By Lei Na
Judging by her slender elegance, one wouldn’t think that Fang Lv knows how to hold up a skyscraper. But looks are deceiving; she’s a geo-environmental engineer. She chose this niche field of study, which involves analysing soil and its ability to support various structures, in part because it enables her to play a role in improving the environment. “It is a very demanding field because you are required to remain in the lab all the time, working on endless experiments and research. But I wanted to be more hands on, to get out there and do as much as I could to combat the increasingly serious global environmental issues facing us,” she explains.
After earning a Master’s from Cardiff University in Wales, she was recruited by the top engineering consulting firm, Atkins, for their management trainee programme. On a whim, while planning a holiday in Dubai, she posted her résumé on a United Arab Emirates (UAE) job recruitment website. She was rewarded with a new position working in the bustling metropolis of Dubai.
An avid scuba diver who recently earned her Open Water diving license, Fang compares her interest in exploring different cultures to a fish that finds itself in unfamiliar territory. “You just need to swim straight into it,” she says. She recently sat down with TheLINK to share her experiences living in Dubai, and explain why she decided to return to China and enrol in the CEIBS MBA Programme.
TheLINK: Why did you choose to work in Dubai?
My first job was with Atkins, a multinational engineering consultancy firm which had many major projects in Dubai. During the first decade of the 21st century we have seen the rapid urban development of Dubai. The city is now home to the world’s tallest tower, the largest man-made island and the biggest indoor shopping centres in the world. From an engineer’s perspective Dubai is Disneyland.
In the summer of 2010, I was planning to visit Dubai for a holiday. Before I set out, I uploaded my resume to the leading recruitment website in the UAE, Bayt.com. Before I even arrived in the city I had several invitations for job interviews. On the final day of my vacation I not only enjoyed the beautiful beaches, explored the landscape and sampled the local cuisine, I was also able to land a dream opportunity in an engineer’s paradise. I was offered a business analyst position with Topaz Energy and Marine, which I gleefully accepted. That October I said farewell to the UK and returned to Dubai to begin the next chapter in my life.
TheLINK: You seem to have gotten this job rather easily. Why do you think that is?
Thanks to the rapid development of the Chinese economy at that time, Chinese petroleum companies were expanding into Dubai. Topaz was keen to strengthen its ties with these Chinese companies, so the company was looking for professionals who not only understood the technical side of engineering but also had good business common-sense and were also familiar with the Chinese market and could support Topaz’s business development. It was as if the role was tailor-made for me.
TheLINK: Dubai is a mythical place to Chinese; can you tell us what it was like to live there?
Dubai has a culture that is both conservative and open. Like the rest of the UAE Dubai is Muslim and strongly follows the doctrine of Islam. For example they pray five times a day; the first time is called the morning ceremony and takes place at dawn. The second is called the Zuhr and is done in the afternoon, third is the preserved ceremony and takes place at dusk. The forth is Maghrib and occurs in the evening. Finally there is Isha’a, the evening prayer. The prayers are observed all across the city at exactly the same time. During my first few weeks in Dubai I was often awakened by the morning call to prayer being broadcast from loudspeakers at the local mosque; the tune is melodically long and high. Many times during bus rides we would stop suddenly on the road, the driver would disembark, lay a mat on the ground, face towards Mecca and begin to pray.
As I spoke with more of the local people, I learned that many of the local traditions stem from goodwill. Many believe that through the observation of the holy month of Ramadan man can achieve self-control and purification. Once you understand the reasons behind the cultural differences you will have a deeper respect for them. Dubai is very tolerant of foreigners, who, in turn, appreciate this level of courtesy. During Ramadan, when Muslims fast during daylight hours, though foreigners are permitted to eat most don’t do so in public in order to show our respect to their customs.
Another characteristic of Dubai is that the city balances both modern and traditional elements. The modernity is seen in its many buildings. Dubai has the largest shopping mall, with an indoor ski slope, a massive theme park inspired by Ferrari and the world’s first 7-star hotel, the Burj Al Arab, a project funded by Dubai Sheik Mohammed. The Sheik believes that the tourist industry will drive a second age of prosperity once the nation’s oil and gas resources are exhausted. It was a bold move that seems to have paid-off, as today Dubai’s economy is largely supported by high-end tourism and aviation.
Sheik Mohammed has a famous saying, “People will remember the first in the world, but no one will remember the second.” The Sheik is a very popular figure with his people. While living in Dubai I heard that he regularly travelled between work and home by himself, without the bodyguard detail you might expect. So whenever I saw cars like the Sheiks’, I paid extra attention, hoping to get a chance to meet the man himself – but I had no luck.
TheLINK: Why did you return to China?
China is developing at an unprecedented rate, and such rapid growth has attracted worldwide attention, presenting countless career opportunities for overseas students. While in Dubai I kept an eye on China’s development, and in fall 2012 was presented with an incredible offer from the Shanghai headquarters of a century-old engineering firm. Despite Dubai’s internationalisation and exoticism, I felt this new opportunity was too good to turn down. I left Dubai to return home.
TheLINK: What made you want to do your MBA at CEIBS?
When I decided to do an MBA I chose CEIBS for two reasons. First, with my background in engineering and manufacturing I have a unique insight into the world of engineering and now wanted a more systematic understanding of business. Second, my brother-in-law is a CEIBS alumnus and he often told me about all the activities and major events that CEIBS organised. As I watched his metamorphosis while attending CEIBS I grew to love the idea of studying here myself, to experience this incredible academic atmosphere first-hand.
CEIBS is an excellent platform from which you can get a truly global view and gain rigorous business knowledge. I fully expect to continue my career by working at a multinational company after graduation. I would like to help an organisation solve complex problems by combining my international and industry experience with what I learned at CEIBS. I hope to help advance our society by leveraging my power and influence.