How does someone get their foot into the hospitality business in Dubai, and how is it to actually live and work in Dubai as a foreigner? I’ve asked these questions to our JetsetBabe contributor Ilona Pogulyayeva, who’s doing exactly that!
1. Tell us something about yourself…
I am 23 years old. I am working as a Finance Coordinator for pre-opening of EDITION Abu Dhabi, Marriott.
2. What’s your work background?
I always wanted to work in the hospitality industry. During university times in Dubai, I wanted to have different kinds of experiences, that’s why started working as a waitress for Arabic weddings. In 4 years while still studying, I became a manager of the banqueting operations when I was 21 years old.
I also tried myself in different areas of hospitality: I tried working in the nightclubs as a Head of Reservations and as a promoter. This gave me a different outlook on the industry outside of the typical hotel environment.
I also tried to continue to do modeling from London in Dubai, to get some pocket money, however, this industry here is built and perceived very differently than in other parts of the world, so I stopped.
3. What did you do before Dubai? And how come you ended up choosing Dubai of all the places?
Before coming to Dubai, I finished International Community School in London and got my IB Diploma. However, the story starts with summer courses in international boarding schools since I was 11 years old. First time I traveled abroad I was very young. I went to Switzerland for two months during the summer to study French. After that, I went to Scotland and France.
As of today, I am speaking 8 languages. I felt comfortable with the lifestyle and I guess these summer months prepared me to leave in order to study and live abroad. I was 15 years old. I went to study in 10th grade in Lausanne, Switzerland and that’s where I started my IB program.
Then, just for a change, my parents made a decision to finish the high school in London. I cannot say which country I liked more as both of them have a different lifestyle and approach to education.
When it was time to choose a hospitality school to go to, I used a very practical approach. As I saw my friends finishing Ecole Hoteliere de Lausanne (where I originally wanted to go to), they would be working in Europe later on.
However, personally, I found that there was no hype and they would end up searching for a job for months and then working in hotels in ski resorts. The atmosphere there as you can guess is not the same as in New York or London.
I chose to come to Dubai because the hotel school I went to was the part of the hospitality group – Jumeirah. Therefore I assumed it would be easier to find the job afterward and Dubai is a cosmopolitan growing city in this perspective.
I got my Bachelor of Business Administration in International Hospitality Management and started working in Finance. By that time, after 4 years in UAE, I already decided I want to do my MBA in the US. So, I wanted to have the working experience with the American hospitality company. Which one would be the biggest in the world? Of course – Marriott. It took me 6 months to land this job and finally, I got it.
4. Was it difficult to get this job?
Yes, it was. I did internships in the hotels and in a few banks. As my goal is to become a professional hotelier, I got the experience from both parts: operational and administrative. It is harder to find the job for a foreigner in this industry as most of the times I would be perceived as the overqualified employee, and no employer was willing to take me as it would result in a higher salary. So, I decided to broaden my outlook and look at Abu Dhabi, the capital of UAE. Finally, I got it.
5. How is it to live in Dubai?
I’ve been living in Dubai for 5 years. I didn’t see myself living here for a long time, as the goal of coming here was to receive the education and get work experience with the fast possibility to grow, before going to the USA.
I want to become a professional hotelier, in all aspects of it. In UAE one with the knowledge and ambitious goals can grow very fast. There is not that much of a competition as one might not find that many European women who take care of themselves, have a sense of style and keep working on their career goals at the same time as it is the case of big cities worldwide.
6. How is it to work in Dubai?
It is challenging. Yes, there is no income tax, however, forget about saving up a lot of money. The city was built to spend. Of course one can save if you want to, but it wouldn’t happen naturally. The malls, the lifestyle, the way you are spending your time would affect your opinions and budgets.
There is a huge expat community here. You are most likely to find almost every nationality here and the groups of people from the same country.
7. What recommendations can you give to someone who wants to move to Dubai and work or grow a career?
The recommendation would be to remember why you came for in Dubai. If you came for work, then never lose your focus on work. It is very easy to get distracted and waste your time on very useless things. Stay focused, do your career and don’t lose yourself.
There is a great possibility to built the career in UAE, however, it requires a very strong character and morals to stay focused.