Senior Editor at Swiss Media Group, Hayley Skirka

Name: Hayley Skirka            

Age: 32 

From: Scotland

Current Job Title: Senior Editor at Swiss Media Group

When did you first arrive in Dubai? August 2007

Where did you work prior? I pretty much came to the UAE straight from university, initially working as an English teacher in Al Ain and doing some travelling before moving to Dubai a year later. I went back to Al Ain to work with The Source and Oasis Living Magazine before returning to Dubai for a few crazy years at Time Out. 

What were your first impressions of the media industry in the Middle East?
I
t was definitely still in the growing stage. 

Has your opinion changed much?
It’s a lot more established and there is such a range of diverse media available now. That said, it is still relatively small compared to other regions and has a lot of potential. I think one of the best things about the UAE media industry is that it’s a great hub for change, development, new titles, fresh ideas and that things can change very fast compared to more established media sectors in the world.

Tell us about your role as Senior Editor…
As Senior Editor I’m spearheading the editorial side of our publications (Equestrio, SWR and Prestige) to make sure we deliver up-to-date, fresh, original, exciting and relevant content.

What challenges do you face?
Having not spent much time around horses since I was a kid, it’s a steep learning curve to get me up to speed on the equestrian world! That said, the horse world is so niche here that I’ve constantly got a great group of friendly faces around me, helping me get to grips with it all.

What’s the most rewarding part of your job?
Seeing the printed magazines with no errors! And securing Eddie Redmayne as our SWR cover star just a few weeks before he clinched his Oscar win was also pretty sweet.

What do you think of the quality of media publications in the region?
It varies hugely – some titles have super high standards while others definitely need major tweaking, though that’s often due to a skeleton staff base.

How do you find PRs in the region?
As a whole, they are friendly and informative although there are a few you have to chase down for information – something that would never happen in the UK. I prefer it when I get the chance to get to know a PR personally – both parties definitely benefit from investing this time.

What’s your pet PR peeve?
Follow up calls to see if I’ll be attending an event, just a few minutes after sending the initial email. There’s no need to call at all – if it’s relevant and someone from the team can make it then we’ll definitely let you know we are coming.

What advice can you offer PRs seeking coverage in your magazine?
Even though things are crazy busy in the PR world, it helps if you can find a bit of time to research the title. What’s the name of that fable, The Boy Cried Wolf? If you send over 20 or 30 entirely non-relevant emails, I’ll eventually get bored opening them and may end up missing something that we could have actually worked on together.

Work calls via landline, mobile or both?
Landline, unless it’s an emergency, although email trumps both.

Describe yourself in five words…
Friendly, driven, adventurous, optimistic and peace-loving.

Five things you can’t live without?
Family, close friends (they become your family when you’ve been an expat for so long), yoga, NKD Pizza (now Freedom Pizza) and coffee – lots of coffee! 

If you weren’t a journalist, what would you be?
I studied interior design before doing my degree in journalism so most likely that. I do love interiors – which comes in handy working on Prestige magazine – but I wasn’t very good at planning for the long project deadlines, I definitely work better under imminent pressure.

CEO & Founder, Detria Williamson

Name: Detria Williamson

Age: Born on the same day as Prince William but different year!

From: Chicago, USA

Current job title: CEO & Founder

When did you arrive in the UAE?
August 2009, when the humidity was at 80%, I remember walking around with a permanent afro.

Where did you work prior?
Prior to arriving to the UAE, I worked for Discovery Channel Networks, overseeing their channel portfolio globally.

What were your first impressions of the media industry in the Middle East?
As a client I felt that products and leadership were always on the front foot, but the media behaviours and practices were lagging.

Have these impressions changed much?
Media is changing here because the world is moving at a hyper-speed pace.  Simply put, we as leaders in media have no choice but to take bigger risks and stay on the cusp of new media and technology.

Tell us about your new role with Drum Content Design…
Starting Drum Content Design is a thrill, after spending years on the client side and in television. I am in a unique position to know what the client really, truly needs and wants – even if they are unable to articulate it -because of my decade-long career working with the world’s most loved television brands globally. As CEO of Drum, I’m happy to build on this experience and provide non-conventional approaches for clients looking to connect with consumers in a deeper manner. 

What challenges do you face?
I’m pretty sure most creative entities here would echo this challenge – recruiting. Having eclectic and diverse staff is a non-negotiable mandate for myself, as well as the hiring managers within Drum Content. Finding global talent from various backgrounds can be tricky but we are hitting a very nice stride so far with a team of female leadership, a rarity in the Advertising industry as a whole; as well as scriptwriters versus copywriters, film videographers versus TVC directors and analysts versus planners.  

What’s the most rewarding part of your job?
Converting traditional marketers to content evangelists who never look back. It’s a complete shift in terms of the marketing psyche, which requires risk, especially in this region where clients have a shortage of content agencies.  

What’s the most exciting thing to happen so far?
Given the launch of the company, I’d have to say finding our location at D3.  Our approach is centered on design so it’s a perfect fit. To be in an environment surrounded by designers across various categories is fuel for designing marketing innovation.

What do you think of the quality of media publications in the region?
The great thing about Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Doha is that they’re blank slates you can paint whatever color you want.  I think 2015 is going to be a year where media publications push even further outside of the norm and convert standard publications to richer online and mobile experiences.  Having tech leaders Google and yahoo in the region will keep all of us on the cutting edge of technology. 

What sets you apart from other content design professionals?
I have been a client most of my career which enables me to connect with clients in a relevant and transparent way. When clients ask about our agency credentials, I have no shame in telling them our credentials are that we come from award winning brands as clients, journalists and producers.  Pushing the boundaries of traditional agencies and offering clients marketing innovation brings a great deal of satisfaction.

Work calls via landline, mobile or both?
Strictly mobile. The GSMA just released a statistic that by 2020 60% of the world’s population will own a mobile phone. Landlines will be soon become a vintage household name.  

What’s your most overused saying?
Mistakes are great and should be studied relentlessly. Repeated mistakes are failures, which are unacceptable. It’s a principal I stand by in my work and personal life.

Five things you can’t live without?
The Sneeches by Dr. Seuss (for serving as a reminder we are all the same), music (in particular Nina Simone because of her brutal honesty), Raw Coffee, true love (it could be Jimmy Choos or it could be a person…stay tuned) and finally, my superstar kids, Noah and Sophia who teach me to constantly start over with grace.

If you weren’t in content design and production, what would you be?
A home school Mum…but I’m ashamed to say my kids are too smart for me.

Journalist, Shalini Seth

Name: Shalini Seth

Age: 43

From: India

Current Job Title: Journalist – Founder, Hastlipi, bespoke business content.

When did you first arrive in Dubai? 2005, leaving briefly for three years in 2009

Where did you work prior?
Most recently, until last month, I was with Gulf News’ supplements as a Specialist Writer, where my job description was writing analytical features spotlighting business, luxury and technology. In India, I was working with ITP as the editor of Hotelier India. During my first stint in Dubai I was with the daily, Emirates Today (now online, Emirates 24/7) and then with Millionaire magazine.

What were your first impressions of the media industry in the Middle East?
I was fascinated to meet news professionals from various parts of the world, except that we seemed to exist in huddles. I noticed that both media forms were evolving very fast – print and digital. At the same time, much news/content seemed fragmented to me. Though, on the face of it, censorship was spoken of as a factor influencing coverage, I have always believed that capturing reality and reporting on it is a much more complex process.

Has your opinion changed much?
Essentially, it’s the same. I would like to be able to capture the vibrant nature of the city’s businesses and produce relevant content. I have found out much more in off-the-record conversations, whether it’s been after interviews with senior officials or seasoned expats, or listening to entrepreneurs and experts talk to their peers at conferences. There is so much undocumented information, which is exciting for a journalist to sift through.

Tell us a bit more about what you are working on now…
I am in the process of starting out on my own to bring out content for a specific readership, in the form of corporate content, commissioned newsletters or conference coverage, not necessarily for mass consumption. As a journalist, I can bring unbiased, honest and meticulous reporting to, what we call, decision-enabling content with a focus on hospitality, banking and finance and luxury retail sectors. I have put some together these thoughts on my website: http://shaliniseth.wix.com/whatwedo

What challenges do you face?
I’m just starting out, so everything seems possible. However, being pretty much the first mover in this space, I am sure there is hard work ahead, particularly when it comes to reaching out to the right people, who don’t know what they’re missing.

What’s the most rewarding part of your job?
I like people and I like exploring and taking things apart. It’s great to have met some of the best minds in the fields that I am concentrating on. One of the most rewarding things about my work is speaking to many people in their own sphere, who perhaps don’t know each other, and piece together a trend in the making. Being a journalist allows me to have really focused conversations on complex topics. It allows me to bypass social chitchat and be rude, so we get to the point.

What do you think of the quality of media publications in the region?
Some sparkle, some are indifferent. It comes down to the people, doesn’t it? When you come across great content it’s because the individual reporting on it was interested. This is true of design too. Local but not self-conscious, relevant publications are great to read. I’m very alert to any hint of treating the region like a fish-bowl, instead of getting in and making a splash, so to speak. I think we deserve better.

How do you find PRs in the region?
Like publications: some are great, some are not. I have worked with a few who take great pride in their work. It’s always satisfying to work with professionals – it definitely adds to what you’re doing.

What’s your pet PR peeve?
Hey, come on, that’s not a nice question! The most I could say is that sometimes I’ve been frustrated with diluted responses to very precise questions. I’m not sure whose fault that is.

Work calls via landline, mobile or both? Both, but email is best.

Describe yourself in five words… This is an exercise in vanity but let’s see – honest, focused, scatter-brained, enthusiastic and contradictory.

 What’s your most overused saying? It varies. Right now, this line from a whodunit is playing in my head: “The coin of the realm is information.”

Five things you can’t live without? Something to take notes with, bouncing ideas off (other) intelligent people, being left alone to do good work, flashes of fun at the workplace, and switching off, categorically. 

If you weren’t a journalist, what would you be? I’ve a Masters in Criminological Social Work. So the answer is, if I am not a social worker, what am I?

Art Editor, Sarah Freeman

Name: Sarah Freeman

Age: 34

From: UK

Current Job Title: Art Editor/Photojournalist, Destination of the World News

When did you first arrive in Dubai?
I first arrived in Dubai in October 2008, having previously worked on magazines in Newcastle-upon-Tyne in the UK.

Where did you work prior?
Before joining Destination of the World News I was at ITP Publishing for four years, working across various titles – I was Art Director for Good Housekeeping magazine, VIVA and Emirates Home.

What were your first impressions of the media industry in the Middle East?
Compared to the likes of London and New York, the media industry in the UAE seems very small; but this is a real advantage when you first move here as it’s less daunting and easier to establish connections and forge relationships. 

Has your opinion changed much?
I’ve had a career break of 15 months, most of which I spent travelling in Central and South America, so I have only returned to Dubai recently. It’s still very much an evolving industry, which is both exciting and frustrating at times. As a lover of all things print, I am very happy this area is still very much thriving and growing in this part of the world.

Tell us about your role at Destination of the World News
My job at DOTWN is very much a hybrid role. I’m taking charge of the creative direction of the brand, its various extensions and writing for the magazine, but principally introducing a photojournalist element to the magazine, which has been missing. The idea is to develop more original photography and I will be responsible for executing photo essay stories, mainly abroad, but also locally in the UAE.

What challenges do you face?
One of the key challenges is finding newly emerging luxury destinations, which is harder than it sounds. Also marrying global travel trends with the travel habits of people living in the GCC. The challenge I have as a photographer is to continually strive to capture, in some cases, a new and original interpretation of a familiar destination, such as the Maldives, and to marry the aesthetics of a luxury destination with story-telling, in one photo essay. 

What’s the most rewarding part of your job?
It’s early days, so you may have to ask me that in six months time! But right now, what’s exciting is to have the creative freedom to take and develop an already established brand, using my travel photography experience to elevate and enhance the product.

What do you think of the quality of media publications in the region?
I think it’s hugely varied. I would like to see more local content and less syndicated material in some of the international brands here. There are some really inspirational homegrown publications, which are pushing boundaries and delivering very original, engaging content.

How do you find PRs in the region?
Much like the previous answer, I find PRs in the region to be a real mixed bag. Some have a wealth of experience and are very on the ball, others seem to be inexperienced and a bit out of their depth.

What’s your pet PR peeve?
A PR that calls you if you haven’t responded to their email within about an hour!

What advice can you offer PRs seeking coverage your magazine?
Understand our product and our distribution channels. We are very much ‘ultra-luxury’ focused, so our market is niche. Our magazine is found in first/business class lounges and 5* hotels. We are very much active on all platforms – online/social media, as well as our print publication. So the idea is for content to be utilised across multiple channels.

Work calls via landline, mobile or both?
Both.

Describe yourself in five words…
Creative, energetic, loyal, determined and intuitive. 

What’s your most overused saying?
Shy bairns get nowt.” It’s a saying that originates from the North East of England, where I was born. It more or less translates as “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.”

Five things you can’t live without?
Tea, a firm mattress, camera, hand cream and hiking boots.

If you weren’t a journalist, what would you be?
A conservationist. I’m passionate about the environment, love the great outdoors and almost went down the science route, but ended up following my calling to the arts (which I’m very happy about)!

Regional Strategy Director, Tom Hardstaff

Name: Tom Hardstaff

Age: Young at heart!

From: Hertfordshire, United Kingdom.

Current job title: Regional Strategy Director, UM MENA 

When did you arrive in the UAE?
I first arrived in the region in September 2014, and I was very pleased to see that the summer heat had begun to subside. Before this, I was based in London. 

Where did you work prior?
I worked at Mediacom in London across several key agency clients in the automotive, travel and FMCG markets, and have worked with brands such as Volkswagen, TUI, Kenwood and DeLonghi.

What were your first impressions of the media industry in the Middle East?
Mixed! Some areas of the region are obviously more advanced than others, but at the same time I was pleasantly surprised. The driving forces behind advertising are consumers and no matter where you are from, the demand for consumption is the same and this feeds media evolution.

Have these impressions changed much?
My impressions have naturally developed over the last few months as the opportunity and potential to deploy creative strategic execution is huge. I’ve now got to meet and spend time with many inspiring people, so the outlook for the future is very exciting.

Tell us about your new role as Regional Strategy Director…
As the title suggests, I am responsible for strategic direction across the MENA region with UM key clients, but mainly Coca Cola. I am currently working with the regional offices to create and implement strategies to be activated in local markets. Pitches also play an important and exciting part of my role, and there’s no better buzz than working with a great team to develop unique approaches and outshine the competition. 2015 is also a big year for UM, as not only do we need to build on the successes of 2014 but we are also upgrading the strategic approach in line with the ever-changing audiences to deliver real-time consumer campaigns. 

What challenges do you face?
Initially, you presume the challenge will be your new team but this has not been the case. The level of cooperation, smart thinking and hard work has surpassed my expectations. While understanding new markets and consumers is a challenge, it is one that even with time won’t sit still. This continues to change and shift for us all in the industry and if this isn’t a challenge then I’m not doing my job properly!

What’s the most rewarding part of your job?
This is twofold and not in any particular order! Working with new people and different thinking, as it is the people that set us apart form other agencies; and of course, delivering a campaign that not only exceeds expectations but also creates moments of client and agency euphoria.

What’s the most exciting thing to happen so far?
Well, moving to a new country and working in a totally new region has been quite exciting. But what makes this move to Dubai even more exhilarating is my involvement in the launch of new initiatives at UM MENA 2015, as this is going to be a pioneering and iconic year for us.

What do you think of the quality of media publications in the region?
As a newcomer to the region, the need for titles and their content has been vital in my learning and understanding of the practices in this market as a whole and who’s doing what. I see a similar quality in the titles here versus the UK. 

What sets you apart from other industry professionals?
Growing up I wanted to be either a football player or a lawyer; I wasn’t good enough at football and needed to ‘try harder’ at school to take the Bar. However, combining my interest in people and their thinking, or in a work context ‘understanding consumer behaviour’ coupled with a passion for brands and their evolving philosophies; I naturally gravitated into the world of media and advertising and have never looked back. It’s that passion that sets me apart while at the same time connecting me to many like-minded individuals where I continue to learn and grow.

Work calls via landline, mobile or both?
Either, it’s nice to talk.

What’s your most overused saying?
Not so much a saying but the word ‘stim.’ Love a bit of ‘stim.’

Five things you can’t live without?
My iPhone because it keeps me connected (but not at dinner!), sports, my VPN, friends and last but by no means least, my wife.

If you weren’t a Regional Strategy Director, what would you be?
A failed football player!

Features Writer, Louise Quick

Name: Louise Quick
Age: 24
From: Dorset, UK
Current Job Title: Features Writer for Whats On, Open Skies and Dubai Voyager.

When did you first arrive in Dubai?
I moved to the UAE in November 2013, after having studied and worked in London for several years.

Where did you work prior?
Before moving to Motivate in February, I’d been working in Dubai as an Assistant Editor for two trade magazines.

What were your first impressions of the media industry in the Middle East?
Small and fun, if that makes sense. There’s so much going on all the time – every event tries to be bigger and better than the rest – and then everyone seems to know each other; it’s such a small world.

Tell us about your role at Motivate…
I only started half way through February, but I will be working on content for Whats On, Open Skies and Dubai Voyager, which I am very much looking forward to doing.

What challenges do you face?
Well, I’ve only been in my new role for a short while, so it’s difficult to say just yet. Having previously worked on trade titles however, I have to adjust my ideas and tone of writing to better suit consumer magazines, which is essentially much more fun!

What’s the most rewarding part of your job?
At Motivate? Ask me again in a couple of months. But as a journalist generally, I’d say working with design on some much-loved content and then seeing it finally laid out. I’m always amazed by what a good designer can do with the copy.

What do you think of the quality of media publications in the region?
There are an awful lot of different publications, that’s for sure. But that competition just drives each magazine to be better and there are some beautiful luxury lifestyle magazines out there. Then there are new magazines like Good, which feels very fresh and is writing for an otherwise-forgotten audience.

How do you find PRs in the region?
Really rather friendly considering how hard they seem to be worked.

What’s your pet PR peeve?
I’m not sure. Perhaps people that mumble or speak quickly on the phone so you can’t hear them properly.

Work calls via landline, mobile or both?
Landline, definitely.

What’s your most overused saying?
Sadly, it’s probably ‘sorry’ (I’m very British).

Five things you can’t live without?
My family, my notepad, biscuits, my moonstone necklace and the occasional countryside walk.

If you weren’t a journalist, what would you be?
An archaeologist (preferably one like Indiana Jones).

Features Editor, Peter Iantorno

Name: Peter Iantorno
Age: 24
From: Sheffield, UK
Current Job: Features Editor, EDGAR

When did you first arrive in the UAE?
I first moved over to the region in July 2012, and before that I was based in Manchester in the UK.

Where did you work prior?
I was with a motorcycle magazine called Motorcycle Racer in Manchester. I would do pretty much everything for them, including writing and editing articles, social media and even laying out pages! I then moved over to the UAE to work for Gulf News Magazines as a Sub-Editor, before coming to work for EDGAR.

What were your first impressions of the media industry in the Middle East?
The Middle East seemed an exciting place to be, with lots of opportunities for growth both in personal terms and for companies; now it’s more exciting than ever! 

Tell us about your role at EDGAR
Along with the Online Editor and Editor-in-Chief, I’m responsible for planning and creating interesting and engaging content for EDGARdaily.com. 

What challenges do you face?
With such an ambitious project, it was always going to be a challenge to keep pace in terms of content creation, but I feel that the website is looking great and provides a brilliant range of stories that we update every day without fail. 

What’s the most rewarding part of your job?
Seeing one of my stories getting a lot of shares or comments. It shows that people are engaging with me, whether they agree or disagree with what I’m saying!

What do you think of the quality of media publications in the region?
There are some excellent publications around at the moment – obviously EDGAR is my favourite! There are always improvements that could be made to any publication, but I think that taking into account the time constraints that journalists here face, most people are doing a pretty good job.

How do you find PRs in the region?
I normally find them very friendly and usually pretty efficient.

What’s your pet PR peeve?
Honestly, I’ve not got one.

What advice can you offer PRs seeking coverage in your magazine?
Have a look at Edgardaily.com and see if any of your clients would fit in to the site. We’re interested in a whole range of subjects, but the common themes are quality and luxury. If you have the right story for us, we’d be delighted to feature it.

Work calls via landline, mobile or both?
I really don’t mind either way. 

Describe yourself in five words…
Friendly, driven, fun, a realist and sport-mad.

What’s your most overused saying?
No worries.”

Five things you can’t live without?
My wife, football (a close second), indie music, Italian food and sunshine. 

If you weren’t a journalist, what would you be?
A football manager.

 

 

 

Account Director, Kaniz Abbas

Name:  Kaniz Abbas
Age: 32
From: London, UK
Current job title: Account Director, Edelman

When did you arrive in the UAE?
Not that long ago, I first arrived in the UAE on September 11, 2014, and prior to that I was living and working in London. 

Where did you work prior?
Before joining Edelman, I was Account Director, managing the Unilever Haircare portfolio at Beauty Seen PR. Previous to that I was at MS&L working across Proctor & Gamble premium beauty brands.

What were your first impressions of the media industry in the Middle East?
I was surprised by how diverse it was and the wide variety of specialist titles available. It’s also more fast-paced than I expected.

Have these impressions changed much?
As it’s only been a few months, there’s still much to learn. However, I do find that journalists here are very approachable and responsive which is great.

Tell us about your new role as Account Director…
As Account Director for the Consumer Division, I oversee our luxury, hospitality and FMCG accounts – this includes The Jumeirah Group, Waldorf Astoria, Al Manara International Jewellery and Ocean Spray. My main role is providing strategic direction, budgeting, team management and client servicing. I also work closely with the Consumer Associate Director on new business, seeking out new opportunities to further grow our department.

What challenges do you face?
As I’m new to the region, the biggest challenge is gaining an understanding of the Middle East media landscape – I’m learning something new every day.

What’s the most rewarding part of your job?
Providing the direction and support my team needs to ensure they develop and deliver great results for our clients; I always aim to exceed expectations.

What’s the most exciting thing to happen so far?
The most exciting thing to happen so far was whilst working with SkyDive Dubai on a charity project; where I met a member of the Royal Family and watched them do their 1000th jump.

What do you think of the quality of media publications in the region?
There are some stunning luxury and lifestyle magazines for both men and woman in the region. It’s also great to see publishers recognising the great opportunity there is here and I was very excited by the launch of Stylist Arabia! 

What sets you apart from other PR professionals?
I think it’s the genuine passion I have for my job. If you love what you do, you will always strive to deliver the best results.

Work calls via landline, mobile or both?
Mobile – I’m often away from my desk so clients, press and colleagues can always get hold of me that way.

What’s your most overused saying?
How can we leverage this…?

Five things you can’t live without?
My heels – which give me confidence in any outfit; my note pad – I’m a list fanatic; a skinny flat white coffee in the morning; a pair of headphones, because listening to music helps me concentrate and my laptop.

If you weren’t a PR, what would you be?
Most likely a TV news presenter.

Senior Manager, Corporate Communications MEA, Dan Corfield

Name: Dan Corfield
Age: 31
From: London, UK
Current job title: Senior Manager, Corporate Communications, Middle East & Africa for Hilton Worldwide

When did you arrive in the UAE?
I first came to the UAE in August 2014 and it’s my first time in the Middle East region.  Prior to that I was based in the UK.

Where did you work prior?
I’ve been with Hilton Worldwide since 2009. Most recently I was a part of Hilton Worldwide’s European Communications team in London as Senior Manager, Brand Public Relations.

What were your first impressions of the media industry in the Middle East?
Busy and interesting – a hotbed of action. I work mostly with media that have an interest in the travel industry and believe our sector has exciting and creative content to offer – everyone loves to travel, as well as hear about it!

Have these impressions changed much?
For me, it’s too early to tell – I’m rapidly discovering an intriguing side to Dubai – food, culture and art. It’s different to home, but I feel energy amongst the media here. I think we all have a crucial role in telling what is a fascinating story and showcasing the ‘secret sauce’ of what makes Dubai a special place to live, work and travel.

Tell us about your new role…
I work as part of a small, yet dynamic team, based at our MEA regional office in Internet City. We oversee communications across a region that consists of almost 150 hotels open or under development.

In my new role, my focus is on the corporate side, working with our senior leaders at a regional and global level – mostly in terms of our multi-brand growth story, profiling our company as an employer of choice, internal communications, as well our corporate responsibility programme ‘Travel With Purpose’ – which deployed signature activities in the Middle East as part of Hilton Worldwide’s Global Week of Service 2014.

Whether it’s our own team members, bloggers or journalists – there is huge appetite to hear about what we do as a company and I love helping my colleagues both at regional and hotel levels to tell that story.

What challenges do you face?
We operate across a diverse region, in multiple time zones and with a variety of stakeholders. Our approach is to act as an internal agency to our ‘clients’ in the business – which keeps us on our toes, given the 24/7 nature of hotels and the extraordinary passion for hospitality within Hilton Worldwide.

What’s the most rewarding part of your job?
I love hotels – everything about them from the back of house, to the busy lobby and especially the people who work across the many departments. I think this passion creates an incredibly rewarding environment to work in – I enjoy taking something, helping to make it bigger and better and then having the chance to tell everyone about it!

I also love researching Hilton’s almost 100-year history for the work we do. There has been so many Hilton firsts for the travel industry – it’s fascinating to understand Hilton’s international expansion of the 1950s and 60s, when Conrad Hilton was opening hotels in new cities across Europe and Africa. Having worked on the PR for many new hotel openings, from luxury to mid-market, it feels great to be able to play a part in this grand 100-year story.

What’s the most exciting thing to happen so far?
I went along to a pop-up restaurant run by Ghaf Kitchen at The Mojo Gallery – the event blew my socks off with the theatre of the kitchen and a beautifully crafted menu, all set against the backdrop of a contemporary gallery in a gritty industrial zone. It felt like an event you’d find in a trendy space in East London.

What do you think of the quality of media publications in the region?
Outstanding. It’s great to see regional spin-offs of some titles I’m familiar with in the UK and Europe. I also love to keep an eye on media at home – UK and European politics especially.

What sets you apart from other Corporate Communication Managers?
I’m fortunate to work in a sector that I love, that is also interesting to most people. I think getting under-the-skin of an industry is important and my background in hospitality helps me speak to the right people to quickly grasp the task-at-hand.

Work calls via landline, mobile or both?
Either – I’m good on Skype and Whatsapp too. LinkedIn for professional networking.

What’s your most overused saying?
Since I arrived in Dubai, I frequently find myself saying: “I think it’s near to…”

Five things you can’t live without?
New experiences – especially travel, Whatsapp – a great way to keep in touch with friends, family and colleagues across time zones, friends and family (count as one), protein shakes and aviation.

If you weren’t in Corporate Communications, what would you be?
An explorer.

 

Chief Operating Officer, Eymard Saldanha

Name: Eymard Saldanha
Age: 45
From: Mumbai, India
Current job title: Chief Operating Officer, Percept Gulf MENA

When did you arrive in the UAE?
I first came to the UAE in 1997, having previously spent my career working in marketing and advertising in India.

Where did you work prior?
Prior to joining Percept Gulf MENA, I was with Ogilvy & Mather MENA where I was Regional Director EEMEA – BAT and Head of Advertising MENA. 

What were your first impressions of the media industry in the Middle East?
It felt quite small and contained. The opportunities for principal business are never limited to a country but a geographical cluster, so just getting it right in one country’s market was never good enough. If you’ve not expanded regionally you will never reach critical mass. I felt that about media as well.

Have these impressions changed much?
Individual markets have evolved significantly, and there are many more opportunities for certain industries to prosper with a single country specification. But in general, my view that principals need to have a geographical spread remains unchanged. Media should follow their brands’ expansion.

Tell us about your new role at Percept Gulf…
I have come on board as COO of the NEW Percept. We have been reasonably advertising focused in the past and my ambition is to embed the PerceptOne ideology into our genetic code. PerceptOne is our interpretation of how a flat, multi-disciplined organisation delivers superior business results to our resident brands; through a combination of understanding the product, as well as consumer and business challenges, and culminating in a consumer or customer facing business solution. The new multi-discipline Percept Gulf offering now includes advertising, media, public relations, social and digital, and event marketing, which I oversee. I also want to engage the PerceptOne ideology with new, ambitious and like-minded business groups.

What challenges do you face?
I see the MENA region as a huge opportunity and do not see any challenges in embedding our ideology. I will always push myself hard to hire bigger and better people so that giants surround me. Getting the right team is always a challenge, but we in Dubai are better off than most with our location offer – and I believe PerceptOne will be a natural magnet.

What’s the most rewarding part of your job?
I have only been a part of the Percept group for the last few months, but I already have a love for our enthusiasm and commitment. We are a very entrepreneurial agency and believe that ideas can develop anywhere – inside or out of the agency. Helping my teams disseminate rich thinking is the more rewarding part of my job. In addition, I love teaching and mentoring our talent, as well as directly engaging with clients on business problems.

What’s the most exciting thing to happen so far?
I am yet to meet a single client (and I have met a lot in the last few months) who doesn’t believe in the PerceptOne ideology. That signifies opportunity to deliver the best to our brands and is hugely exciting to me.

What do you think of the quality of media publications in the region?
‘You have come a long way baby’ is a radio mnemonic that comes to mind. The media publications were static and boring for a long time and have truly come into their own over the last few years. The trajectory is just right. 

What sets you apart from other communications professionals?
I believe that every solid marketing communications professional should keep their brands and consumers as their primary focus, and not get distracted by obsessive strategising, irrelevant creative and an inflated ego. I have managed to balance all three over the years, and I think I’m a better, more professional person for it. It allows me to drive my teams to:

  1. Disrupt the status quo
  2. Think beyond the traditional norm
  3. Develop rich and campaign-able ideas
  4. Display infectious energy
  5. Think and live the media neutral PerceptOne.

Work calls via landline, mobile or both?
I am happy with both.

What’s your most overused saying?
Currently it is ‘PerceptOne and Brand Evangelist’, but historically it has been ‘We sell or else!’ and ‘The consumer isn’t a moron she is your wife’ (both from David Ogilvy – RIP).

Five things you can’t live without?
My wife, daughter, my IT fix (my gadgets), Wifi and my sense of humour.

If you weren’t in media and communications, what would you be doing?
A top end car and bike shop owner, who would terrorise owners for not loving their vehicles the way they should be!