The Life: The first nonfiction book advertised by Amazon.com was written by Pete Smith, a Briton based in Dubai. Here he reveals how his career inspired him to write the fund-raising bookProject Management: All You Need Is Love.
Work as a team and achieve the dream
The first nonfiction book advertised by Amazon.com was written by Pete Smith, a Briton based in Dubai. Mr Smith, a project manager and former director of Abu Dhabi's Tourism Development & Investment, spent nine years working for Save The Children in some of the most harrowing and dangerous conditions. Here he reveals how his career inspired him to write the fund-raising book Project Management: All You Need Is Love.
Why did you write the book?
I've had a career in three parts: the first in the City of London when I saw a job advertised for Save The Children and I thought it would be interesting to take a year out. I ended up staying nine years, based all round the world. My job was to sort out the financial systems that revolve around refugee camps. There are incredibly skilled people in the camps such as doctors, architects and IT personnel but most do not have the skills to sort out the money. A refugee camp can hold 100,000 people with money donated from all round the world in dollars, pounds, euros and other currencies so the finances can become extremely convoluted.
What is the book about?
It shows what life is like in a refugee camp; the refugees in the camps are the winners, the losers didn't get there. The people in there, mostly women, have taken a family unit and had to work out how to get there, sometimes travelling over 100 miles. They worked out how much food they were going to need for themselves and two kids, but often they have four kids so they decide which two they are going to take. They are usually in a dreadful mess when they arrive, but these are positive and capable people who have set a goal and achieved it in the most trying of circumstances.
What challenges did you face at Save The Children?
Imagine how difficult it is if someone from head office says "oh, can you please make sure there is a receipt?" If you are in Angola and literally the bullets are flying, nobody is going to write out a receipt but somehow you have to account for the spend.
How does your experience lend itself to the UAE?
One chapter covers the multicultural society here - when you are working with a company that is three quarters Indian but with Americans, South Africans and Brits all working together as a team. It's finding ways of keeping all in the loop with people talking to each other over the water cooler.
What other areas does the book touch on?
It also relates to massive projects in Abu Dhabi that had very different project management needs. You can do some pretty complicated things by taking a positive attitude and understanding the needs of all concerned.
Finally, why do you think Amazon used your book in their promotional advertisement?
I don't know. They run the ad every Tuesday. But a proportion of the proceeds is going to Save The Children so it's a win-win for everyone involved. I think it's a bit like when a new pop group got chosen to be on Top of the Pops, you just had to be in the right place at the right time with the right look and the right image. And I do look like I could be in One Direction.