“We’ll work together again,” were Katharine Budd’s parting words to me in 2011, when she left her role at the company that we were both working at.
And, sure enough, five years later, her promise has been realised.
Several months ago, Kat phoned me unexpectedly; with the offer of a job in Dubai, where she herself relocated to in 2014. Kat and her business partner, Ian, had launched a new financial technology company and needed someone to do the marketing.
Whilst I thought it was a pretty bold suggestion; to up sticks move my whole life to another country, leave my friends, resign from my current job and turn my back on my beloved London, I couldn’t help but be a tiny bit curious.
Having never even been to Dubai before, I had no idea whether it would work out, but I always trusted Kat as a boss, first and foremost, as well as a friend, and I knew that any business of hers was guaranteed to be built on solid foundations. How could I pass up this opportunity?
So, here we are, together again, just as she predicted. She’s my boss and we’re both expats in Dubai.
Three months in – although it feels far longer – I’m starting to get my head around things. Kat persuaded me to move to Dubai with the offer of excellent career prospects and a business idea which was bound for success, but after immersing myself in the lifestyle out here it has become so much more than a job.
A week after I first arrived I made the decision to write ten things that stood out to me about this new city. I had no intention of doing this before I left, but this place could not be any more different to London and I realised I didn’t want to forget my initial thoughts after arriving here.
I thought I’d share some of these with you.
- It’s barely pedestrianised. No one walks anywhere, especially in the summer when a 30 second journey to the shop ends in a soaking wet t-shirt and the need for a shower.
- There are more ethnicities together in one place than I’ve ever known. In my second week here I was stood in the lift in IKEA and noted that the ten people in there must span at least six or seven countries.
- Because of the cultural diversity, the choice of food is immense. Dubai caters for every cuisine – my favourite new discovery is za’atar and cheese manakish, which is a family of Middle-Eastern herbs and cheese on a flatbread, it’s delicious!
- The divide between the rich and poor could not be more obvious. Seventy per cent of the population are low-income migrant workers, who have come here to make money to send back to their families. They work as taxi drivers, shop assistants and in construction. Many have qualifications from their home country, but can make more out here doing these jobs than they could back home in a job utilising their qualifications. Others haven’t had much of an education, and appear to have very low self-worth. I realised this when doing market research and one of the participants asked me, “why are you speaking to us? We’re only construction workers.”
- Finally, I have never known a population so willing to cater to every demand – valet is as standard and if I want a pint of milk, it’s only one call away from door-to-door delivery.
Having spent my previous six years, living a pretty sheltered life in the London suburb of Chiswick, seeing this was shocking and hit me quite hard. Dubai could not be more different from London if it tried.
However, I could not be any happier. I am working with Kat again and NOW Money is a company that is dedicated to inclusion and striving for sameness.
The company isn’t going to single-handedly solve the world’s inequality problems, but it’s taking us a step closer.
After these first three months of discovery, I know that my decision to up sticks and move to Dubai was definitely the correct one. What a time and place to be working in marketing, with such a story to tell.