After finishing my undergraduate degree in computer and communications engineering at the American University of Beirut in 2007, I joined Strategy& as an analyst and worked on projects with telecom operators, regulators, and ministries in eight different countries across the Middle East and North Africa. After three years with the firm, I had significantly developed my professional and personal skills and the firm sponsored my MBA studies at Harvard Business School. I rejoined Strategy& in 2012 as an associate based out of the Dubai office and have so far worked on two exciting engagements in the UAE and India.
My current role allows me to own work streams on my projects. I enjoy structuring and conducting analyses, managing the work of more junior consultants on the team, and working with my client counterparts. Even with previous work experience and an MBA in my locker, I find the job is challenging and I love the new responsibilities.
But I’m also active beyond my project work. I am part of the firm’s digitization platform and regularly contribute to developing our intellectual capital through externally published studies or discussion documents with potential clients. I recently got the opportunity to work on a paper called Digitization in emerging economies: Unleashing opportunities at the bottom of the pyramid — on a topic I am particularly passionate about: technology and its ability to enhance people’s lives and empower them to fight poverty. I am also part of the Dubai social committee. Recently I helped organize a “Gangster and Moll” theme party for our end of year gala, which was a lot of fun!
The last project I worked on was in Gurgaon in India — a very exotic experience. We were a team of eight, four based out of the Dubai office and four out of Delhi and Mumbai. We were working with one of the telecom operators in India to develop its annual operating plan and longer-term strategic priorities. I was pretty excited about working on this project because it exposed me to the Indian telecommunications market. And I was right — it couldn’t be more different from the market in the GCC.
In a typical week, I would head to India on Sunday night along with my Dubai-based colleagues. We usually stayed in Gurgaon until the following Thursday night. I took advantage of my three hours on the plane to first set my expectations for the days ahead and plan my work. Occasionally I had to work during the flight, but usually, once I had made my plan for the week, I liked to relax. This was easy, because the flights to Delhi had a good collection of Bollywood movies and served great Indian meals.
The four days we would spend at the client site varied a lot depending on the progress we made on the project and the availability of our client counterparts; the dynamic nature of the Indian telecom market also presented weekly challenges. One constant in our week was a steering committee meeting with senior client counterparts in which we would present progress and get validation and direction for the following week.
On a typical day, I would meet with my colleagues in the hotel lobby around 9 a.m. (after my daily failed attempt to go to the gym) and head to the client site. As the project was extremely fast-paced and involved interaction with clients across all business units, I would usually spend the days in working sessions with clients to get new data, conduct interviews, present previous findings, and validate hypotheses. By lunchtime we were all ready to take a break from the intense workday and to enjoy–what else–Indian food in a nearby restaurant. We would work at the client site until around 6 p.m., and then walk to the Strategy& office in Gurgaon. Most teammates would take advantage of the 15-minute walk to call their significant others or families. I mainly focused on not getting run over on Gurgaon’s busy roads.
Project work makes you hungry, so on busy nights, we would either grab some dinner on the way or order food when we got to the office. On quiet nights, we preferred to eat out together. I was the only non-Indian on the team, but I love Indian food and my team, knowing this, introduced me to many different varieties of Indian cuisine during our time in Gurgaon.
In the evenings, I took advantage of the reduced pressure at the Strategy& office to go through my inbox, which had piled up during the day. There were e-mails about work that I had done on previous projects, administrative issues from HR, Dubai Social Committee events, and of course, next week’s flight and hotel bookings.
After the short downtime, the team got together to reflect on the day’s events, which was particularly important because there were new insights about the client’s business and market developments every day. At the client site, we all had exposure to different things based on our work streams. These evening meetings gave us the chance to compare notes and connect the dots, which often took the form of passionately defending points of view on topics such as the attractiveness of an Indian state or the best approach for handling a tough upcoming meeting. I liked to meet with the project manager, as well, to share the findings from the day and get direction. Before calling it a night, I would make sure the team was prepared for the next day’s meetings.On Thursday night I would head back to Dubai, getting my beauty sleep on the flight as I usually had plans to meet my friends directly from the airport. My project in Gurgaon has ended. I will certainly miss my India-based teammates, the dynamism of the Indian telecom market, and of course the delicious food. But I’m looking forward to the next opportunity and upcoming destination.