Staff Interviews – Azza Obaidalla
Welcome to the third of our staff interviews! This week, we’re talking to Azza Obaidalla, who works as a Sales Support Manager in our Dubai office. Azza was born in Dubai but lived in Canada for a number of years, and has had a lot of interesting experiences in her life.
Hi Azza! Nice to speak to you again. So, let’s start with the most pertinent question. How are you today?
I’m very well thanks, how are you?
Pretty good now that we’ve started this interview! Tell me, when did you start working at Vital?
It’s only been about 6 months actually. I’m one of the newer members of staff, started on June 1st of this year.
And what were you doing before that?
I was actually living in Toronto for a couple years before moving back to Dubai in April! I studied a college programme over there that has absolutely nothing to do with the kind of work we do here. My previous work experience was in Sales though.
Interesting! What was it that made you want to move to Toronto?
I spent a few years after finishing university working here in Dubai in Sales. During the summer of 2014, i was in between jobs and decided that i needed a change and some time away from Dubai. It also happened that my brother and his family had decided to move to Toronto around the same time and so I realised it was a good time to make that change!
Pretty brave to go away without a plan! What did you do next?
I was looking into some postgraduate programs in branding and marketing related fields just happened to come across a description of something completely unrelated that caught my eye! It was an advert for a Personal Support Worker, and even though I’d never considered it before, I really liked the idea of helping care for older people. So I spent about a year and half taking classes in the morning and working a part time job in Customer Service in the evening. My studies had both a theoretical and practical component; the practical was a few months in a Retirement Homes with patients of Advanced Ahlzeimers and also some time at a Community Center for Seniors.
That’s incredible! Sounds like a difficult but ultimately rewarding experience though.
I loved it honestly, even though it was a little emotionally & mentally overwhelming at times. I was there long enough to see how rapidly the disease progresses and it is unnerving to say the least. The hardest part for me though was seeing when family members came to visit the residents and weren’t recognised or even acknowledged. It just brought to heart how indescribably hard it must be for them.
What is life without these experiences after all? So, what was it made you want to come home and ultimately work at Vital?
Well, I came home in March for a two week holiday which ended up being extended by another two weeks. That’s when I realised it was the right time to come back. I then had to start looking for a new job, and came across Vital in one of my searches. I was pretty positive about it straight away since it was a UK based company with UK values, but the ad really sold me when it talked about what the work environment was like and how everyone is treated like one big family.
And what was the interview process like? Were you nervous?
I was! The first step was to write an email detailing my day to gauge my English skills. A couple of weeks later I had a phone interview with Matt. I was talking way too fast, as I do when I’m nervous! But Matt totally understood and that made me want the job even more. Luckily, I got it!
Let’s talk about a bit your role. What do you do on a day to day basis?
I’m basically the first point of contact for our clients here in Dubai. I explain the process of what they need done from a legalisation standpoint. If we don’t have the information on hand, I find it, put together our service proposal and send it out. I also have a lot of contact with our service providers in other countries to help make sure we can legalise documents from whichever countries our clients come from.
In any customer facing role though, there can be a lot of challenges. What are some of the biggest challenges you face?
Well, Dubai is such a diverse city and you often come into close contact with the people from all over the place, so you run into language barriers and differences in how different cultures communicate. And when you can’t communicate very well it sometimes becomes difficult to explain the process of attestation/legalisation. Most people hadn’t even heard of it until they were told they had to get it done, which makes it difficult to make them trust you with their important documents. A big part of my job is conveying credibility and trustworthiness that would allow our clients to feel comfortable handing over such important documents to complete strangers!
Communication always seem to the be the most difficult thing! It must help being fluent in both English and Arabic though?
It definitely helps in some situations, like speaking to embassies and ministries here in the UAE. It also helps having grown up here – you have the knowledge of how to deal with some of the local populations that an expat might not necessarily have.
What is it you enjoy most about working at Vital?
Doing what we do, we get to hear alot of the back stories of the people we deal with. And it’s never what you think or expect! How they ended up wherever they are or why they’re going to wherever it is they’re going. That’s probably the most interesting thing for me. But working at Vital’s great, we’ve got a great office here with a fantastic view, the people are super friendly, and we’ve got a great management team both here and in the UK that are always willing to guide and advise on anything we come across.
Sounds fun! So I know you’ve only been here for 6 months or so, but has your role changed at all since you started at the company?
I think everybody at Vital will agree, no one day is the same as the next, so your role is changing and evolving on a day to day basis! Things change often so you have new responsibilities all the time, which is great. You’re always learning.
Always great to be at a place which challenges you and pushes you to adapt I think. But let’s move away from work! What do you do in your downtime?
I love to swim! More for the therapeutic effects than the work out I have to admit! It’s a great stress reliever. And I really like reading and collecting books. I have a whole pile just waiting to be read! No Kindles for me.
Have to say I share that love! And finally, do you have a favourite quote?
You can tell whether a man is clever by his answers. You can tell whether a man is wise by his questions – Naguib Mahfouz
Very apt! Thanks for your time Azza!