to meet the regions talent requirements?

I would probably want to focus specifically on skills and competencies needs for faculty and teaching staff and the importance of ensuring that HEIs across the region develop appropriate strategies to foster excellence and innovation within learning and teaching. There is a significant need for institutions to develop of adequate T&L frameworks and standards that are aligned with the overall institutional strategic objectives to help maintain the quality of learning and teaching, identify skills’ gaps, develop appropriate training opportunities for its teaching staff, provide adequate support services and develop strategies to assess teaching and measure the impact of such training opportunities.

There is no doubt that the large number of faculty members and teaching staff recruited within universities and colleges are experts and knowledgeable within their own discipline; however until recently the pedagogical aspect of teaching is often assumed to come naturally by being placed into a classroom and practice teaching. As higher education is rapidly changing and confronting new challenges such as student diversity, emergence of new ICT developments, imposed higher level of accountability, dissatisfaction with the quality of graduates’ knowledge and skills, establishment of accreditation agencies and national qualification frameworks as regulatory bodies overseeing the quality of the learning experience, etc. more attention needs to be given to developing faculty and teaching pedagogical skills.

Areas often needing attention involve curriculum design and development, understanding learning environments and learning styles and students’ engagement approaches, assessment, research, technology integration, educational leadership and management among others.International Cooperation Manage

Dr. Narimane Hadj- Hamou, CEO of CLICKS


March Spotlight: Nigel Fann Sunlearning Systems UAE

Nigel Fann





1. Tell us about your experience in the Middle East

I have lived in the UAE for 14 years and have thoroughly enjoyed the time here. Especially all the travelling I have done in the whole region from Yemen in the South to Egypt in the North. It is also very centrally situated so it is relatively easy to get to my family in the US,  Australia  and South Africa.

Doing business here is probably not that much different to anywhere else in the world. Wherever you are you have difficulties to cope with and sometimes you get lucky and sometimes you don’t. Mostly you make your own luck wherever you are.

 2. How would you describe the culture within your business?

Being such a small company each of us tends to bring something different to the mix. I think we tend to be very easy going and laid back, which seems to suit management and staff , without losing sight of the goals. I think people appreciate this to a certain extent. One of our key advantages,  is that when we mess up we fix it no matter what it takes. So we beleive in the saying, ” it’s not that there is a problem, it’s how you deal with it that matters.”

3. How easy is it for you to get direct access to the decision makers in your company?

Its not really an issue for us, but can be an issue for us to get to the decision makers from our client companies.

4. What are your biggest challenges in the next 5 years?

Definitely innovation. We have got a lot to do to stay where we are. There is alot of competition in our market and in order to compete we need to think innovatively to meet our clients needs.We will have to create at least two major revolutions in the next five years. In fact five years is probably too far ahead – and think three years. This region is moving at such a pace.

 5. What are the skills and competencies that you would need to train in order to meet the regions talent requirements.

I think to do our best to get rid of blame culture that prevails in corporate life, and create an environment in which people are not afraid to fail. It is critical for managers and Leaders to build trust amongst their staff. Finally, I would say that I’d like to see more of people taking more ownership of their jobs, expectations and outcomes.  By taking ownership of the job,  I mean meeting the key performance indicators required,  while being fully engaged and loving it.   There is a lot of work to be done around this area, but I can see that there is a will to make changes, and bring more purpose into the workplace.

If you would like to connect to Nigel or comment on this article please use the comment box below and we can help you

March Spotlight: RASHID AL NASRI VP Corporte Affairs for Qalhat LNG Oman






This month we return to Oman to welcome Rashid Vice President Corporate Affairs for Qalhat LNG Oman who met at the successful HR conference recently held there at the beginning of this month. It is interesting to note that Oman has some employee union practices newly introduced in to Oman to share with us:

1.Tell us about you, your experience and time as a senior executive in Oman
An expert in HR, General Administration, HSSE & Corporate affairs having more than 17 years of experience. I spent 11 years working in Central Bank of Oman (CBO) wherein I was responsible for Human Resources Development for around 500 staff working in Head office and branches. Since March 2006 till now, I have been working in Qalhat LNG, I established the company’s HR & General Administration, HSSE and Corporate Affairs Departments. I am responsible for all these departments in the Company. I acted as CEO as and when needed and identified as a potential CEO. My experience and practical knowledge, skills and capabilities are augmented by strong academic and professional achievements; has a Master Degree in HRM from UK, Chartered MCIPD form Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) UK, Bachelor Degree in Marketing & International Business from USA. My outstanding work and initiatives have been recognized locally & abroad; received “ HR LEADERSHIP AWARD ” 2012 from Council of Board members of Employer Branding Institute; World HRD Congress, Singapore. Also, received the following awards “Asia’s Best Employer Brand” 2011, “The Best Practices Establishment”2011, “The Best Recruitment Strategy”2010, “Most Admired Company in Human Capital Management”2009, “Best Company in Omanisation”, “Employer of the Year 2008” and “The Energy Company of the Year 2006” and many awards in different areas of business. I have written, co-written research papers and made many presentations in HR, leadership and management development locally and abroad.
2. How do you maintain awareness of the organization’s performance and culture, its business direction, strategic developments, HR processes and practices in Oman?
I believe that open communication and trust are the key success factor to motivate and inspire employees in organisation; hence I worked hard in order to established an excellent system wherein maintain awareness of the organization’s performance and culture, its business direction, strategic developments, HR processes and practices. Effective Employee Engagement is essential tool for emerging companies to survive in this era; every Wednesday, we organize a snack session wherein all staff meet and socialise and at the same time discuss business and various updates. Staffs are encouraged to make presentations and share views. Company performance and KPIs are discussed with the status of work done and deliverables to reinforce Employees Engagement. Also, I organise a “LINK” session after each Shareholders and Board of Directors meetings; the objective of kink session is to share and update staff about topics discussed in Board of Directors meetings. In 2011, I introduced Staff Suggestion Scheme (“Q-Ideas”) which aims at providing even greater opportunities for staff to contribute ideas and suggestions towards improving the way we conduct business.
A company Business Plan (BP) is crucial for organizations as it maps the future of organizations. BP needs to build on Company success and ensure the delivery of sustainable growth for all our stakeholders including staff of the company. The approach that we have created is that the effective and successful plan to be formulated by all staff at all levels in the company. In this respect, we involve all staff in all levels to participate in Business plan workshop (away day). Staff participant in the following activities;
• Review the progress of departmental milestones
• Brainstorm activities to be carried out next year
• Conceptual design of next year Scorecard
• Detailed Design of next year Departmental Milestones
• Approval Departmental Milestones and Corporate Scorecard

Also, I always look at areas outside my domain function, in addition to my current roles and responsibilities; I was given more and diverse responsibilities to my portfolio of functions. In November 2012, I was nominated to take on the responsibility of Vice President of Corporate Affairs and attend the Management Committee Meetings. My current profile includes HR, General Administration, Public Affairs and HSSE. CEO tells me that I have the capacity to operate outside my core discipline area and has the personal ability to quickly learn new business areas.
3. How easy is it for you to get direct access to the decision makers in your company?
I am part of the Executive Committee where operation and strategic areas are discussed and approved. I attend Shareholders Management Committee and Board of Directors Committee and represent the companies in various function and areas of business locally and abroad.
I am also a member of external committees including the Oil & Gas ICV HR committee and a member of the Task Force 1 of the International Gas Union, Paris.
4.What the challenge in the area of HR?
Employee relation “Labour unions” is new in the country which will require sometime to be developed and understand by all parties involved. Although Ministry of Manpower in Oman has issued terms, legislations and update, however, all three parties (government, companies and workers) need to understand it well. There were many issues raised 2 years ago as a result of Arab spring, therefore, the need to know more about this area and its implication are essential
5.How you implemented HR improvement/innovation, what risks did you identify and how did you address them?
My long years of experience helped me to carry out effectively major projects in the business. I found out that it is common for managers (other than HR mangers), to ask many questions and to challenge HR projects. This is due to lack of information about the project, work involved from their side and for not been asked or involved in the plan to carry out the project.
Therefore, I ensure to spend good time with executives and managers to talk about work issues, performance of staff and what can be done to tackle issues and improve performance, motivation, commitment …etc.
I share my views and suggestions and make the project or idea as it was proposed or initiated by them rather than impose it to them. I make good use of staff gathering where I discuss the issue and share our ways or views to solve it, I encourage staff to ask questions and have a dialog.
For example, when I proposed to do a competency framework, I discussed this subject with executives and then with staff and I shared many examples about the benefit of this project to staff and their career progression, questions and clarifications raised by staff were addressed.
During company business plan workshop attended by all staff, majority of them suggested to carry out competency framework as a scorecard item to be done in the company. As a result, this project was carried out and successfully completed and implemented because it was initiated and supported by all staff.
Most of HR project need inputs, contribution and commitment from line managers and staff, therefore, you need to keep motivating them to do the work required in order to complete projects on time. I learned that you need allocate enough time and accept that you may not get the support needed from them; thus, always make a contingency plan to address any delay and understand that they have other important things that they need to do or complete as part of their functional role and responsibilities. For example, in competency framework project, I used different tools such as job description, Task and target, staff report, Personal Development Plan, staff report…etc to come out with job profile and competency level. After that I conducted short interview and incorporated suggestion and missing area, and then I shared the final product with them for their final review.
With this, time and effort needed from their side was minimized and HR contribution was appreciated.

If you have any questions or comments for Rashid please post them below

March Spotlight is Mr Ian Taylor


Ian Taylor a long term resident of the UAE with a wealth of experience and a yorkshire temperament, who has penned some thought provoking articles for us is this months spotlight

1.      Tell us about you, your experience and time in the Middle East.

 I moved to Dubai in 1993, to work for Emirates Airline ! On my first weekend I remember walking along  sand from Al Kawakeb apartments near what was then the Defence Roundabout to the Trade Centre apartments with not a single building in between! My only regret was that I didn’t take more photographs .

Emirates was an exciting place to work especially in the relatively early stages . My first boss Charles Wilson was great to work for, probably the best  in my career . I’m proud to have been a small part of such a success story . Part way through my time at Emirates, I decided to update my skill set and took number of courses including an MSc in occupational psychology, eventually becoming a full chartered member of the BPS. I moved to Etihad to get more opportunity to use these skills.

The  decision to set up on my own last year came as I missed the “hands on” implementation side of designing and running events and working  closely with people.  Budgeting  and strategy meeting talk shops aren’t really my thing !

2.      What do you see as the main challenges facing L& D, and wider HR in the region? 

HR on the whole has become much more sophisticated since my early days here when, by and large, HR simply dealt with employee administration or ran a few training programmes . Training professionals are now asking how they can demonstrate value and the wish list menu of courses  is becoming less common.  The days of people just flying in and out for high fees have also  largely gone.

Leaving aside the obvious issues of a multi cultural work force and Emiritization, the main challenge for L&D and HR is to be able to stand back and objectively evaluate all the new “must have” initiatives and great new ideas .

The field is characterized by some very woolly thought and ideas that just don’t stand up to any systematic evaluation . I’m thinking here of parts of talent management,  engagement,  EQ  and mission statements amongst others ! This is where I think every company needs an occupational psychologist to ask are we just following the pack here, or is there some real evidence behind this concept? I wanted to scream when the justification for something from a colleague was that Jack Welch did it in GE 20 years ago!


3.       There are a lot of players in the L&D space. What is it that you think you can offer that might  differentiate you from  others?

That’s a tough one ! I think the combination of a strong experience  in both the design and delivery of programmes mixed with the objectivity and rigour of psychology is fairly unusual . I can be practical and pragmatic, but also back up what I do with  rigour and substance to drive real change. I see quite a bit of glossy  packaging but with little behind it . I’d also like to say that if  you come to me you get me, not someone with less experience!   You also don’t have to pay for a large office or sales team!