Meeting our magical teams in Dubai
The best part of the trip was getting to know our people. Every person I met was so passionate and proud to work at Virgin. It was wonderful to experience first-hand the incredible sense of community they have created through work. Given the amount of time we spend at work, it’s important for people to feel like they are part of a family, and they are valued, listened to and seen.
The trip started strong, with a day spent in the desert with the entire Virgin Mobile team. We learnt about the ancient Bedouin society, which is known for its warmth and hospitality. I was greeted with this same open-hearted welcome by every Virgin company I visited, with the teams taking the concepts of belonging and inclusion to a whole new level.
While we were in the desert, we went on an eco-safari, ate a delicious Bedouin breakfast, a witnessed a falcon flight display, and spent a lot of time laughing. I also spent some time chatting to everyone about Virgins history of Changing business for good before handing out some very fun awards. Virgin Mobile has created such a fantastic culture where fun really does come first, and everyone is free to speak their mind. This is actively encouraged by Virgin Mobile UAE’s managing director, Rob Beswick, who is one of the most approachable, warm, and down to earth leaders I’ve had the pleasure of knowing. Beyond creating a warm and fun place to work, Virgin Mobile is proving how this approach to work is better for business, having just been named the Technology Company of the Year at the Arabian Business Achievement Awards!
When we returned to the city, we hosted a Purpose Decision Making Workshop where we stretched the boundaries of how Virgin Mobile can further drive its purpose of ‘making mobile better’. The team came up with some really pioneering ideas, which reinforced my belief that purpose drives innovation and growth. A fact that leaders in all businesses, everywhere, should embrace and embed – purpose and profit do indeed go hand in hand.
The following morning, I went on Virgin Radio Dubai! It was fantastic to join the Kris Fade Show, which has been on air with us for nearly 15 years, and is the number one show in the region! The three presenters – Kris Fade, Priti Malik and Big Rossi – have been working together since nearly day one and exemplified everything the Virgin brand is about: being bold, cheeky, fun, creative and kind. After seeing a funny video of Dad trying Vegemite on social media, Kris (as a proud Lebanese-Australian) whipped up some Vegemite toast for me to try too. Needless to say, I think I’ll be sticking to Marmite!
After the show, we chatted with the wider team, talking about how the station has grown over the years. The team decided to launch the station with a diverse group of presenters that really reflected the demographics of Dubai. From there, they kept pushing the boundaries of what was traditionally discussed on-air and they kept promoting upwards within their teams. Kris also spoke about how important it is to say hello to every single person in the building. This simple act can have an effect we should never underestimate, and it can lead to wonderful partnerships. In fact, this is how Kris and Priti built their friendship.
Next up, I was off to Virgin Megastore’s head office to meet the team and share a quick Q&A. We discussed everything from leadership styles to career achievements, and what business I might start in the UAE with $10,000 in capital. I said that an ethical AI consultancy would be a great option. Next up, we headed off to the stores at Dubai Mall and Dubai Hills. All I can say is, wow. The stores create such a rich sensory experience, and it brought back so many memories of our Virgin Megastore days in the UK. It’s amazing to have a Virgin-owned destination where people can listen to music, play games, read books, flick through vinyls, jump in a photo booth, and tinker with the latest technology. It was this focus on creating an experience rather than just ‘selling’ that set Virgin Megastores apart from the competition way back when Dad first opened the stores in London, so it felt special to see this part of our history very much alive.
It was such an energising day out, thanks to the brilliant teams at the stores. I met people who had been working their way up through the company for twenty years, and people who had met their wives at work – Virgin Family in action! Yet again, the warmth and energy of the teams infiltrated everything.
Thank you to every at Virgin Mobile, Virgin Radio, and Virgin Megastore for making my time in Dubai so special and for bringing so much Virgin spirit to the region. You’re all wonderful, and I can’t wait to come back.