Working in Saudi Arabia: Project Managers Mayhem

So you get off the plane coming from Chicago all happy, excited and energetic to start your first job in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia. You feel nothing can go wrong, things in your life are going in the right direction and under control.

Few weeks later in the job, you start telling yourself; there something really wrong about the project manager’s way of managing. There is hardly any project plan, you can totally forget about risk assessment, nor any high level design, because in most cases he lacks basic understanding on how technology works.

His e-mails usually consist of 3 types: “fyi (for your information)”, “fya (for your action)” and “any update”. If this is not enough, once in a while, he resends your email exactly without changing a word and puts his name on it. Isn’t this plagiarism?! But then when you talk with him, he feels he didn’t cross any line. You wonder if this is the work culture or the individual.

You totally convince yourself that it’s just matter of time before something big and bad happens to this person, and sure enough something big happens but not bad; he gets promoted. And then you watch everybody congratulating him on a well deserved promotion while you stand dumfounded.

Now after a few years of unforgettable experiences like this, it always makes my day when a newbie walks up to me and says: “shouldn’t the project manager come up a project plan” or “shouldn’t the project manager lead this activity”.

Here are some advices I give people:

It takes a while to adjust and adapt to the Saudian work culture, don’t become bitter and sarcastic. Give it time, it gets better. The tough period is the first six months.

Take it easy and always talk to people who where there before you, don’t quit on the spot or become constantly angry and not easy to talk to.

Try to befriend some Saudians, meet and talk with them outside the job environment. This will help you to understand the culture better, and you will not have the mentality of us vs. them.

From my experience here, I found out that the Saudian culture is generally laid back and relaxed, and there is also lots of job security more than I ever had back in the States. Surround yourself with positive, non-bitter people or your life will become very negative and sometimes unbearable.

Hazem Ameen
Senior Oracle DBA

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One thought on “Working in Saudi Arabia: Project Managers Mayhem

  1. Same feelings here. I’ve been here for 5 months. It seems this is a Saudi culture of work. They are happy as long as the system is running without considering the possible risk on their system

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