An interesting journey: An Alumni Update





Life is indeed full or surprises. When I chose the topic of my Master’s thesis – the role of communication in intercultural business contexts – I never thought that I would actually come to experience, hands-on, all I had studied and researched for such a long time. But that is exactly what happened…

I graduated and moved to the United Arab Emirates, a 40 year old nation that has managed to become one of the most important countries in the Middle East. With its diversified economy and zero taxes policy, the UAE has placed itself in the center of all worldwide action, becoming one of the best places for people to do business.

To manage the change that happened over such a short period of time, the country had to open its doors and welcome a series of resources – from the very basic to the highly qualified.

Today, only 20% of the entire population (that actually recently reached 8 million) is composed of Emiratis (people born in the UAE). The other 80% are made up of expats that come from all parts of the world: India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, the Philippines, a series of Arab states and also from many developed countries in Europe and around the globe.

Living in the UAE is a great opportunity to learn not only about the Arab culture, but also about so many other nationalities you encounter and interact with on a daily basis. And if you are a communications professional, this is certainly a great place to put all your skills to the test.

Take me as an example. Before my decision to fly solo and act as an independent consultant, I had the opportunity to work for two very distinct, but equally challenging organizations.

At the national gas company, I was immersed in the Emirati culture, working for and with the locals, learning their own specific ways to do business, to make decisions, to relate to one another. Very different from my first work experience here, at a local airline, where my boss was from Finland, the group of managers in my direct network group came from places like India, Philippines, Scotland, England and Australia and my main role was to ensure an effective and efficient two-way communication between the organization and one of its largest populations, its cabin crew, made up of people from over 100 different nationalities.

Every single day is a great big adventure where I have to open my mind, to raise my cultural awareness, to dedicate time to some good old – and vey effective – active listening, to customize my tools and channels and to constantly assess my steps in order to ensure the key messages are getting across as they are supposed to, with no holes to be filled out by cultural values or experiences.

I guess it was no coincidence that, a few years back, I chose to write that thesis. Someone, somewhere, probably knew I was destined to come here…


Mariana Velasco

Class of ‘07

MA Organizational and Corporate Communications


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