Dubai 2012: Eye-opener

(This is the sixth post in a series detailing my work trip to Dubai, United Arab Emirates.)

Aside from the excitement and how surreal it is that I am actually in Dubai, if there is one other word that describes how I feel about being over here it is simple. Humble.

Today was what we refer to as “kickoff day,” where the trainers get to meet the entire staff of employees we will be training. As my fellow trainer Shane (Tampa, Fla.) alluded to earlier today, we now consider these people to be our “students,” as we are “teaching” them the ins and outs of Bennigan’s and what Irish hospitality is all about.

This is the fourth opportunity I have had to be part of a corporate training team, and this by far as been THE BEST kickoff day yet. The reason why was right in front of me all day; the “students.”

Let me first give you a little background on the situation of these students. As with the majority of the labor force here in Dubai, they are residents of different countries who are contracted to work in Dubai. They sign contracts for a specific period of time, and through the contract they are provided with housing (which was built by the owners of the business specifically for their employees), they are fed three times a day and they have a shuttle service to and from work in addition to their pay.

Now, the specific students we have are mostly from the Philippines. There are also people from India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Kyrgyzstan and Morocco. They were brought over to Dubai with the promise of a job, housing, food, and pay. To them, we are in a way kings, simply because we have come from different countries across the world to train them, much like how they came from different parts of the world to work here.

To them, however, this is their LIFE. They left, quite possibly, an entire family back in their home countries in order to make some money to send home. Although the money they will make comparatively to the wealth in Dubai may be minimal, the money they will make here is big money to them back home. So, they are here to make a living for themselves and provide better lives not only for themselves, but their families back home.

The students treat us like we are celebrities, always taking our pictures, asking to take pictures with them, and recording almost everything we do. It makes us feel more important than we really are. Again… humbling.

This mindset leaves me to be humble, first and foremost. Humble because I am interacting with a large number of people from some of the most poverty-stricken areas in the world, who have been able to emigrate to a new country to better their lives. Yes, I may have it easy compared to them, but seeing how hard they work and how excited they are to work sure is an eye-opening experience. The range of the emotions I felt with the high level of energy and attentiveness this group showed throughout training today is indescribable. And this is exactly why I feel this has been the best kickoff day I will probably ever have. I’m not the only one who feels this way either. Some of the other trainers with whom I have had the pleasure to work with in the past also agree; we couldn’t have a better group of students.

In the past, it may have seemed that some of the “employees” were just going through the motions of training, but this group, these students here in Dubai, is excited and eager to take in any and all information we can share with them. They’re very intelligent people also.

More so than my previous openings, Dubai has made me finally realize how fortunate I am, not only for the things I have in my life, but for the opportunities given to me. For starters; the ability to travel the country (and now world). The last thing I ever envisioned would be given to me is the opportunity to work with some of the best trainers the world has to offer within Bennigan’s.

Most of that, however, is due in part to those who trained me at my store and my mangers for seeing the potential in me and being the catalyst for this opportunity. It’s always a good feeling knowing my hard work has not gone without notice; not only back home but on a corporate training level as well. Clearly I’m doing something right and Corporate sees something in me if I have been asked to continue to do store openings. And for that, I take nothing for granted.

Because of all this, I am quickly learning (even more than in the past) how grateful I really am. This opportunity in Dubai is something I am going to remember for the rest of my life; not just because of the fact I’m halfway across the globe in the wealthiest area in the world for a once-in-a-lifetime experience, but I am meeting people who are able to keep me grounded when I realize how different our two worlds are.

Again, I take nothing for granted.

Until next time …

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