A Since qualifying as a chemical engineer in 1986, Andy Gibbins, 50, has worked most of his career at major international companies. However, in 2006, after shutting down three petrochemical production sites, the Briton took the plunge and moved into consultancy. He is now the vice president for the Middle East and North Africa region at Euro Petroleum Consultants in Dubai. He lives in Dubai’s Jumeirah Beach Residence with his Kenyan wife Ann and two stepdaughters, Cinta, 17, and Faith, 11.
I wake early, shower, shave, dress and get ready for work. My quick breakfast is usually toast, Marmite and fruit juice. My wife, Ann, is usually busy chasing our daughters Cinta and Faith, who both struggle to get ready for school.
On a school day and if I’m in Dubai I have the pleasure of the school run to Emirates International School in The Meadows. We chat in French on most days as Cinta and Faith only came to Dubai from Kenya in June and French is completely new to them, but they’re learning fast and doing well. We say au revoir and they go and join their friends and I head to my office in JLT [Jumeirah Lakes Towers], where I’ll be first in due to my early start.
Everyone is in the office by this time. There are five of us, but I’m the only guy. Working with Joyce, Tamimah, Kara and Svetlana is great fun and we’re all good friends as well as colleagues. The pressure is on right now, as we have a major conference coming up and we need to make sure everything is ready, as well as ensure we get the maximum possible numbers of visitors.
As well as the conference, I’m working as a consultant on a major project to move a petrochemical plant from Austria to Azerbaijan. This means dismantling it in Vienna, shipping it and rebuilding, just like a big jigsaw. It sounds complicated and, trust me, it really is. Our main contractor is in Milan, so this is the time that my European colleagues start to appear online and things really start to get busy. Also, working on a job like this means I spend half my life travelling – when my friends want to meet up, the first question is usually “where are you today”?
Lunch is normally something in the office. JLT has so many food outlets that deliver, so we have a lot to choose from. As I’m still sticking to my New Year’s healthy eating resolution, today I’m ordering noodles from Wokyo. Very tasty.
It’s time for a Skype call with my colleague Andrea in Milan. He always says “this won’t take long” and we inevitably end up talking for an hour or so, but on a project with so many interfaces and so many parties involved, good communication is essential.
I’m travelling to Kuala Lumpur on Saturday to deliver a training course, so it’s time for final preparations and to book my ticket. The prospect of leaving Dubai at 4am on Saturday isn’t the best but it gives me a decent arrival time and some time to see the city. In any case, I travel such a lot, so being able to sleep on the plane isn’t an issue for me.
This is generally the time when I check on the numbers and current issues related to the conference with Tamimah and Svetlana. Have we reached our targets? What do we need to plan for tomorrow? We are happy when we’ve received a lot of bookings during the day but with a lot of competing events, we really have to be excellent in our marketing efforts. When the conferences are getting closer, they both dream about it: sometimes good and sometimes nightmares. It’s a bit like those dreams people have about sitting their exams and not having done revision.
Time for dinner. We cook different things, sometimes Kenyan, sometimes European. Ann still loves the Kenyan staples of ugali and sukuma wiki. If I cook, then it’s something more European as a rule, although I like to make curry if I have the time.
This is when I generally go out to stretch my legs. I usually like to stroll down The Walk at JBR, although it is a bit of a construction site at the moment. One of the pleasures of living in Dubai is being able to walk outside in January without being freezing cold, unlike back home in the UK. After the walk, it’s time for a bit of TV before retiring to bed.
Normally bedtime is early during the week. I like my eight hours’ sleep and with getting up at six, this is normally the time I nod off. Hopefully it’s not my turn to dream about conferences.