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New countries – new (working) cultures: changing location at iCon

As I started looking for a position after my degree, one of my criteria for selecting a future employer was decisive: the opportunity to work in an international environment and do so in different locations. innogy Consulting lets you do exactly that, which was one reason for my decision. At iCon, we don’t just have the chance to go abroad for an individual project, we can actually change the location of our primary office. I personally spent my first few months at the headquarters in Essen to get to know the culture and people there, then changed to our Munich office. That lets me stay close to family and friends, plus I have a view of our beautiful mountains from my desk – of course only on the days that I’m not visiting customers themselves.

But at the end of last year I wanted to try something new and sniff some overseas air for a change. iCon made that possible as well: from October 2017 to January 2018 I spent my work days in the Netherlands on two different projects. Being able to not only experience the working environment there, but also the culture, really drew me to the idea and made those few months very special.  The hierarchies in the Dutch professional culture are noticeably flatter, and all management personnel are very easy to approach. I met almost all members of top management at the workshops I was able to run there as a part of the strategy project. During the project I also met up with my colleague Jon Gadellaa, who was working in our office in Den Bosch. Since then, Jon himself took the opportunity to go abroad and got involved in a project in Dubai. He then made the same decision to simply move his office location to there.

In this interview we shared our experiences as well as just talked in general about the possibilities of changing location at innogy Consulting:

Janina: What options for changing location at iCon did you make use of?

Jon: First of all, at iCon we have the option of carrying out projects abroad and experiencing the working culture in the office there. Not everyone wants to just move abroad for a considerable period of time like I did. If they have the option of carrying out a project abroad, our colleagues can always decide for themselves if they want to move to the country straight away or just go there as the project requires.

Janina: I’ve also considered it now and then but never went abroad to another country long term. What was the decisive factor in your decision to move to Dubai?

Jon: It gives the chance to work in a different, international environment. The corporate culture in the United Arab Emirates and Dubai is completely different than in Europe. That presents an interesting challenge and gives me plenty of opportunities to learn. I was overseas a lot during university and it was important for me to have this chance in my future job as well. And of course it’s also a good step in your career to let you gather different types of experience. One of the main reasons for me though was simply the chance to live in another country on the other side of the world. It broadens your horizons.

Janina: What drew you to our location in Dubai in particular, in terms of work?

Jon: In Dubai, we focus on lots of different fields. After I spent some time in the Netherlands, I was drawn by the prospect of a new challenge: our current project is closely linked to energy economics and the future of energy in Dubai. We have the opportunity to help shape the future energy system and to discuss it with important decision-makers. Alongside the exciting project, I also enjoy the international environment and the supportive work culture very much. Everyone is as concerned with the development of others as they are with their own. This led me to consider a permanent change and in the end I decided to stay in Dubai, at least for the time being.

Janina: When you made your decision, how easy was it to change locations within innogy Consulting?

Jon: I experienced a great deal of support. If you want to make a change and have good reasons for it, changing locations usually isn’t a problem – always provided that personal development is the primary purpose of the change. All partners, my Guidance & Development Manager, who is responsible for my personal development, and colleagues in organisation were all very helpful after I announced my plans. I think that’s because our system is based on personal development and changing work surroundings.

And even though I changed office, there is of course still the option of going back to Germany to work on projects there. Even when you’re overseas, you’re still in the same company, still part of the “larger family”. I still keep in touch with former colleagues – you yourself and our conversation today are proof of that. And of course the Dubai team also takes part in events like the summer and winter consulting days or the annual ski trip.

Janina: What would you say is really different in Dubai and what were your first days there like?

Jon: When I started in Dubai I did of course have to get used to the new system and way of working. In comparison to the structured way of working in Europe – particularly in Germany – projects in the Middle East are more dynamic. This is made clear by one of the most commonly used words: “Inshallah”, which means “if God wills”. What’s more, hierarchies in the United Arab Emirates are much more clearly defined. In Europe, young people have the urge to speak up. In Dubai, on the other hand, it’s advisable to be a little more reserved if you yourself are not the senior at the table.

Janina: Thank you very much for sharing your experiences with me Jon. Now I’m really starting to think it would be a good idea to spend some time abroad myself. Let’s see if I get the chance some time soon.

Fortunately, the international environment at iCon offers me some great opportunities in the meantime: for instance, we regularly have contact with colleagues from different locations – for instance the British office – or travel to different European locations to run workshops for strategy projects. I always enjoyed learning more about different cultures and the way that the people work at each location. Alongside my private travels, I was also able to build on this during the months we had together in the Netherlands – even if the culture of our neighbouring country is admittedly not as different from our German customs as that of the UAE.

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An article by

Janina Köhler Project Lead
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