Marlon, please tell us a little about yourself and your background.
Originally from Manchester in the UK, I moved to the Middle East, specifically Dubai, in March 2014 to become the Power & Energy Sector Manager for Randstad MENA. I am an NLP master practitioner with 10 years’ experience working for multinational executive consultancies. I have been fortunate to travel to many worldwide locations and get exposure to clients’ assets and operations.I have experience across the full life cycle of Power & Energy, and during my career have been involved in training and developing young aspiring graduates in the methodology and best practise of executive search and how to provide a ROI for clients.
I have had exposure to the largest multinationals across every continent in the global energy sector and helped identify, attract and retain some of the best talent for the world leading oil and gas producing companies.
My experience extends to culture audits, salary benchmarking, project staffing and senior appointments across a variety of functions and sub verticals helping companies lower attrition and understand what the perception is externally and internally of their brand.
This wide reaching exposure has given me the ability to provide tailored solutions to each client’s requirement.
Although it has its challenges, I love living and working in the Middle East and can see myself staying for the foreseeable future.
What services does Randstad MENA offer?
Randstad Middle East Ltd has been in operation in the region for 30 years and is part of the Randstad group which celebrates its 55th birthday this year.
Randstad MENA are experts in finding exciting career opportunities for job seekers, and sourcing the best talent for our clients.
Our sole aim is to deliver an honest, efficient and pro-active recruitment solution to all parties concerned; adding demonstrable value to our clients’ teams, whilst simultaneously placing job seekers into positions where they thrive and perform to the best of their ability.
Randstad offers services in contingency recruitment, executive search, account management and entire project staffing.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to work in the oil and gas sector? Are there any particular qualities or qualifications that employers usually look for?
The oil and gas sector is so vast it would be difficult to list all of the different qualifications there are available. It all depends on the area of oil and gas you wish to pursue a career in. If you’re interested in subsurface, then degrees in geology, reservoir engineering, physics or petroleum engineering are generally preferred. For surface engineering, then chemical, mechanical or electrical engineering are the most common areas to have qualifications for discipline specific roles. It is imperative that you do your research before embarking on any qualification and making sure it is the desired qualification in the field you want to work. It also helps to attend a credible oil and gas university.
If you don’t have experience in the oil and gas industry, then you need to look at how you can differentiate yourself from the people who have experience. What qualities you can offer that others maybe can’t.
My advice would be to get your CV out into the public domain, ensure your LinkedIn profile is up to date and highlights your transferable skills. It’s helpful to connect with people in the industry, attend career fairs and make contact with agencies that specialise in the oil and gas market.
Another option is to go direct to hiring manager at the companies you’d like to work for. Ensure you submit a cover letter highlighting the role you are applying for, your strengths and why you would be a suitable candidate for the position.
Most of the opportunities offered by Randstad MENA are in the Middle East and North Africa. What would you say are the most common misconceptions expats have about moving to this region?
The most common misconception in my experience is regarding potential earnings. I’ve found that expats can sometimes have unrealistic expectations about what they should recieve from a salary package. Potential earnings can be slightly higher in the Middle East but possibly not as much as some expats realize. However this is off-set by the fact it is tax free. The cost of living is high but the quality of life makes it worth every penny.
Another misconception is that the work culture is laid back which is completely false. I’ve certainly found that people tend to work much longer and harder certainly in comparison to the UK. It’s a work hard, play hard culture.
People often believe that local women are suppressed in Middle East. The reality is that Middle Eastern women are highly respected and operate in very senior roles within leading institutions and organisations, and are helping shape industry and policy.
You often hear people saying that the Middle East is unsafe and to avoid visiting where possible. I can confidently say that my friends and family here feel far more safe than anywhere they have travelled before. For example, people allow their children to play out in the street unattended, you do not worry about the theft of your belongings like you would in a European city, and you do not catch yourself glancing over your shoulder if you’re walking along the street at night.
Another misconception is that you cannot, or it is difficult to, approach GCC Nationals. I have found the locals across the GCC to be very warm, friendly and welcoming. I have been invited and attended many homes and found the hospitality like nowhere else on the planet.
In your experience, which are the hardest transitions and why? Likewise, which are the easiest?
I found the hardest transitions to be related to the workplace. Recruitment in the Middle East is very different to that in the UK. There are many factors that can affect my work, for example, the vast majority of placements are dependent on obtaining a visa for the candidate which of course does not happen overnight.
Sometimes the senior technical appointments can be difficult to source a candidate for as the client will want an expat with x number of years’ experience as well as a university degree. Many expats will have 20 plus years’ experience and are more than qualified for the role based on this, but they do not have a degree. This is not the client being fussy, it is due to government legislation. An individual in a management role must have a degree to be able to obtain manager status on their visa.
On the flip side, it is exactly this that I enjoy about my role. I don’t work on easy assignments, the reason why clients request our services is because these vacancies are challenging to fill in the first place and they need search experts who understand their company, culture, products and services, and who can be an extension of their business in the market place.
Are there any challenges specific to expats who want to live and work in the Middle East and North Africa, and do you have any advice on how expats can address these challenges?
It’s important to be aware that you are not in Europe, North America (or wherever it is you’re from) anymore and to be respectful of the traditions and culture. Dubai is very liberal compared to some areas of the Middle East but it’s still a Muslim country and it’s very sad when you see some people forgetting this.
It’s very important to remember that business is different here. I’ve found that communication skills really are key. It’s important to know your audience and adapt to their style/methods – if you push people too hard, they will push back.
Finally, what do you do in your spare time?
I enjoy playing football and recently played for the Randstad football team – we may not have won the league but it was great for a bit of team bonding! I’m very much into health and fitness, particularly boxing and circuit training. I also love to travel. I recently got back from Thailand where I spent some time island hopping and have plans to visit Sri Lanka in August.
Randstad Mena is a specialist recruitment agency with offices in 46 countries. Every year, they help around 2.5 million people find work in industries such as oil, rail, and construction.