Global Experience Reflections: Dubai and Abu Dhabi

Sloan, like any other programme at LBS, really focuses on facilitating relevant connections and providing a life-changing journey. If you are looking for a transformational experience that combines theory, practice, networking and social/ cultural aspects, then the Global Experience is the answer.

Last year, our Sloans visited some incredible locations for this one-week elective. Check out the first article from the ‘GE Reflections’ series led by our recent amazing Sloan 2023 graduate, Suyun Huang, to get an overview of the Middle Eastern experience. While the locations may change slightly over time, the essence and purpose of this project remain the same.

Could you please tell us a little bit about your background and what were your motivations before you started the programme.

Embarked on my career as a software engineer, I sequentially worked for a few multinational companies and a series-B round rapidly growing start-up across the EU, US, and China. The experiences of managing R&D, projects, products, operations & sales, and people allowed me to gain quite a diversified and unique exposure in terms of expertise, functions, and sectors.

Before joining Sloan, I had my first MBA at a renowned Swiss business school. I also cleared all three levels of CFA continuously while working full-time for my prior employer, a Fortune 200 Swiss company, as an in-house management consultant at their Swiss operational headquarters. 

The reason to enrol into Sloan, just as why I’ve led such an expansive career, boils down to my enduring curiosity and restless spirits that constantly wonder, ‘Now what?’ – I sought to connect the dots, aspiring to elevate my career to new heights. Where are the limits, and how to reach my full potential? I came to Sloan to seek answers to those questions.

What was the main schedule and what companies/ stakeholders did you interact with during the GE in Dubai/ Abu Dhabi?

Although I am a super active traveller who has trekked to 30+ countries, I’ve never been to the Middle East. The Dubai/UAE GE available in Dec was a perfect fit, as I saw it as a chance for on-field due diligence. Dubai, a symbol associated with a lavish spending spree, has been a mystery behind the vein to me. I was eager to experience it first-hand. What it would be like, how I would feel about it, and what I could learn from spending a week learning from the business community there.

The one-week trip exceeded my expectations. We had fantastic cohorts, professors, and administrative staff. A few alumni events were thoughtfully organized for us, and the hospitality and strong bond felt unparalleled. We also had the opportunity to explore state-owned companies, private firms, and financial centres like Mubadala (the sovereign fund), ADNOC (the national oil company), and the DIFC (Dubai International Financial Centre), to name a few.

What were the main takeaways from this 1-week project? What do you think you learnt, and can still apply nowadays?

The primary and most significant personal takeaway is the first-hand impression and experience established through the initial contact. Since returning, the region is no longer a distant figure; books, articles, and news related to UAE/Dubai capture my special attention now. A prime example:  I came across several videos featuring the CEO of Mubadala giving interviews about their investment strategy, geopolitics, and future trend perspectives. His insights resonated deeply, seamlessly connecting with the internal knowledge we gleaned from our company visit – their organizational structure, investment platform, development model, and management style.

It gave me a sense of surrealism and awe when gazing at those shimmering dense skyscrapers in UAE/Dubai, contemplating how they emerged from the desert landscape over the past 50 years. Reflecting on the seismic transformation China underwent in the past 2-3 decades, marked by opening policies, joining the WTO, and achieving a double-digit GDP growth rate, I recognized commonalities with the miracles brought to life by the UAE founding father’s grand vision to diversify and sustain their future. Both countries experienced an upswing stage in the so-called Kondratiev Waves.

Putting it through the career strategy’s lenses, one guest speaker offered tremendously insightful advice – “Ride with the ‘beta’ (of the country, the industry) first, then seek ‘alpha'” – I couldn’t agree more.

What advice would you have for upcoming Sloan candidates?

Regaining a student’s identity after professional life is a privilege.  It’s a self-awarded playground, allowing you to explore who you are and how you want to position yourself in the world.

Be curious, open-minded, and fearless. The best way to extract the utmost value from the Sloan year is to learn and experiment as much as you can.

For more experience about the learning experience on the Sloan programme, click here.

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