The EC Harris partner in Qatar on the challenges and opportunities of working in the Middle East
How long have you been working in the Middle East?
I moved to the Qatar office from London in March 2010.
What does your role entail and what is a typical day like for you?
I am currently working on the delivery of approximately $5bn of mixed use developments in both Qatar and across the wider MENA region.
My role focuses primarily on developing and demonstrating a best practice approach around the delivery of commercial management, ensuring there is consistency across all the individual projects, and finding ways for us to help our clients generate additional value from their developments.
How did the opportunity arise to go and work in the region?
Prior to relocating to Qatar, I ran the delivery of commercial management within the London hotel sector. I realised that there was a great opportunity for me to accelerate my development within EC Harris by gaining some international experience.
Although we looked at several options, Qatar presented the greatest opportunity for growth for both my personal career but also in terms of growing the EC Harris business in the MENA region.
You need to adopt a very different approach and consider the job in question as a programme of work rather than a number of individual projects
What are some of the challenges unique to working in the Middle East?
One of the biggest challenges is a cultural one - the way of working in the Middle East is very different from the mindset adopted by commercial developers in London. Things tend to happen at a slower pace than in the UK, particularly with respect to getting decisions made.
From a personal point of view, it also takes a while to get used to driving everywhere rather than using public transport, as well as dealing with the heat during the summer - you have to plan carefully before going outside when it’s 50 degrees out there!
What has been the highlight of working in there?
The highlight so far has been the opportunity to be involved with projects on a scale that I would never have dreamt of in the UK. This has given me a different insight into what is required to deliver the client’s desired outcomes.
You need to adopt a very different approach and consider the job in question as a programme of work rather than a number of individual projects.
What advice would you give to someone hoping to work in the region?
It’s important to be flexible in your personal approach, and appreciate that the culture and working environment is very different. You can still strive to achieve your desired outcomes but sometimes this involves taking a step back and trying a different approach.
How do you think the Middle East will develop as a place to work over the next few years?
I’m confident that the successful Qatar 2022 World Cup bid will act as a catalyst for the country and the wider region. There will be significant opportunities on offer to people who want to gain some great experience on a wide range of projects.
As this will inevitably draw on an increasing pool of ex-pat expertise, I think we will see an interesting and vibrant mix of cultures which will help to make the region an exciting place to live and work.
Paul Needler is partner at EC Harris in Qatar.