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Day in the life: Dubai transport consultant a mover and a shaker

ben Flanagan | the national | 11 june 2016

This article first appeared in The National

Charlotte Warburton is a consultant to the transport business – and her working week itself involves some pretty serious logistics. The Dubai resident’s role at PA Consulting Group involves her commuting regularly to Abu Dhabi to work in-house at an aviation company, as well as spending a day a week in Qatar advising on the multibillion-dollar metro project currently under construction. Here Ms Warburton, 34, who is from the UK and now lives in Jumeirah Heights in Dubai, describes how she juggles her working day.

I tend to get up any time between 5am to 5.30am. Currently I have a project in Abu Dhabi, and a driver picks myself and two colleagues up to save us all commuting every day. We’ll have an hour’s car meeting at 6.30am before we get into Abu Dhabi. It’s just an effective use of time.

We go straight to the client site. My job involves working with clients, mainly those in the aviation and rail sectors, on better business processes – be it how to manage the flow of passengers through an airport, or advising on how metro systems should be built and run. Today it’s an aviation client, and at the moment I spend at least four days a week there. I’ll probably grab a coffee and a boiled egg at about 7.30am, and then the day goes haywire.

We get the PA team together at 8am, and look at the focus of the day, what we achieved yesterday and any other challenges or issues that may have come up.

I’ll have a 9am meeting with the client and the other key partners. In general, clients are prepared to listen. But with change, communication and stakeholder engagement is key. We’re meant to challenge the status quo and really test what’s the best solution for them, and sometimes that can be uncomfortable. Our work can involve redesigning business processes – that ultimately means that people will have to change the way they work and do things differently.

Some days I have meetings from 9am until 6pm, and I literally run from one to another. When I have free time in my diary I try to block it out so I can achieve something. If you’re not that structured, you’ll have half an hour and somebody will pull you into a different discussion, or you’ll end up having a conversation that may be insightful, but doesn’t actually get other bits of the day job done.

I grab lunch on the run. It will be a light salad, some fruit and a chocolate bar.

We have a meeting with all the key stakeholders from the client, with us formally updating them on the status of the project – and calling out any key issues and risks, or “blockers", that we need them to be aware of, and help us with solving, so that we deliver the project successfully.

Currently we’re also running another project in Qatar. So I leave Abu Dhabi at around 5ish, head to the airport and jump on a plane to Qatar. I’ll probably cut it fine: I’ve always been that person who is at the airport 90 minutes before the flight. I go to Qatar once a week. Because I don’t have children I’m fairly free in terms of packing a bag and going. Being in the same office, nine-to-five every day, doing the same thing, is just not for me.

The flight leaves at 7.15pm and gets in at 7.30pm. If passport control is good, I will be out of the airport – because I only take a carry-on – and in a taxi by 8.30pm. If passport control is not as good, then it can be somewhat later. I’ll generally eat at the airport.

I stay in whichever hotel the team is in. If they’re all about I can have a catch-up with them. We’re currently working on one of the rail projects. I love it because you are at the forefront of doing something that probably won’t be done again for a very long time: Building metros from scratch where there’s absolutely no existing infrastructure. There’s so much construction going on, and it’s great to be in the middle of it. We have the opportunity to go round the site, go down the tunnels. I wouldn’t say [wearing a hard hat] is my daily attire, but I have worn them once or twice.

I’m on the client site for 7.30am the following morning. So I try to get to bed, if I can, before 10.30pm.

Contact PA in MENA

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