Dubai Business Associate programme attracts global young talents

It runs under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum

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Joydeep Sengupta

Published: Wed 15 Jun 2022, 12:11 AM

Running under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, since 2014, the Dubai Business Associate programme, which is managed by Falcon and Company, hosted the seventh cohort’s graduation ceremony for 29 professionals from 11 countries.

Are you a graduate?

If so, and if you have three years of working experience — proficiency in both verbal and written English, with ideally one additional language, a keen interest in international and in business in Dubai, a curious, inquiring mind, then you may make the cut for the coveted Dubai Business Associate (DBA) programme.

To be sure, applicants are not required to hold a degree in business, as associates are recruited from diverse academic backgrounds.

The DBA is managed by Falcon and Associates, a company established in 2009, and has been running under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, since 2014.

The Ruler’s Decree in 2009 was the baby step to tell the coming-of-age story of Dubai to the world and the DBA programme offers outstanding and ambitious graduates an unrivalled opportunity to study and do business in Dubai, a dynamic and multicultural hub for global commerce, to develop as future global leaders.

The programme employs an experiential and project-based learning approach. Since inception, it has become a transformative experience for associates, who develop career-enhancing consulting skills and gain practical insight into the world of work.

James Maughan, a British national and the brains behind the programme, is a hands-on director cross-functional commercial experience in business development, sales, partnerships, project management and merger & acquisition (M&A)/integration.

Prior to his stint with Falcon and Association, he has had over 20-year experience in blue chips including GE & UBS with a proven track record of outreach and deep business-to-business (B2B) connections in Europe, the Middle East & China.

Maughan as the director of projects and initiatives, Falcon and Associates, is giving shape to the vision of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.

He encapsulated the programme’s motto. “We nurture talent, transform young professionals into tomorrow’s global leaders, create ambassadors of Dubai, who have the city in their DNA. We’re training Emirati talent and equipping them with the skills necessary to negotiate the changing world of work,” Maughan said.

Mai Shalaby, an Egyptian national and a development professional with Falcon and Associates, echoed Maughan.

“The logo of the DBA programme is an Arabic bridge between university and the world of work – typically the first job in one’s career. It’s also about countries, connecting cultures, reducing misconceptions about Dubai, and spreading the UAE’s universal message of tolerance,” she said.

“The programme, which is partnered by leading organisations such as PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), Bon Education and CAPADEV, adds value to Dubai companies. Over the past eight years, we’ve delivered almost 70 consulting projects to key players in Dubai’s economy and in the world economy at large. A number of these projects have been truly transformational not just for the graduates but for the companies and for Dubai,” Maughan said.

He cited the highpoints of the programme to drive home its significance as Dubai seeks to become a hub for the knowledge-based economy. “The journey of the graduates from the class to the world of work is enriching in its entirety. For instance, an Emirati graduate described it as roller-coaster and a progressive journey,” he said.

“Associates arrive on a high of adrenalin and finish with the excitement of a job well done, equipped for life with new skills and a lifelong network. They also leave with gratitude for Dubai that has helped fast-track their career and for His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, who made it possible,” said Shalaby.

Maughan said, “the consulting project phase represents the epitome of professional and personal development, through rigorous training and the delivery of real-life consulting assignments over a three-month period during the nine-month intensive course. The associates get to interact with experts from diverse industries, attend masterclasses, and get an opportunity to attend world class events.”

For the uninitiated, it would cost $70,000 annually for a three-year course in a top-notch university in the USA.

“The programme is a transformational experience with the nine-month journey representing a three-year career boost. It is unique in both its geographical base, which is the most vibrant city in the Middle East, as well as its pedagogy,” he added.

Shalaby cited the co-op education type of model that alternates between in-class and on-the-job training culminating with a real-life paid consulting project:

“You don’t know what you don’t know. Associates leave with a big picture following their interactions with Dubai’s leading organisations. The programme provides a boost of cultural intelligence, vital for career success — highly valued by employers — in a highly interconnected business world. If you can do business in Dubai, which is 90 per cent international, you can do business anywhere in the world and the associates benefit from a boost to their emotional intelligence,” she said.

To top it all, masterclasses with leading subject matter experts and access to a widely spread and diverse alumni network with more than 200 individuals from 21 nationalities in 41 cities.

Typically, recruitment opens in January every year.

Maughan reiterated the selection norms.

“The applications are open to anyone that meets the selection criteria and has under three-year of experience. The applicant must present an excellent, well thought out, and tailored application to be considered. We look for young talent that is driven and wants to have a positive impact in the world, and individuals that embody the values of the programme as well as those of Dubai of excellence, tolerance, and a futuristic eye with a ‘nothing is impossible’ type of attitude,” he added.

He also dispelled the misconception that the DBA isn’t a recruitment programme.

“We give our associates the opportunity to conduct paid consulting assignments managed by the programme throughout their journey. Our associates have worked closely with leading Dubai organisations such as Emirates Group (Emirates Airline and dnata), DET, DIFC, the International Humanitarian City (IHC), Dubai Future Foundation (DFF), Digital Dubai Authority, DP World, The Executive Council, Dubai Global Connect etc.,” he said.

Shalaby pointed to the international charm of the programme’s cohorts. “Our graduates are scattered all over the world. Some have stayed in the UAE working with leading private sector organisations and governmental departments, while others are in multinationals around all corners of the globe including McKinsey, BCG, Bain, Microsoft, Google, etc. Our recent careers event showed the eagerness of our associates and employers to fill in the talent gaps created by Dubai’s fast-growing economy. Besides, associates have proved their mettle, know the business landscape in depth and can hit the ground running in a new role, solving complex business situations,” she said.

The programme has been evolving through the years and adapting to the latest trends.

For example, it has introduced new academic modules on environmental, social, and governance. It offers media training for the graduates in light of the changing media landscape globally.

“Bespoke curriculum is designed by PwC with future preparedness in mind. Access to coaches and trainers throughout the nine-month journey. Cultural and team building excursions and exercises. World class facilities enabled by technology,” Maughan added.

On Tuesday, the programme hosted its seventh cohort’s graduation ceremony at the Jumeirah Emirates Towers Hotel. Altogether, 29 youth from 11 countries graduated — one short of the usual annual intake of 30.

The programme was attended by Maughan; Peter McLean, head of strategy & performances at dnata, part of the Emirates Group; Shady Qubaty, DBA programme associate; Karen Manasfi, progamme manager, Capadev; Rafaela Guimarães Barreiro, DBA programme associate; Gavin Aspden, director of PwC’s Academy in the Middle East; and Fares Saade, Executive Director, Capadev.


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