ESADE Alumni Dubai Chapter
After being closely involved with ESADE Alumni during her Bachelor’s degree and living in several countries after graduation, Alba Rubio (Lic&Master 12) decided to move to Dubai two years ago. When she got there, she contacted the ESADE Alumni Chapter in the region. She is now its President and with a new team they are relaunching the Chapter with lots of activities for the more than 250 ESADE Alumni in the city. Alba tells us about her experience, how the Chapters add value and the advantages of being part of this international network.
-How and why did you get involved with the Dubai Chapter Board?
Surprisingly, the answer goes back to 2006 when I sat the ESADE entrance test to study for a BA in Business Administration purely for personal satisfaction: I only wanted to find out whether I had the skills to be admitted, as my family’s chances of paying for ESADE were virtually zero. That interview with Teresa Careta, Director of the University Studies Office at ESADE, changed my life: I was awarded a Talent Scholarship and that was my passport to university.
Right from day one I had two things clear in my mind:firstly, the tremendous opportunity I had ahead of me, and secondly that I was eager to give back to ESADE as an institution everything it had given to me.During my undergraduate studies, I became very actively involved with ESADE’s International Student Committee and was later elected President of Student Associations by the Presidents of Student Associations and class delegates.
All these “positions of coordination and responsibility” simply opened the doors for me to meet people with a lot of motivation and commitment to making things happen and today, a decade later, many of them are still my best friends.
Being on the ESADE Alumni Board in the United Arab Emirates is fun, it’s a way to keep meeting passionate people and it’s also my way of continuing to do my bit to strengthen ESADE’s brand for the benefit of past, present and future ESADE students.
When I lived in London, I attended Chapter events as an alumnus (Christmas dinners, talks about financial issues, etc.). When I moved to Dubai, I didn’t think twice about contacting ESADE Barcelona to get involved in the city’s Chapter.
-What does being president mean to you?
As President of the ESADE Alumni Chapter in Dubai I just coordinate both Board members and alumni in Dubai and also between the Chapter and ESADE Alumni in Barcelona. All the members of the Chapter chip in totally altruistically voluntarily for all our events and activities on top of their personal, family and professional responsibilities. So there needs to be someone in the background making sure that the events and the Chapter move forward.
-What are your medium-term goals for the Chapter?
First of all, we are very aware of the importance of achieving a critical mass and network effect and so we believe it is crucial to attract more alumni in Dubai to our events. This is why we’re rolling out a project to talk to people who are less involved and learn how we can get them more engaged with the Chapter (e.g. event dates, event types, industries, etc.).
Secondly, we’re building excellent relations with other alumni associations in Dubai and we’re already planning a content event and a networking event for several business schools (INSEAD, Harvard, CBS, LBS, etc.). Rather than just getting to know each other, it’s equally important for us to open up and for this network to give us access to professionals from other universities. In addition, this effort to build bridges also extends to other types of associations which can bring a lot of value to our alumni: for example, we have recently kicked off our relationship with the Spanish Business Council.
Finally, and most importantly, we strongly believe in ESADE’s opportunity to grow in the Middle East. One of the Chapter’s objectives is to continue working with ESADE Admissions in Barcelona to capture the full potential of the region, not only in the United Arab Emirates but also in all the Gulf countries which have very young populations (over 60% of people are under 30 years old), high purchasing power and governments/agendas strongly geared towards education.
-Which events would you highlight from those held so far?
I was appointed President of the Chapter in February and we began with a really engaged team, with fresh ideas, a lot of energy and a lot of willingness to invest time and effort.
In February, we held an event on cybersecurity to answer questions about how individuals, businesses and governments are exposed to cyberattacks and how we should approach preventing and responding to them.We had three of the largest cybersecurity experts in the country: Xavier Tormo, Client Success Director at DarkMatter, Rani Hmayssi,Regional Manager at Palo Alto Cybersecurity Solutions Division, and Jean-Paul Tarud, Chairman of Deca4 (ClearSky agents in the GCC) and former Chilean Ambassador to the UAE. It was really impressive to bring together people with so much expertise in the topic we were looking at.
Then recently, last June in fact, and leveraging the promotion of the Executive Program in Sports Management in Barcelona, we ran an event on “How Technology is Disrupting the Sports Industry”. We also had some very exciting speakers: Harold Maybe Nicholls, Academic Director on the Executive Master in Global Sports Management, former Chilean Football Federation President and former Development Officer at FIFA, where he planned 4 World Cups and 3 Olympic Games; Marcos Picalló, Barça Innovation Hub and Academic Director on the Executive Master in Global Sports Management;Maite Ventura Olóriz, International Business Development UAE, LaLiga; Alberto Gaudioso, Senior Brand Director at Reebok; and Klaus Kajetski, founder of YaLLa Esports. Over 50 people attended and the evening went on quite late with drinks and snacks; dozens of offline questions for the speakers; a lot of business card exchanging and a lot of networking/engagement by the audience.
And, of course, ESADE Alumni Experience Day.
-How is the Board organised?
A few months ago we set up roles so that everyone’s input would be transparent; this gives us flexibility and avoids misunderstandings and setbacks. We developed the role of Head of Communication (pre-, during and post-event), Head of Events (and venues) and Head of Finance, and suggested setting up a Support Officer both for candidates (Q&A coffee meetings, informal careers guidance) and alumni (support/information on the decision to move to Dubai, Dubai 101, information on salary negotiations, etc.).
Adnan Haque (Vice-President), Ona Serra (Head of Finance), Ana Guasch (Head of Communication), Vanessa Asenjo (Head of Events) and Said Sawaf (Admissions and Careers Adviser), Maria Casellas (Board member) and Macarena Traba (Board member) are an amazing team and incredible people.
-What is living and working in Dubai like? What does this overseas experience bring you?
I haven’t lived in Barcelona since 2012, when I finished my Master in ESADE with an exchange at Singapore Management University. I have spent most of the last few years in London and Madrid, with stints in Hong Kong and New York.
I have always read and heard that living abroad brings a lot of professional enrichment. I think that globalisation, the mobility to study anywhere in the world, the fact that Dubai is a very international city and working in companies that attract profiles with similar backgrounds mean that, for me, the greatest learning and/or added value from living in Dubai is more personal than professional.
Firstly, Dubai provides me with a lot of exposure to people from cultures which I hadn’t interacted with that much in Spain or Europe. My team is made up of Pakistanis, Indians and Iranians, I travel to Saudi Arabia and Egypt on business and my closest friends in my social life are a group of Turkish, Lebanese, Jordanian and Palestinian young women. I think what enriches me most about living in Dubai is getting to know other cultures.
Plus being away from home presents you with many personal challenges that build your personality and soft skills. And as long as I have learning still to do (and missing family goes okay), I’ll stay here.