Tuesday 8am: arriving at the office on my last day of work after seven years, I had a lot on my mind. Goodbyes, packing up my apartment and the fun of dealing with Dubai’s utility companies meant I had given little thought to the following day’s careers trek. However, by mid-afternoon on Wednesday I was pretty much consumed by the MBA experience (already!) and thrilled at the prospect of spending the next year with such an excellent group of people.
After some initial chatter about Colleges and where people had travelled from, we enjoyed a fast-paced and candid discussion with a partner at The Abraaj Group, a private equity firm focused on developing markets. Despite having spent the last five years in the Middle East and hearing many growth stories, the rise of Abraaj in such a short space of time still astonished me.
We followed this with lunch at McKinsey & Company. The vibrant culture and strength of their people really shone through via the passion of the consultants we met, one of whom was a Cambridge graduate. He had not studied at CJBS, but holds a degree in Classics, a testament to the diversity of the people at McKinsey.
Barclays were up next. We were treated to a very senior turnout, with the regional heads of investment banking, wealth management and commercial banking as well as the head of the Dubai office in attendance. Note to self – I’m going to have to concentrate in corporate finance class!
Deloitte Monitor, the strategy consulting arm of the group, closed the day with good energy. After their presentation I had a great one-to-one chat with one of their consultants where we shared our thoughts on the prospects of Saudi Arabia fulfilling its Vision 2030. Conclusion: moving in the right direction, but lots to do, and fast.
We finished the day by meeting some CJBS alumni in the shadow of the Burj Khalifa. A very interesting bunch of people!
Thursday morning started at Al Tayer Group, who are a family-owned business and the unseen hand controlling thousands of brands I have been frivolously spending on in the UAE over the last half decade. We took part in a superb interactive session stress-testing the business cases of three ideas that have come out of their Edison innovation workshops.
In the afternoon we had a back-to-back dose of strategy. A Bain & Company partner explained the company’s focus on results not reports. It was refreshing to hear his frank admission that they were only interested in assignments they were confident clients would be able to deliver, and would often check in again after six months to see progress. Two first-year BCGers told us about the impact they were making in the healthcare sector of a nation currently undergoing a radical transformation (answers on a postcard – no prizes for guessing!) The laid back, and almost collegiate atmosphere in the office impressed me here.
Following our whistlestop tour across the city meeting some of its top firms, I offered to show some of the group the Dubai nightlife scene. After visiting three bars overlooking the marina, we didn’t quite make the fourth as it was closing time. I have a feeling the next time I’ll be up that late, It’ll be because I’m reading textbooks…