Tell us about your experience and what prompted the move?
We were very fortunate as a family to have stayed full time in the UAE from 2008 – 2016. We experienced so much from economic downturns, upturns and plateaus as well as creating lifelong friendships with people from a truly global community. With two young children and the majority of our direct family abroad, we believed it was the right time for us to head back to Sydney, Australia so that they could grow up with our family and to experience the Australian High School system. It was important for us to give our children some continuity and consistency at a time we felt they needed it most.
We were able to keep our Head Office for Kompass in Dubai and so from 2016 – Feb 2020, I was traveling monthly from Sydney to the UAE to deliver on projects for our fantastic clients. Making the move down under, also gave us an opportunity to setup a satellite presence in Australia.
COVID-19 obviously impacted our ability to travel freely and so we have been working remotely with a few trips back every 5-6 months (including undertaking the ‘lovely’ hotel quarantine in Australia). This experience has clearly highlighted to all of us that remote working can be fruitful, however nothing truly replaces being able to eye ball each other in conversations, particularly in the line of work we undertake.
Looking back what were your highpoints and low points of your time in the UAE? What reflections can you share?
Well, I’m still getting the best of both worlds by travelling to and from the UAE. The clear highpoints of our time here were, 1) exposure to a global community and mindset, 2) access to world class talent available locally and internationally, 3) being centrally located to provide a plethora of holiday and business options and 4) the ability to create friendships with bonds as strong as family!
The low points were about seeing how some cultures were mistreated or discriminated against from an employment perspective by some organisations. Also, the sense that there were multiple classes (gender and culture) in the society seemed to diminish the sense of ‘equality and opportunity for all’. There has been some progress on this front and a long way to go.
I would say that some of the lessons we learnt were really about embracing the diversity in cultures and ensuring that we gained knowledge from having a broad friendship circle. Also the idea that you could have multiple homes and not just one was a wonderful mindset shift for us.
What were the biggest challenges you faced in your new country?
Fortunately we had family located close to us when we got back home. Whilst we were living full-time in Dubai, we had consciously been making regular visits and so slotting back was relatively easy within our friendship circle. Not having access to full-time help at home was a challenge initially until routines and mindset were adjusted.
On the work front, it was interesting to notice how some industries / organisations did not seem to value the International experience we had gained. This took some time to adjust to and also resulted in being more selective on whom we worked with on projects and engagements.
Realising that our weekends were not just ours again was also a big change. Whilst in the UAE we had the freedom to plan our time more openly, being back home drastically impacted our level of commitment and social engagements which sometimes felt ‘out of our control’. We did learn very quickly however on how to say no (politely of course)!
If you had your time again what might you have done differently?
Travelled more often, joined more business and social groups, taken more risks on business opportunities and invested in the region more fruitfully.
We may more than likely be back as a family in different forms as the general memories of our time in the UAE were overwhelmingly positive! Though the feeling within the country changes, what it stands for in terms of globalisation and opportunity has only increased.
Oh, definitely would have found a way to have received regular Bateel and Patchi chocolate deliveries!!
Gaj Ravichandra Reg Psych, MComm, MAICD, MAPS
Executive & Team Coach
Co-Founder & Managing Partner
M: +61 415 365 210 (AUS)
M: +971 50 1047 002 (UAE)