What’s it Like Working in Dubai?

Camping in the Desert
Camping in the Desert

 

Some of you know this already, but 12 months at VFS in the Digital Design program is intense. In fact, it’s much like working abroad for the first time. Some days you wonder why you did it in the first place. Was this a mistake? Am I really cut out for this? I don’t know what I’m doing. Everybody is so different. There is always too much to do and not enough time to do it. Every day new challenges coming at you faster than it seems you can process.

After graduating from the Digital Design program at VFS in April 2010 I decided to start a new adventure and work overseas. I am a Digital Designer currently working at Leo Burnett Mena in Dubai. This is a far cry from the small town where I grew up in northern Manitoba.

Some interesting facts about Dubai… It’s hot in summer, really hot, like you CAN fry an egg on the pavement kind of hot. But winter weather rocks. Being a Muslim country, they celebrate events like Ramadan and Eid al-Adha. The currency is Dirhams. Weekends here are Friday and Saturday. It’s a great place from which to travel to other places as it’s so central. It’s very multicultural. Luxury cars are the norm here. So is reckless driving. There is a mall with an indoor ski hill that I have not yet tried. But I have been to the top of the Burj Khalifa, had tea at the Burj Al Arab, and been camping in the desert.

Tea at the Burj Al Arab
Tea at the Burj Al Arab
Ski Dubai (Indoor Ski Resort) & A Bugatti Dealership
Ski Dubai (Indoor Ski Resort) & A Bugatti Dealership

 

I would like to share a few things I’ve learnt while working abroad for any of you readers thinking of doing the same.

MAD WOMAN

VFS can only teach you so much about how to work in advertising. It does, however, prepare you for the workload and overtime. Mad Men can teach you a few things, but drinking in the office to cope with the pressure and celebrate your successes is sadly no longer permitted. All day, every day, it is my job to visualize what the client wants to say in a new way that is both appealing and engaging to their customers. All the while keeping in mind budgets (which are usually too small), deadlines (which are always too short) and specs (which are never as great as you would like). I mean really, you want all THAT to fit in 30kb? Fat chance. But when you get it just right it’s a very satisfying feeling.

TRANSLATION PLEASE

As if learning the ropes of a new industry isn’t enough, I have to do my work twice; first in English, and then again in Arabic. Be prepared to work with another language. One you may not read, write or speak. I’ve learnt to work with Arabic copy, YAY for me! But after a year and a half it is still a challenge at times. It reads right to left, and there are no capital letters. It is not as easily manipulated as English and can seem bulky at times as the leading is more than is needed for English. And I can never be sure if it looks just ‘˜right’ because, to my eye, it’s just a bunch of funny shapes.

Chevrolet Captiva Facebook Experience; My Role: Concept, Design and Layout
Chevrolet Captiva Facebook Experience; My Role: Concept, Design and Layout

 

STORM YOUR BRAIN

Things you can get away with in North America, would get you arrested here. For example, in Saudi you are not allowed to use a female form on any online advertising. This can provide special challenges when trying to promote certain products. Especially when the key visual developed for the rest of the campaign uses such imagery. I can’t take the easy way out and use scantily clad women or sexual references and jokes. No cursing and no religious imagery allowed. Being sensitive to cultural taboos means I have to think harder and be more creative when brainstorming to come up with solutions.

Chevrolet Camaro V6 Hero Banner; My Role: Concept, Design and Layout
Chevrolet Camaro V6 Hero Banner; My Role: Concept, Design and Layout

 

These are just a few of the things I’ve encountered during my time in Dubai. At first, it can all seem overwhelming — new industry, new career, new country. But, if you love a challenge (If you’re studying at VFS, then you must), working abroad can be a great experience that will only strengthen your skills as a designer and provide a lifetime of memories to take back home.

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