x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Diving in with Dad after a dip with the dolphins

The Life: Alisha Haque studied marine biology at university and her first job was training dolphins at the Atlantis in Dubai. In November, she join her father in setting up Scafa.

Alisha Haque was brought up in the UAE. She studied marine biology at the University of Bristol in England. On her return to the UAE, she found a job training dolphins at the Atlantis hotel. But when her father set up the School of Culinary and Finishing Arts (Scafa), she decided to join him in the business. She talks about her career change and working with Dad.


What did you do at the Atlantis?

We did husbandry and we trained the dolphins at the dolphinarium. And it was [linked to] the hotel so we did a lot of hotel management, dealing with guests and sales as well.


Working with dolphins sounds like fun. Why did you leave the Atlantis?

It wasn't a profession I could stay in for more than two to three years. I was thinking where am I going to go next. When Dad was starting out [with Scafa], he had ideas that he kept telling me about and we kept saying it would be a nice idea to work together. Our whole family loves food, we watch the food network on the weekends. He had finished the first stage of getting Scafa [set up] and we were about to start the building process and he said: 'Why don't you start from scratch?' because if I was going to join in the middle I wouldn't learn anything. My background is animal psychology so if I wanted to learn business I would need to learn from the ground up.


So you took the jump into the world of business?

I joined in November and I learnt all the difficulties you face with starting up a new company, especially in a free zone. I get on-the-job training every day from either my colleagues or from Dad. I'm learning everything on the job itself.


What do you do on a daily basis?

I do a little bit of everything, I don't have a certain job role. I am involved a lot with student registrations, so dealing with students' inquiries or helping to set up students we have enrolled in the school. I'm involved a lot with the programmes themselves making sure all of their material is legible, is produced. I am also involved a little bit in social media, getting up our Facebook page, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest - trying to spread Scafa a little bit more than by word of mouth. And then a lot of back-of-house service things: supplies and making sure all our employees are looked after and making sure everything is working smoothly.


And how is working with your Dad?

It's fun. Initially at work I said: 'You can call me Alisha and I'll call you Mr Zaigham but he's like, 'No, that's not a possibility.' A reason I stopped working at Dolphin Bay was [I had] stopped learning almost in a way. Once you train, you can't really learn something new because it's the same every day. This job, we're having so much fun working together. Because it's new for both of us we are constantly learning about each other every day and we are constantly learning something new about the job and we're constantly learning something new about food.