Since then I’ve taken on responsibility for other accounts including a major chemical, petrochemical and steel company in Saudi Arabia.
Being in the Kingdom and part of a fast growing practice has given me enormous insight into a rapidly growing economy and developing a firm that is doubling in size every year. For instance, I have seen more of the practice management and operational aspects of a firm than I would have if I stayed in London.
Particularly, I received insight into growing a business rapidly and maintaining quality. In 15 months our KPMG Al Khobar office went from 15 people to 50. We have state of the art offices with facilities such as video-conferencing, TV and relaxation rooms.
The pace of infrastructure development is surprisingly fast in Saudi Arabia. One minute decision making feels slow, then the next there is an announcement that a new city will be built with a $30bn budget. There will also be around 20 mega-projects. The next day it seems that the machinery turns up and the construction is underway.
There are a number of myths and perceptions about the Middle East and Saudi Arabia in particular. Being based here has given me greater insight and allowed me to communicate about some of those. My wife is Turkish so I had an insight to Islamic culture already. However until you are on the ground in the heart of the Islamic world you don’t appreciate the impact that prayer times and Ramadan has on commercial life so you have to adjust.
However different it is from London, the quality of life here is amazing, especially for a family. I have a young boy who loves the school he is in, and he can swim outside most of the year, ride his bike outdoors in safety and visit his friends on the compound.
You should allow time and use all resources available to find accommodation that you and your family will settle into. Housing might not be as affordable as you would imagine, rents are increasing and compounds are filling up fast.
Take the time to understand the community you are in. Wander the city and souks when the weather is cooler. You will get a warm welcome in almost every situation. Overall Saudi Arabia offers a very high and cost effective standard of living.
I have seen nearly 50 countries, but if you asked me where I would want to be right now it is here in the Middle East. I have delivered projects for the world’s largest oil company but I’ve also been working on projects encouraging Women in Business and meeting visiting trade delegations. But the most rewarding part has been meeting and exchanging ideas with local Saudi people.
You should definitely consider a role in the Kingdom. The career opportunities at the right firm are impressive and you could be involved in some of the biggest projects happening anywhere in the world right now.