x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Work experience at UAE's Rolling Stone gives satisfaction

The Life: Interns often get stuck filing and photocopying, but a couple of Dubai-based companies require much more than that.

Pilar Rashad, a student at the Canadian University of Dubai, won an internship with Rolling Stone Middle East last year. Jaime Puebla / The National
Pilar Rashad, a student at the Canadian University of Dubai, won an internship with Rolling Stone Middle East last year. Jaime Puebla / The National

Internships often involve humdrum tasks such as filing paperwork and making tea.

But for a few lucky students, the work placement will be a little more rock 'n' roll.

Some companies in the UAE are on the lookout for interns, and routine photocopying is not part of the job description.

Three of the internships are at the Middle Eastern edition of the 44-year-old US magazine Rolling Stone, which last month launched its second annual UAE competition for two-month job placements.

Free concerts and CDs, rather than office duties, await the winners of the "I Want To Work for Rolling Stone" competition.

Waref Hawasli, the chief executive of HGW Media, which publishes Rolling Stone Middle East, said the internships are not about securing a bit of free labour.

"This is not an initiative just to get three new bodies in the office and make them file stuff," he said.

Three internships - in journalism, photography and marketing - are up for grabs in the competition, which is open to students studying related subjects in the UAE. The deadline for applications is Sunday.

"[Interns] get to go to a concert and review a gig; they get to listen to music albums and review them. We get them involved," said Mr Hawasli.

Brands such as BlackBerry, Virgin Megastore and Mini sponsor the competition - so it could be a money-spinner for the magazine. But while the interns will not be financially rewarded, the experience will be invaluable, Mr Hawasli said.

"It's great for their CVs when they put a brand like Rolling Stone on it," he said. "The three finalists get to live and breathe what it's like to work for Rolling Stone. And that alone is a priceless opportunity for them."

Pilar Rashad, 20, a marketing student at the Canadian University of Dubai, was one of the winners of the competition last year.

Ms Rashad, who is due to graduate this year, worked in the magazine's marketing department helping to develop sponsorship opportunities and thinking up snappy brand campaigns for the magazine, whose regional edition was launched in late 2010.

"Rolling Stone has been around for years and years, but it was the challenge of having an old brand name, and applying it to a new market," she said.

While the two-month internship was unpaid, Ms Rashad said it helped her in her studies.

"It really didn't feel like it was unpaid," she said. "I really got to understand the industry and how the media and marketing scene is here."

Rolling Stone's rock 'n' roll credentials were also part of the appeal, she added. "It's something that resonates with me … Even though it's 44 years old, it's seen as a young brand."

The online fashion store Namshi.com, which launched in December, is also seeking interns from local universities. Namshi said its interns are given "substantial roles" in the business.

"I have an intern who's ensuring that orders are accurately being sent out to customers, which has a big impact on the business," said Muhammed Mekki, one of Namshi's founders.

Unlike Rolling Stone, Namshi pays its interns a few thousand dirhams a month to cover their expenses.

Louis Lebbos, another of Namshi's founders, said there was tough competition for the internships, which sometimes develop into full-time employment.

"For every intern that has joined, we have interviewed between five and 10 people," said Mr Lebbos. "We are quite selective of the interns that come in … We're not paying people to be paper-shufflers."

bflanagan@thenational.ae