Our former student, Kinga Szabó is the advisor of His Royal Highness, Sheikh Abdulla al Sharqi, in Abu Dhabi. Read her interview to see the major steps that lead her to this position.
When did you complete your studies at IBS, and what was your major?
I completed my studies at IBS in 1998 and my major was Corporate Finance and European Studies.
Do you have any memories of an professor, or specific task that you found useful for your further career?
I truly admired most of my professors, and when I was an teacher’s assistant in Statistics seminars during my final year, I had an amazing connection with the Statistics department. I especially enjoyed the numerous case studies I had to do during my studies. I think it has really prepared me for life and contributed to my success.
Did you have any “failures” during your studies or work, which later proved to be something you have learnt from?
In 2012 I had to leave Hungary and also close my 14 year old company. I was devastated at that time. Looking back at it now, I have realized that it was the best thing that could have happened to me in terms of my career.
Where did you begin working after IBS?
After graduating from IBS, I was working as a lead stock-exchange analyst for Buda Broker. However, soon after my graduation I realized that my goals and ambitions simply were not fitting into the majority of the organizations I knew. Therefore, I quitted Buda Broker and started building my own business in 1999.
What brought you to Abu Dhabi?
In 2012, I had to make a decision whether I stay in Hungary and struggle with the economic and political conditions or start a brand new career somewhere else. Although it had many elements of risk, I decided to leave the country with my family. Two days after the decision had been made, I received a proposal from Abu Dhabi. As I had no previous connections with the Middle East, I was very excited to accept the offer.
What were the major steps that led you to your present position?
In 2013, I established my own company in Abu Dhabi. My business partner at that time in my company was a very reputed local (Emirati) business man, who put his trust in me. We soon became the only registered subcontractors in the region for E&Y and Deloitte in corporate finance activity. We have done several amazing projects as subcontractors and I had the opportunity to meet the most influential local business men. One of these clients of mine introduced me to His Royal Highness, Sheikh Abdulla al Sharqi, member of the ruling family of Fujairah. His Highness was impressed with the meeting and he soon invited me for other meetings as well. He tested my competence several times by inviting me to project presentations in his office and he was watching how I was acting and communicating. After one of these tests, he called me for an urgent meeting and offered me the position of becoming his advisor.
What does your work actually cover?
I meet with all the project owners who wish to approach His Highness for investment. I have to make decisions in a quick manner whether the project has any potential or not. If the project has potential, His Highness will meet the owners. We then commence the preparation of the investment and make feasibility studies. I am the key contact for the project owners throughout the whole investment procedure. This is an position of high responsibility as I have to be able to judge whether His Highness should invest his money in a particular project, or not. However, this role is granting me lots of opportunities and challenges, which I love.
Is it usual for a woman to reach such a high position in Abu Dhabi?
There are a few women in very high positions, but it is not common that women holds such an important role. Somehow the advisor’s position is reserved almost exclusively for men. I am therefore very proud of what I have achieved in such a short period and in an completely new business environment.
What is the major difference between your life in Hungary and in Abu Dhabi, especially since you are a woman?
The major difference between the business cultures is that you in Abu Dhabi have to build up trust in a longer period of time. The businesses will not grant you orders just by your website or brochure, you have to build this trust by visiting the potential partners personally and impress them continuously. However, once they have voted for you and you have won their trust, you can be sure that you will remain employed.
Do you have family?
Yes, I have a family. My husband is an electrical engineer and he is also working here. I have two wonderful sons on 9 and 17 years. Both of my kids were born in Hungary but do now consider Abu Dhabi as their future home. My oldest son is actually considering choosing IBS as his graduate school.
What do you do in your freetime?
This is a very tricky question. I am doing lots of charitable activities besides my work and family. The activity I am enjoying the most is to read novels, when I have time. Besides this, I consider part of my mission to introduce this region to other European business people. I would like to encourage them to start considering this region as an business opportunity. I am also coordinating the Hungarian Business Council to motivate Hungarian people to establish business relationships with the United Arab Emirates.