Experience Report: Working in the MENA-region
Saher Salem, Consultant, has been working with Detecon since 2014. He has been working in Germany and is currently working in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region for Detecon. The purpose of this interview is to ask him about his experience concerning the differences between working in Germany and in the MENA-region.
Why did you decide to join the MENA office of Detecon?
One of the great opportunities Detecon offers to its consultants is the Young Consultant Network Exchange program. It’s a chance to visit one of Detecon’s offices abroad and get integrated in their culture and daily business for a period of three months. I chose the MENA office in Abu Dhabi to be my destination. Descending from an Egyptian origin, speaking Arabic as native language and having lived in Kuwait for more than three years, are all assets that serve in favor of having a successful time over here. I’m glad to be here and every day adds to my personal development.
Can you please describe the main differences of working in Germany and in the MENA-region?
In Germany, my clients are primarily from Deutsche Telekom group. Therefore, I spend four days a week at the client premises which are located in Bonn. The fifth day, if possible, I prefer to work remotely from our headquarters in Cologne and have the chance to meet my peer colleagues or attend to trainings. In MENA it’s different and certainly more dynamic. Every week I have to fly out of United Arab Emirates (UAE) either for my project or to meet my clients. I can’t remember a week, which I spent completely in UAE. Furthermore, being away from my home and car, I spend all my days in hotels and meet the project team in the evening for dinner. I also benefit from the new era of digital economy by seamlessly using Uber and Careem for my transport wherever I am. In a few days, I’m starting a new project in Lebanon with different challenges and targets than those of my project in Saudi. Different clients, different countries, various projects, valuable learning and new lifestyle - that is what I leverage for being abroad.Detecon enjoys the trust of its clients built over years, I always feel welcomed whether in Germany or abroad. Our relationship with the client is strong and we do our best to support them along their endeavors. In both regions, we tend to socialize with our clients after every stressful phase or tough milestones and celebrate our success. We always keep the spirit of one team.
What language do you mainly use at work?
In Germany, most of the time German is the primary used language my clients. However, English is also widely spoken among German companies as you might have non-German speaking colleagues, dealing with vendors outside Germany or simply reading an English documentation. When I came to MENA I realized that I might speak the three languages I’m skilled in during the day on regular basis. My clients, particularly in Saudi Arabia, sometimes prefer to speak to me in Arabic since we are both native speakers and it would be more convenient for them. On the other hand, English is the first spoken language for Detecon team anywhere abroad. Unfortunately, I don’t speak other languages otherwise I would have been speaking for example Italian, French or Romanian to my fellows daily. It can’t be any diverse and multinational than that!
How do you deal with the climate?
MENA has a fantastic weather over the whole year. Despite missing the snow of Germany in February, at that time I was enjoying the lovely beaches of Dubai and swimming in the Gulf. Although Lebanon belongs to MENA, it has different weather conditions than Gulf countries. With its landscape on the Mediterranean and high mountains weather tends to be more like Europe and snow can be seen on the mountains surrounding Beirut in winter.
One interesting experience I would like to ask you about is regarding Ramadan. Can you give us an impression of how a day during this period in an Arab country looks like?
Ramadan, being the holy 30 days of the year for Muslims all over the globe, has a unique flavor in MENA. As the “breakfast” time (sunset) for everyone is the same, you see all family members and friends coming together to share their meal. It’s a great feeling of love, peace and care surrounded by spiritual atmosphere which you observe in each city during the holy month in Ramadan. Also you see a lot of restaurants and breakfast “Iftar” buffets in every corner with great variety of cuisines as people like to reward themselves with a delicious meal after a fasting day. Almost all mosques offer a free food for the needy, even if dates & milk, without asking for a reward. It’s the spirit of caring about others as much as you care for yourself.
How do your weekends and free time look like?
I always try to explore the beauties and the hidden nature of each city I visit for a project. Beside the main sightseeing and famous landmarks, I try to build friendships with the locals and get to know better about their lifestyle and their cities. Sometimes I have the luxury of time to travel outside and see more of the surroundings. If not, I also don’t mind a short break for dinner with my friends in a nice restaurant with a view to the city or if available to the sea.