2011: Almost 5 years ago I started at ARCADIS as a thesis graduate – Master Construction Management and Engineering at University Twente. It was 2012, due to the economic crisis since 2008, there weren’t many jobs. So, I was very excited that I managed to secure a full-time job at ARCADIS before I even finished my thesis. This was a stressful period, but I nailed it!
2012: My first role at ARCADIS was as a junior contract consultant for an infrastructure project in the Netherlands. I learned a lot during my first project, but the main takeaway was – “in theory, theory and practice are the same. In practice they are not” – Albert Einstein.
After my first year I was invited for my first ARCADIS-programme: the Young Professional Programme (group 52) in the Netherlands. It was a great experience, working together on ten courses with 20 young professionals with different backgrounds. During these courses, ARCADIS-leaders inspired/advised me to change my working environment each two years. So, I decided to pursue a new challenge and environment within ARCADIS. It worked out; a job with more responsibilities and diversity in sectors and clients at the European head office of ARCADIS in Amersfoort.
2015: After three years I was invited for my second ARCADIS-programme, the now defunct ‘E-factory’ and a few months later, I was invited as a young professional for the European Leadership Forum. Both European experiences abroad inspired me to apply for Global Shapers. It took some time to prepare the video, but I was pleased with the result.
It was through this video that I was fortunate enough to be selected for my third ARCADIS-programme; Global Shapers. During the programme I was one of the two team-captains for the final #GSshow workflow. The blog of Cary Ellmers very well explains the stressful experience of being a team-captain, and I am grateful for the experience. Overall, it was a once in a life time experience – with a global perspective. It opened my eyes, there are so much opportunities to grown and learn within ARCADIS……
……..the day after the Global Shapers programme. Most of the other Global Shapers were still in the Netherlands, but, I needed to attend a meeting so I headed back to the office. I was sitting behind my desk – with a double espresso – and there was a project manager shouting “Freek, do you want to go to Doha, Qatar”. What?! So, we talked about the project, my upcoming role and the opportunity to relocate from the Netherlands to Qatar on a temporality short term contract for eight (8) months.
So, one day after a life time experience I was presented with a once in a life time opportunity to work on one of the biggest projects in the world. Is this coincidence or just luck?! Although, I had only one week to decide whether I want the job or not – a not uncommon scenario. I only knew very little about everyday life in Qatar. I had gathered information from the internet, talked with people who are currently working in Qatar and had a chat with Global Shapers in the Middle East what Qatar could offer for my career.
But, what is the fundamental reason to move abroad? My long term aspiration to develop a career within ARCADIS and urgency to challenge myself and change my work-environment every two years; the move to the Middle East, Doha-Qatar is an ideal scenario. So, I decided to work as an interface manager for the project Gold Line, Doha – Qatar.
2016: My role as interface manager is to manage/coordinate the interfaces between the disciplines of the project. It all about process and communication – there are more than 200 colleagues working on this project from all over the world; Netherlands, Romania, Doha, Dubai, India and the Philippines. The major challenge is to communicate with people – and to understand the cultural differences between colleagues. For the latter, the Global Shapers experience really added value for me.
What do you need to be aware of before considering moving to the Middle East, Qatar – Doha. In the Middle East you should be culturally aware what is acceptable and what not. Before moving, ARCADIS provide us some basic rules in the Middle East. This was really helpful. Other (cultural) differences are:
– Most of the businesses in Qatar operate from Sunday to Thursday with the weekend being on Friday and Saturday.
– In some public areas men and women are segregated, such as in waiting areas or in the park.
– On National Day, it was even not allowed to visit an event, as these are designated “only for families”.
– Prayer sounds are five times a day but you become quickly used to the pattern once you are settled;
– Qatar uses the Kalafa system. This means that I have to ask for an exit permit when I want to leave Qatar. So, ARCADIS coordinates when you are allowed to leave the country.
– ARCADIS will compensate you, but aside the incredible cheap petrol, many every day goods are more expensive than in Europe.
– If you want to live together with your girlfriend it is not allowed, you need to be married.
– If you want to go to a party – you won’t find alcohol widely available. So, most of the parties here are in five star hotels or member-only clubs – such as the rugby club. It is also possible to drink alcohol at home. But you need to have a liquor license to buy alcohol.
Overall, Doha offers me a good work and live balance. I play soccer twice a week and once a week I wake up at 5am to do some running with a running group. The past few months I have been training for a marathon in Iran. It has been awesome! It is easy to find social groups, there is a large group of ex-pats in Doha. However, it is a challenge to make friends with locals – Qatari.
For those who are thinking of taking their career abroad, three pieces of advice:
1. Get to know you colleagues in the local area; – socialize outside the office;
2. Get to know other people – join a member-club or a business club.
3. Enjoy the journey – explore the culture of the Middle East;
Freek Matheij – Arcadis Doha, Qatar