UAE students join top business leaders at work to get taste of life at the top

Students spent at least a day with top business leaders, learning how to juggle competing demands and communicate in the workplace. Courtesy: CEOx1Day / Odgers Berndtson Middle East


UAE students join top business leaders at work to get taste of life at the top
CEOx1Day pairs brightest students in country with top influential business leaders

Students spent at least a day with top business leaders, learning how to juggle competing demands and communicate in the workplace. Courtesy: CEOx1Day / Odgers Berndtson Middle East
Students spent at least a day with top business leaders, learning how to juggle competing demands and communicate in the workplace. Courtesy: CEOx1Day / Odgers Berndtson Middle East
The National
The National
January 8, 2020

A group of aspiring entrepreneurial students in the UAE got their first taste of life at the top after spending the day with some of the country’s most influential business leaders.

As part of the CEOx1Day scheme, 16 students were each paired with a high profile chief executive officer from companies including Dubai Opera, Siemens and Jaguar, for a full working day or longer.

The unique work experience programme by Odgers Berndtson, an international recruitment consultancy, was designed to uncover promising future leaders.

Whittled down from 200 hopeful applicants, the students underwent a number of psychometric assessments, interviews and tests before being hand-picked to represent their university as part of the scheme.

The final candidates came from institutions including American University of Sharjah, Middlesex University in Dubai, the University of Wollongong in Dubai and New York University Abu Dhabi.

Pooja Ganatra, an architectural engineering student from Heriot-Watt University in Dubai, worked alongside Paul Griffiths, chief operating officer of Dubai Airports, for most of a week. She said the experience gave her a "better understanding" of what goes into running such a huge operation.

“My incredible experience gave me great insights and an understanding of how Paul operates, and manages one of the busiest international airports in the world,” she said.

“I was extremely fortunate to make it through such a rigorous process and I have enjoyed learning experiences along the way.”

The two-way learning process offered some great insights for Mr Griffiths too.

Paul Griffiths CEO of Dubai Airports at the Dubai Airshow 2019 at Al Maktoum Airport. Leslie Pableo for the National
Dubai airports chief Paul Griffiths said his student's fresh take on the job was 'incredibly powerful'. Leslie Pableo for the National

“Yet again this year we have had the pleasure of working alongside a remarkable student,” he said.

“Expertise and knowledge are passed down from CEO to student, but information and valuable insights are also passed up from student to CEO.”

Earlier this year, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum penned an open letter to the public urging UAE citizens and residents to do “incredible things”.

The Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai’s letter focused heavily on leadership style and how leaders need to be approachable.

“[That letter] was such a powerful lesson to us all,” Mr Griffiths said.

“Pooja’s insights into what I was doing, good and bad, were incredibly powerful and that’s what you are looking for as a leader when you are out in the field.”

Youssef Mouallem, regional managing director technology firm Dyson, was partnered with Touqa Beltagui, a computer engineering student at the American University of Sharjah.

“Our involvement in the highly innovative CEOx1 Day programme is a wonderful opportunity to learn a huge amount from the next generation of engineers and to tap into some innovative young minds of today in general,” said Mr Mouallem.

“They genuinely help us at Dyson to evolve our product, develop our operations and consider new users.”

The one-on-one shadowing programme was launched for the first time in the region in 2019.

And with the first cohort a major success, Mark Houghton, managing partner of Odgers Berndtson Middle East, said the programme would expand in the region in 2020.

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