How working in Dubai provides innogy consultants with unique opportunities

31 July 2018 Authored by Consultancy.eu

As renewable energy consultancy innogy Consulting continues to expand on a global basis, many of its consultants are being exposed to exciting new challenges and cultures in their work. Consultancy.eu spoke to three consultants at the international firm about their experiences while working on engagements in Dubai.

innogy is one of Germany’s largest energy companies, with activies in renewable energy production, energy retail, and grid services. The company currently serves 23 million customers across Europe and generates revenues of €44 billion.

The firm’s consultancy arm – innogy Consulting – supports much of the strategic and digital transformation work that takes place within innogy, as well as works for external clients in the energy and utilities sectors. innogy Consulting has offices in Germany, Netherlands, UK, Czech Republic, US, and United Arab Emirates (UAE), and the firm’s latter office, based in Dubai, recently saw its ranks bolstered by three consultants from the Dutch office – Consultancy.eu sat with them to discuss the learning curve working in the UAE has seen them face.

Merlijn Esser is a Project Lead for innogy Consulting, and joined the consulting firm in Den Bosch three years ago. Prior to arriving at the firm, Esser spent four years as a consultant for Big Four firm PwC. Since arriving at innogy Consulting, he has worked on different projects with topics such as strategy, M&A, business process optimisation and IT delivery. His latest project is a feasibility study on using compressed natural gas (CNG) as an automotive fuel in Dubai. According to Esser, like all metropolitan cities, Dubai is facing the challenge to make transportation as easy and convenient as possible but at the same time minimise the negative effect on air quality.

He elaborated, “CNG can play a role here because it’s a clean alternative to diesel and gasoline and can be ramped-up relatively quickly. The study covers a wide range of topics, such as assessing environmental impact of different fuel types, supply and demand analysis and financial projections. Our team divides its time between analysis, converting the results into a story that can be easily understood by our stakeholders and interviewing and presenting to different people. Important stakeholders for us are the local gas company, the state oil company, various government departments and current and potential customers.”

How working in Dubai provides innogy consultants with unique opportunities

Lars Beke, a Senior Consultant, arrived at innogy Consulting two years ago, and similarly commands external consulting industry experience prior to his latest in-house role. Before joining the firm, he worked at Capgemini Consulting, following his attainment of a Master’s Degree in Sustainable Energy Technology from the Eindhoven University of Technology.

Beke’s latest engagement sees him working in a consortium with global engineering and consultancy Stantec to support the UAE Ministry of Energy & Industry to develop a Demand Side Management Strategy to 2050, to reduce energy and water consumption by 40%. He explained, “Our focus as energy consultants is to look at energy consumption in the built environment, transportation and energy intensive industries. We design the programmes and implementation mechanisms for the ministry and emirate level entities to implement. My role is to develop demand forecasts per sector, identify savings potentials, and design the programmes.”

Finally, Jon Gadellaa is a Consultant with innogy Consulting. He started just under a year ago, before which he studied in the Netherlands, Italy, Poland and Hong Kong, eventually completing a Master’s in International Management/CEMS at the Rotterdam School of Management. Alongside his studies, Gadellaa spent the past few years exploring different industries working at various start-up companies, a high-tech R&D firm, and at Google. During his spell at innogy Consulting he has largely been working on projects in the Netherlands and Germany, but is now substantially further afield.

Gadellaa in fact is working on the same project as Beke, though his role differs. He said, “In terms of responsibilities, I am mainly focused on research into international best practices, calculating energy savings, and creating the cost benefit analysis for the different programmes.” 

Highlights

When asked which aspects of their time in Dubai have left the consultants with the best memories, each agreed that the projects they have taken on have exposed them to new challenges, something key to building a diverse and well-rounded tool-box, and new rewards too. These range from interacting with different layers of company personnel to the UAE Government itself, building new networks, and cultural experiences. 

Esser said that his time in Dubai has presented him with the opportunity to present project results to senior stakeholders in both government and business. He went on, “This means giving our opinion on a potential role of CNG in Dubai and a way forward both in terms of a financial commitment and support mechanisms to promote CNG. Having the opportunity to discuss the energy future of Dubai with key decision makers was definitely the professional highlight of my time in Dubai.” 

"Working at innogy Consulting has put me in contact with amazing people from various backgrounds, enriching my experience & learning curve.” 

Beke supported this, stating that while in general working for innogy Consulting has given him an opportunity to experience a broad view on many different aspects in the energy sector at play, the company’s strong international presence has allowed him to see how the general trends in the energy transition, such as decarbonisation, decentralisation and digitisation, are impacting actors in different ways. He added; “I've done projects at a coal fired power plant, projects in retail and now for the UAE government – all having different perspectives on the energy transition and different challenges. Simultaneously, it has put me in contact with amazing people from various backgrounds, enriching my experience & learning curve.”

Despite having been with innogy for a relatively short time, Gadellaa agreed that the unique exposure to international energy trends the role had provided him was a major bonus. “In Dubai, besides the great project experience, I have very much enjoyed the international environment and the supportive working culture. Everybody is focused not only on their own development, but also on the development of others,” he elaborated.

“God willing”

The trio were also keen to mark out the differences between European consulting and the working culture of the Middle East. While this was not necessarily a major difficulty, it was important for the consultants to respect the manner in which business is done locally in order to foster strong relations between the firm and local future clients.

According to Esser, the working culture in the Middle East is “definitely more formal.” He explained that in Europe, there is a more informal attitude in work which has developed over recent years, but in the Middle East wearing a suit and tie to a client meeting, exchanging business cards and more formal emails are still the standard. On top of this, almost every project is very international and multicultural. Esser expanded; “Key positions are often held by local people and they are supported by expats from different countries. Add to that a consulting team with different nationalities and you quickly get a very international work environment including all the cultural benefits and challenges.”

Agreeing that working in Dubai is definitely very different from working in Europe, Beke added that as the country is a relatively young one, the working style is more formalised and is still in development. He explained that the cultural benefits of work in Dubai are boosted further by the nation’s expat presence. Beke said, “As there are many expats living in the emirate, we work with a lot of different nationalities from all over the world. This creates a nice dynamic. This is also reflected in our team at the Dubai office, with many different nationalities.”

Besides the work, Beke adds that Dubai is an enjoyable place to live, “with nice weather, great beaches and a lot of amazing places to eat and drink. Every weekend feels like a mini holiday.”

Gadellaa noted that the culture in the Middle Eastern nation is a lot less structured than in its work, albeit more officially formal in its manners. “In comparison to the European (and especially German) structured way of working, project work in the Middle East is more dynamic,” he explained. “This is portrayed by one of the most commonly used words: ’Inshallah’, which means ‘God willing’ or ‘if God wills’. Besides that, there is much more focus on hierarchy in the UAE. In Europe junior people are incentivised to speak up, while in Dubai it is better to be somewhat reserved if you are not the senior sitting at the table.”

Related: innogy Consulting: in-house consultancy firm supporting the energy transition.

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