I went out to Bahrain on a two-year secondment, but that was extended for a further nine months and eventually, in October 2007, I decided to stay permanently. My career development with KPMG has been fast, with almost continual annual promotion and this has continued in Bahrain, where I’m now a partner.
I have a real emotional attachment to this practice because I helped set it up. It’s my baby. There were only three of us when I joined in 2004 and now there are 22 people. We’ve grown revenue by 500 percent over the three years, with at least 60-70 percent growth forecast for this year. The market in Bahrain is good at the moment.
Work has been fast-paced from the word go, although at times things don’t move as fast as you’d like them to. About 40 percent of our business is financial services, with the rest comprising a broad range of mostly Bahrain-based companies in sectors such as hotels, food, and oil and gas. We also have several government ministries as clients.
I’ve found that you tend to learn more in smaller offices like the one in Bahrain — and because there’s only one partner, me, you have to work across the disciplines.
In Bahrain, relationships are at least as important, maybe more important than technical experience. It’s a feature of Arabian countries that if you know someone, it’s easier to do business, especially in the private sector. There’s a high percentage of cross-selling between service areas once you have established a good relationship with your client. Word does get around, which also means you can’t afford to make any mistakes.
Bahrain is a good working environment for women. Although it is a male-dominated society, women are treated with respect and there are plenty of opportunities for women to advance their careers. At my firm we are aiming to make the workforce 25 percent female.
Bahrain has a very family-oriented culture, which means it takes slightly more effort for a single woman to make new friends, especially with men. But Bahrain is modernizing and becoming more liberal and the quality of life here is very good; you can live in a very comfortable home, eat out every day, drive a fancy car. Life is good. There are more ups than downs, and nothing has yet happened that makes me want to move.