Destination Dubai

RSM’s alumni team and RSM Dean Steef van de Velde transferred to Dubai for a couple of days in September for an alumni career event organised jointly with the Local Chapter Dubai. Director of alumni and corporate relations Sue Martin and alumni relations manager Meta Haag-Mikec kept journals so that we could report on their adventures.

Story by Justine Whittern

Sue Martin: Dubai is the largest and most populous city in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) where around 80 per cent of inhabitants are internationals. The appeal of a tax-free salary and the potential for growing a career draws people to Dubai, which is a global city and business hub for the Middle East, and has one of the world’s fastest growing economies. Four RSM alumni run the Local Chapter for alumni working in the region. We helped them to organise an event to advise alumni about to navigate a career in the Middle East.

Jeroen Reyes Stolker (FT MBA 2000), who co-founded the RSM Club of Spain, took the idea of an alumni event with business content and networking opportunities to Dubai. Erwin van Helden (Executive MBA 2009) used his network to find speakers for the event, supported by Hari Pandiyat (FT MBA 2009). Eric de Clercq (Executive MBA 2006) took part in the panel Q&A session.

Job vacancies attract large numbers of applicants compared to other highly international locations so employers can be very selective, and networking is hugely important. We really liked Jeroen’s idea to use the event to strengthen the network there. Jeroen told us he has been contacted by some who have already accepted a job in the region and those still thinking of relocating – even an old classmate who came over for a couple of weeks for interviews and stayed at his family home.

Wednesday 26 September

Sue Martin: We meet the dean, Steef van de Velde, when we fly from Schiphol Airport, and arrive in the UAE just before midnight. It’s really hot, and a real change from the chilly autumn weather in Rotterdam!

Thursday 27 September

Meta Haag-Mikec: Steef has his own schedule of meetings at Dubai Business School at the University of Dubai and the Dubai Chamber of Commerce & Industry. Sue and I get to work on final preparations at the Address Montgomerie, a luxurious golf resort. We welcome our co-organisers from the Dubai Alumni Chapter: Jeroen, Erwin, Eric and Hari.

They are committed, international professionals whose careers brought them to UAE. As alumni relations manager, I correspond with so many alumni, and rarely get to meet them in person. This is an opportunity to find out what it’s like in their world so we can deliver the services our alumni need wherever they are.

Sue Martin: We’re joined at the event by almost 40 guests – mostly RSM alumni, but also a few of their friends and colleagues, as well as honoured guests from the Dutch Consulate General, and a number of alumni of Erasmus University Rotterdam. It shows me how committed the RSM network is, even 5,000km from Rotterdam.

Jeroen, as chapter leader, opens the event and welcomes Hans Sandee, Consul-General for the Netherlands in UAE. Specialist recruiter Claire Swann, MD at Trigon Associates Middle East, presents case studies of career moves. Hisham Darwish, regional HR leader, Middle East and Pakistan at IBM Middle East describes how immigrant workers affect regional development.

We hear that due to economic uncertainty a larger than usual number of professionals are considering employment opportunities in other regions or back home, and also that working with international diversity was an essential professional and social skill in Dubai that can be used elsewhere.

In general, UAE is good for alumni careers, but several alumni say long stays make it difficult for families to readjust on repatriation. Questions to the panel are about long-term career options, and how to prioritise your family. The alumni event closes with a small reception, and a lot more networking.

Friday 28 September

Meta Haag-Mikec: In the UAE, the working week is Sunday to Thursday, and expats have developed a tradition of going for Friday brunch. We invite alumni to join us as a thank you for their contribution. We discuss ideas for future alumni activities around the world. It’s interesting to hear how they juggle their international careers and families. It’s during brunch that I hear first-hand how much they appreciate the value of the alumni network! Afterwards, a few of us go for drinks nearby. We relax and enjoy the Dubai vibe.

Saturday 29 September

Sue Martin: We have a few hours on Saturday for sightseeing. Dubai is fascinating and huge, and we seek out places to avoid the 38°C heat. Later we have dinner on a terrace overlooking the famous Dubai fountains.

Sunday 30 September

Sue Martin: We arrive back in the Netherlands early on Sunday morning, tired but excited and enthused by the passion and dedication of the alumni we met, in particular Jeroen, Hari, Erwin and Eric whose tireless efforts made the events a real success. I wonder where we’ll be headed next!

More information

Find out how to get involved with RSM Alumni Local Chapters by contacting Meta Haag-Mikec via

This article was first published in the winter 2018 edition of RSM Outlook – RSM’s alumni and corporate relations magazine. You can download RSM Outlook here.

Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM) is one of Europe’s top 10 business schools. RSM provides ground-breaking research and education furthering excellence in all aspects of management and is based in the international port city of Rotterdam – a vital nexus of business, logistics and trade. RSM’s primary focus is on developing business leaders with international careers who can become a force for positive change by carrying their innovative mindset into a sustainable future. Our first-class range of bachelor, master, MBA, PhD and executive programmes encourage them to become critical, creative, caring and collaborative thinkers and doers. Study information and activities for future students, executives and alumni are also organised from the RSM office in Chengdu, China.

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