As a CEO and indeed a ‘founder’ of a recruitment firm specializing in Digital Transformation one could be forgiven for thinking how ill-suited I am to what I do. I didn’t find my job but rather my profession found me when a visit to a job agency after university resulted in me joining them. And as my children will testify without their help I would remain digitally compromised. My dexterity with my iPhone is matched only by the shambolic control of my body when daddy dancing at weddings. I don’t ‘Facebook’ or Tweet. Anything ‘Insta’ is just bad coffee and if I start snapping when chatting we are not destined to be the best of pals. But whilst I work hard at being digitally savvy my redemption is that I have an abiding fondness for people. And why not? Unfailingly 99.9 percent of all people you meet are nice - a mantra of mine when visiting clients in countries less congenial than the UAE. It may not always seem that way but that’s just because you have yet to climb into their skin and look at the world through their eyes.
" Illumination and understanding is frequently down to the people you surround yourself with and your willingness to learn from. "
Recently I did a complete audit of 3000+ professionals my Dubai office has placed in jobs since we opened our Middle East office in 2001. Gradually and whenever possible I have been meeting them thanks to Dubai’s global centricity. Failing that, digital platforms have enabled me to track them down, inviting them to share their stories since that fateful day they started a new position thanks to my firm. Invariably to my constant delight, I find that Project managers have become CEOs. Singles have found partners and parenthood. Exploratory relocation has become residency. Feelers have become roots. Practitioners have become gurus. Career paths have become labyrinths. Banking IT experts have cross-trained into Aviation, FMCG into Government and Security into Energy. Of course not everyone’s experience was positive but all agree their lives are immensely richer for it. I love listening to their stories. There can be no better teacher than experience.
A common refrain from our placements is how the explosive pace of digital transformation in the UAE throws everyone out of their comfort zone – which is when I believe we all do our best work. Once upon a time catching a taxi meant standing on the pavement, arm out, melting in the scorching sun. A vacuous driver-passenger encounter then ensues. Today an app secures a ride whilst waiting in comfy AC. The data analytics from the app tells the taxi firm more about us than we know ourselves and how to secure our custom the next time (or in my case I hit a Deliveroo app by mistake and wonder why my taxi is taking so long whilst I savour the unexpected arrival of a biriyani). By default, these disruptive technologies radically change our jobs and the skills we need. Our recruitment mandates are frequently to identify digital experts who have genuinely monetized Industry 4.0.
The passion I have for people then turns to my staff and the training they need to remain relevant in today’s digital recruitment landscape. Although in truth they are usually training me. For any CEO, illumination and understanding is frequently down to the people you surround yourself with and your willingness to learn from. It may not always feel like that all the time but everyone has something unique they bring to the table. In addition to their capacity for technical knowledge my Dubai staff has never comprised less than 8 different nationalities. Eight fundamentally different ways of looking at the world. A kaleidoscope of perspectives. An emporium of values. It’s a salient reminder that whilst our go-to-market proposition may well be obvious to me, the optics are not always interpreted by the client as intended. There can be no market more complex than the Middle East. And digitization makes it doubly so. The multi-ethnicity of our clients demands the highest levels of pragmatism and innovation. Thankfully the diversity of my team has often been the light that shines through my blinkers of assumption and misunderstanding. They are also great at getting me an Uber when the biriyani has all gone.
RP International has been helping companies around the world to drive major transformation by identifying, acquiring and managing highly skilled talent.