In this interview with Naukrigulf.com, Ibrahim Chatila, Regional Director – HR at Gandour, an FMCG company based in Jeddah with branches in UAE, Lebanon, Egypt and India, talks about company culture, employment trends and working in the UAE. Here’s what he had to share:
Please tell us a little about your academic and professional background.
Most of my studies was done in the United States. However, I graduated from Lebanon and then went on to do my MBA at Wollongong University in Dubai. Most recently, I did an executive education course at Harvard Business School which is related to driving performance through talent management.
What prompted you to choose a career in HR?
I volunteered back in the US when in college and university as a peer career advisor. I would sit down with all the new students who came to college and advise them on what course to take to achieve the career they aspire to once they graduate. I started from there with dealing with people from different cultures, and helping them reach their goals. In fact, it felt a little bit like Dubai as I dealt with people from diverse nationalities and cultures.
What does your typical work day look like?
When in Dubai, I am managing my team through phone or video conferencing in different locations, whether in Egypt, Lebanon, Saudi or in India. However, when travelling, I’m on the ground talking to people, understanding their needs, and building relationships with senior executives.
Do you have any predictions for trends in hiring and training in the Gulf region in the next few years?
2017 is going to be tough. Especially at the beginning for the first two to three quarters but in my opinion, towards the end of the year things will start improving. 2018 onward will be very good for the Gulf region.
What is your opinion on the prospect of taxes being implemented in the Gulf region?
There is still no clarity whether this will be implemented in UAE. As I understand it, they are doing it a little bit differently in Saudi Arabia. It is being done per visa, per expatriate. In my opinion, living anywhere else would mean paying taxes. We’re living in the Gulf where income is higher than anywhere else. If the government wants to take credit for what they are providing us with, then I don’t mind it in general.
How do you balance your work and family life?
That’s a tough one! Due to my extensive travelling it’s a bit difficult to balance. So when I’m abroad, there is no balance whatsoever. I work long hours, at times 14 hours a day or more. However, when in Dubai, I stick to working hours and devout all my time for my family after 5:30 p.m.
What is your favourite way to de-stress after a long day at work?
Being with my kids and having with fun with them!
What are the top three things you look for in a candidate when you are making a hiring decision?
The first thing I look at is their people skills. Their ability to speak and deal with people.Secondly, their managerial skills. Even if I’m not hiring for a managerial position, this skill is very important to me because I get an understanding of how this employee would act in the future. I look at the position I’m hiring for and then look at the following position. How will this career evolve within the company? Will this person be able to handle a team later on, will he be able to manage people. Thirdly, I look for ambition which is essential for me. Are they ambitious and motivated enough to work within the company.
What is the best part about working in your company?
It’s a great team. My peers are from different multinational companies, well-educated and have very good experience. Above all, what makes me happy in this company is that we all feel like one big family. It’s a family business that treats their employees with respect.
Do you live by any particular motto?
“C’est la vie si on pleure ou on rit”
In life whether we cry or we laugh it must be lived with all its difficulties and fun. We have to bear it and we have to stand up for it and face it.
What are the most important skills that you believe a job seeker must possess?
The skill depends on the job. But what I would say is that the interview is a very important factor to showcase anybody’s skills. So, candidates need to prepare well for it to make a good impression. Initially, they should always seek to elevate their skills, whether through further education or practical learning. But again I come back to people skills. To me, people skills is essential. They need to know how to interact, deal and respect other people. Without it they would be living in silos.
Any advice for HR Professionals?
From the HR perspective, packages need to be competitive to attract and maintain talent. In addition to this, it is important to keep employees happy and feel appreciated. They should be treated with respect.