In HR with global experience
There was a time many moons ago, when all I could think of was how quickly and how far I could go; I wanted to be anywhere but here, leave what the greatest Mr Jacques Brel called the flat country that is his, and that is mine too.
And leave I did. Awarded a full year scholarship, I chose Cadiz to finish my B.A from ULB. Living on the beach, touring the “pueblos blancos”, the andalusian white villages, tasting their sherry, their sevillanas till early morning, their colourful carnaval, their warm sociable laid back culture and all the while writing my dissertation on a typewriter, using Tip-ex. I got the bug. I wanted to keep on discovering the world. How others were living their life.
I used the same trick. And so awarding me a double scholarship, Northeast Louisiana University welcomed me for a M.A in Monroe. 4 hours north of New Orleans. 2 years of complete culture change. In my young mind, I discovered a gun can be a constitutional right, used as an incentive and a free gift to open a bank account. And I was seduced by their music; country, jazz, soul and gospel at the church. The huge variety of fast foods, the many malls and homely decorated student dorms. The near worshipping of football and the players.
It was a world away from mine. Coming back home then was too soon. I wasn’t done with the world yet. It was Diana’s passing that made me discover Enchanting London. A spur of the moment, early morning flight to Heathrow. First time in England. I just had to be there and watch the procession, from the Pall Mall amidst a crowd of quiet mourners. I witnessed decorum at its greatest. I was hooked, in love with the people, the spirit and soul of this town. So I made it my home. Temporarily. Well for a decade.
And so I started my career in advertising. The strategic creative world suited me to the tee. Highly collaborative, knowledge sharing environment, high intensity leading to numerous late night and week-end work, the office pizza deliveries to keep us going through the night and the Friday liquid lunches as team bonding. But above all the awards, the ceremonies, the strategic plans, the elated clients and creatives, the business trips and the knowing we were contributing to global brands making hundreds of millions. But the bug to discover more was still there. I needed my fix.
Covering the MENA region for HP out of London was not doing it for me, anymore. I needed to see for myself what my colleagues in the UAE were describing to me. So I took a plane for a week holiday to see Dubai. Two months later, I was settled with a job, a flat, a car and a radiant smile on my face. And my adventure for the next decade amidst high heat, modern beaches, palm trees, cutting edge glass buildings and generous, peaceful and welcoming Arabs had started.
While I initially carried on the agency life with short stints in Doha and business travels across the Gulf, I decided during the recession of 2010 to open my own consultancy while Dubai saw a mass exodus of its expats, I stayed on and as a true entrepreneur I jumped both feet first and gave it my all. Marketing and later, soft skills training consultancy. It took off. 5 years of intense work, no holidays, no real week ends. The London years of disciplined hard work paid off. I was making a name for myself and for Tandem, my consultancy. Diversifying in clients’ industries and needs, from strategic planning, creative campaigns to recruitment and employees training. Though I had a team and a large network, it was lonely and hard. I was looking for business partners when buyers came along. A total buyout, 3 months hand-over and it was done. I was free. Sad. Lost. What now?
I went back and took another high-flying job in an ad agency, in Doha, but it was short lived. I decided to take a break from my career and study. An MBA in digital business and a Bachelor in HR management. The business of people always interested me and I wanted to study how the future of work and the future of people would be affected by the latest tech innovations. A short stint as a lecturer in change management and digital transformation proved I was at ease with career changes and new challenges.
But after the many decades and adventures in various parts of the world, I was longing for home. A few months reconnecting with Europe assured me Belgium was in my heart and the young student’s thirst to run around the world had definitely been quenched. From the beautiful and varied landscapes of Western Flanders to the Ardennes and Luxembourg; from dynamic Antwerp to peaceful Namur and quaint Brugge. And the many gorgeous villages dotting the Belgian country-side. Belgium is liberal, inclusive and forward looking as an innovation hotspot. As a Brussels native, I have a deep appreciation for the city’s many opportunities. The heart of Europe. It’s cosmopolitan, diverse and welcoming. Seemingly quiet and calm, Belgium offers so many options in dining, entertainment and culture. The endless career opportunities, from entrepreneurship to global corporations and of course all the European institutions. Rated as a high-income economy with high standards of living and quality of life, healthcare and education. Belgium also rates very high in the Human Development Index and is considered one of the safest and most peaceful countries in the world. Expats also consider Belgium as a top choice. Lucky and grateful, I am delighted to taste and enjoy my home country.
If you are interested in moving to Belgium and want to know more, have a look at this article on Expatica: