Turn and face the strange

I’m currently sitting cross-legged in the most beautiful and quirky coffee shop, listening to the hum of the machines and the chatter of the people around me sipping a decaf soya flat white (‘cause I’m that rock n roll these days), simply people-watching.

You could be forgiven for thinking that I’m in Foodstory and you know what, this place certainly has that vibe. But no, it’s the 5th December and I’m in a sundress and sandals and my workplace of choice today is Spill the Bean. Never heard of it? It’s in the Sustainable City in Dubai.

There, I said it…I’m in Dubai.

Many of you will already know this if you’ve spoken to Andrew, but it also it appears the jungle drums in the Granite City started the second our previous home went up on ASPC. So in summary, we relocated to Dubai in September and we run Vero from here. Nothing has changed – we still focus almost exclusively on Aberdeen, but we’re just physically sitting somewhere else.

So why the change?

Honestly, we needed it. Change can take many forms and for us we knew something had been missing since around the turn of 2021. Was it the COVID effect? Was it the weather? (very likely!) These were all questions we asked ourselves over and over. But the truth is, this was always on the cards…

When Andrew and I first met in 2007 we had joined the same business within weeks of each other, and Andrew joined with a primary aim – to move to the Middle East with that company. Having lived in Dubai for the first five years of his life he always wanted to come back.

Then he met me; a ginger-gene’d home-bird who loves the rain and open fires. We did toy with the idea of moving to Australia in 2008 when the global financial crash hit but fear ultimately held us back. What followed was 10 years on a treadmill of work, sleep, repeat. Life was good, great actually, but having our son William forced us to take a long hard look at ourselves and to ask some deeper questions. Were we truly happy here? The answer was yes; Aberdeen had been good to us, but we simply couldn’t see ourselves living in one place forever. We needed change. Creating Vero gave us the opportunity to realise our dream of running a business from anywhere. The intention had always been to spend long periods abroad to enjoy a more balanced life with William. Then COVID happened, the world jumped onto Teams, and the opportunity for us to live anywhere became a possibility almost overnight.

And the itch got stronger, and stronger. So we did it, and here we are.

We could be in Maryculter, Glasgow, Dubai or Timbuktu, and you simply wouldn’t know. That’s the beauty of working remotely.

Aligning head and heart

Why have I rambled on about all this?

Because sometimes change isn’t just nice, it’s necessary.

When Andrew floated the idea of going to Dubai on holiday in March this year (2022) my first reaction was “hell no, I’d hate Dubai”. I don’t like shopping, it’s too “bling” and I’d melt in that heat. But I was desperate for some sun on my bones so I caved in.

And I’m so glad I did.

48 hours after arriving in Dubai and after a long lunch with friends, I returned to our hotel and started contacting estate agents in Aberdeen to get our house on the market. By the time we got back on the plane I had virtual tours booked with schools, a Teams call with a relocation company, and three agents booked in to view the house the following week. The months that followed are now a complete blur. What I do know is that I sanded, grouted, filled, and painted the house until it looked like new. I spent my days juggling the move with caring for William, whilst logging back into my laptop in the evenings to keep the plates spinning with Vero.

10 weeks into our new lives and Dubai is already feeling like home. It just feels right. There are many sides to Dubai, and we are finding that like everywhere, if you can find your tribe then you can thrive.

Was it scary? Hell yes. Moving to Aberdeen from Peterhead was scary so this was utterly terrifying. But change is hard. Change by its very definition kicks you out of your comfort zone and challenges you. In all honesty, I didn’t give myself all that much time to think about it; when it comes to big decisions I usually just listen to my head and my heart and if they’re both aligned I just go for it.

Time may change me, but I can't trace time...

Since March 2020 many of us have been questioning our life’s direction, the people we keep close, and ultimately the decisions we make. And it’s happening – with friends, family, and colleagues. LinkedIn seems to be awash with people making big changes every day. Relationships are changing, careers are shifting, and people are being more mindful of what they want and need.

From a Vero perspective we’ve seen a huge shift.

For some who are starting out on their career journey, take for example recently qualified accountants, the conversations we’re having today are poles apart from the conversations we were having three to five years ago. Flexibility, balance, ethics and inclusivity are all high on the agenda. Yes, the majority are still striving for progression and salary uplifts, and they’re very driven to achieve those. However, it’s how these are achieved that’s changed.

There’s also been a resurgence from those who were considering retirement. Retaining these people in the workforce is of huge benefit to employers and society in general, but unfortunately we’re yet to see much of a take-up in our line of work. This has been widely publicised recently and the benefits are clear (from Halfords to EasyJet), but some companies are still seemingly resistant to hiring experience over someone “up and coming”.

The net result is a skewed employment market where there are widespread skills shortages, yet paradoxically a wealth of talent keen to move but unfortunately overlooked for, dare we say, more mouldable applicants.

The number of working parents, predominantly mums, who are still being forced out of the workplace is shocking. Despite proving that they can work effectively and often with higher productivity from home, we’re speaking to people weekly who are now being forced to choose between returning to the workplace in a more traditional way (office based) and having a career break to raise their family. Surely in 2022 we can be more progressive and inclusive to make use of this wealth of experience that unfortunately is lost to the labour market on a daily basis.

Recruitment has never been harder. Across all disciplines and levels, employers are finding it increasingly hard to attract and to retain. The primary cause is a complete mismatch from what candidates are looking for and what most companies are offering. Job descriptions that perhaps don’t excite (or are, in some cases, draconian), working policies that haven’t changed from the 1990’s, and/or salaries that have fallen behind. Companies solely driven by profit and who lack inspirational leadership, direction and purpose are struggling the most.

And I get it, I’ve been an employer, I know how frustrating it is! I know how it feels to sit in a meeting tearing your hair out because you feel that people should just be lucky that they have a job, or that none of this used to matter. However, I can’t stress enough how much the world has changed and if employers don’t change fast, they will fail.

So what's next for you then?

How do you feel about your current situation, (professionally, or personally) and what would you like to change if you had the courage? If fear wasn’t holding you back, what would you do?

Take it from me, I know it isn’t easy…but it’s worth it. Growth, development, and ultimately satisfaction, always comes from taking the less trodden path.