Tell us about you, your experience and time in the Middle East.
Studies show that many people would rather die than speak in public! Imagine the fear, then, if you are speaking in a second, or even third language. This is where my lengthy journey to setting up as a business English coach begins.
Incredible as it sounds to my own ears, I have been living and working in the UAE for 30 years; I thought we were coming here for 3 years, but somehow we never left. It sounds laughable now, but at the time hardly anybody knew where Dubai was; a close friend thought Dubai was a place in Wales, UK, where we were living at the time. How things have changed over the years.
My husband’s job (he’s a teacher) brought us here all those years ago. We were newly married and ready for an adventure.
When we first arrived, I continued working as a Personal Assistant for senior leaders – at Dubai Ports Authority (now DP World), and McDermott in Jebel Ali, amongst others.
Then in 2010, I fulfilled a long-held dream and studied for a teaching qualification so that I could move into the business English world. This is what lights me up; this is ‘my thing’. I have since supported English in various sectors: Oil and Gas, hospitality, higher education, events, and banking – even the martial arts. I was lucky enough to be involved with the nationalization programs at Emirates Global Aluminum (EGA), and Dubai Petroleum Est, and I have taught a wide array of nationalities and abilities.
In terms of your working life, what changed for you during the pandemic?
During the pandemic, like most people, I had to move rapidly to the online world. I was horrified at first; I have always loved the dynamics of a real classroom, the banter and the energy that flows around the building. How could that possibly be replicated in a virtual classroom? But after the initial scramble to prepare materials for online delivery, not to mention a few technical hitches, I am surprised to say that virtual is now my platform of choice. My height-adjustable desk is key, as it means I can stand and deliver, so to speak, and with that comes the energy to teach more or less as I would in a physical classroom. If you haven’t got one, I highly recommend that you treat yourself…
One of the benefits of online delivery is that I have had students check in for their classes from all sorts of unusual locations rather than miss their lesson. For example:
– a drive-through covid test centre when testing was new; he filmed the whole process on his mobile phone so that the rest of the class could see what was ahead of them. He drove away with watery eyes, but declared that it ‘wasn’t bad’, so we were all reassured
– a recovery truck, whilst his car was being towed
– the virtual prize, however, surely goes to the student who checked in from an abattoir, thankfully with his camera off (I’m a vegetarian!).
Odd though these locations certainly are, they show a commendable level of dedication to their studies and a new way of learning… nothing surprises me any more!
What does the future hold for you?
This year, I decided to niche down and to offer online business English communication coaching – primarily to IT professionals, who are notoriously technically gifted, but unable to explain complex concepts to their audience in a way that everybody understands. My focus is on honing presentation and speaking skills. I am also working on short units such as maximizing LinkedIn profiles and creating elevator pitches, but I have yet to decide whether to deliver these in a webinar format or as part of a broader course. I have a zillion ideas, so the future looks wonderfully busy.