To Shift Your Career To The Middle East Try INSEAD's New Abu Dhabi Module

Booz & Co consultant Pei Chieng Soh wants to shift her career from Asia to the Middle East. She tells us how INSEAD's Abu Dhabi module has helped her so far.

MBA student Pei Chieng Soh is using INSEAD's new Abu Dhabi module to shift her management consuting career from Asia to the Middle East.
 
The Abu Dhabi module, which started this month,  was designed in collaboration with the Abu Dhabi Education Council (ADEC) and senior partners in Abu Dhabi’s government and the private sector.
 
It gives INSEAD MBAs a great introduction to the hard and soft skills needed to do business in the Middle East, and helps them make useful connections
 
Pei Chieng started her one-year MBA last year in Fontainebleau, France, but headed to INSEAD's Singapore campus for the current semester, so that she could be there for Chinese New Year!
 
Princeton-educated Pei Chieng joined the Kuala Lumpur office of Booz & Co. in 2009, having previously worked for Oliver Wyman. She plans to head back to Booz & Co. after she graduates, and did the Abu Dhabi module specifcally because Booz has some interesting projects on in the Middle East, and she wanted to learn more about about the business environment.
 
pei-chieng-soh105x135.jpgAlthough she gained exposure to several industries as a consultant including public transport, financial services, telecoms and FMCG, Pei Chieng felt she could learn more about finance and organizations: “Even though we get a lot of training in consulting, especially when it comes to strategy, they don’t teach us the financial aspects or even the human aspects of business. Besides, getting an MBA is a usual thing to do in consulting”, she said. 
 
The Abu Dhabi module consists of three parts: 'Doing Business in the UAE and the Middle East', a course that surveys regional challenges and opportunities; 'Negotiation Dynamics'; and field-based work on a live case with a local partner.
 
The first segment of the module took place from the 2nd to the 6th of January 2013. About 35 students flew into Abu Dhabi on the 1st and were immediately immersed in learning about doing business in the region.
 
The sessions took the form of seminars and meetings with professionals working in the Middle East. Pei Chieng was pleased to learn that women are successfully doing business over there: “One lady who has been working in Saudi Arabia for a few years now told us that the business environment was starting to become more open towards women." 
 
Pei Cheing’s first impression of Dubai and Abu Dhabi was that they're flashy! "Dubai has 24-lane highways, there’s a lot of new money”, she said. “I didn’t know what to expect but I was surprised to find out that the UAE isn’t that conservative.
 
"I expected to have to cover myself when I got dressed but I saw people walking around in sleeveless shirts and skirts above the knees. They weren’t locals but they seemed to be accepted.” 
 
During their stay, the students visited companies such as MBC (the Middle East Broadcasting Corporation), Booz & Co., McKinsey, and Schlumberger.  The MBAs were also introduced to the companies they’ll be working with. Pei Chieng will be working with MBC on a confidential project. 
 
The MBAs will return in February and March to conclude the module and hand in their final reports to the companies. 
 
The visit has given Pei Chieng more confidence that she can work in Abu Dhabi or Dubai as a woman, and as a consultant. She did however stress that building relationships in the Middle East is vital for anyone trying to break into the market.
 
She said, “One McKinsey partner told us that it took two years of nurturing a relationship before they got any actual business from those clients and it takes even longer when dealing with family businesses”. 
 
Read more about students, alumni and programmes at INSEAD, here. Read other exciting stories on Top Business Schools around the world. 

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