The importance of understanding that everyone is different and that we must be culturally sensitive is highlighted by Anna Schebsdat, a passionate executive Education activist with a fascinating international life journey. Anna is UAE-based but she has lived in very different cultural contexts. One of the lessons she has learned, and shares with us, is the necessity to prioritise kindness and tolerance in our relationships with others.
Q: Can you tell us about your background working in various countries?
A: As my career progressed, it was self-inflicted to move to various countries and I believe it challenges you in a positive way. I have been born and raised in Moscow and pursued my studies in London and Germany. I worked in Moscow, London, and currently for the past ten years in Dubai. Most of my career is dedicated to the Executive Education sector, which I find inspiring and gives me a possibility to have a positive impact on the community and on an international scale working with top brands.
Q: What took you to relocate to the United Arab Emirates?
A: It started as a suggestion after my business trip to Dubai and within half a year, I was internally relocated to the never-sleeping city and biggest cultural melting pot. It was a big move to another continent. The energy and vision of Dubai and the UAE are admirable. It is a unique place to make your dreams come true and the vibe is truly global. I did not realize before moving to the Middle East that it will be so inspiring. A great deal of innovation and a rich heritage, but you can truly feel it only by living here and emerging yourself in it. My mother’s aunt and her husband were living in Iraq and Iran back in the 70’s and for me Middle East sounded like a very far place in the world. Today, in particular, UAE where I am living for the past ten years does not stop surprising me at the speed of innovation and openness to the world.
Q: What inspired you to dedicate your efforts and energy to Executive Education?
A: I believe it is the most exciting part of the business education as we all require upskilling and reskilling. Executive Education is also crucial in preparing women for board positions in line with the current positive developments such as women empowerment in the region and globally.
Q: Tell us about the profile of individuals and organisations that you work with. What are their activities?
A: I have worked in global multinationals since the start of my career and enjoy the international dynamics it offers. On a daily basis, I am talking to senior executives from all kinds of industries and nationalities in regard to their executive education path. I devote my free time to non-profit activities such as mentoring, supporting Board’s activities, and also speaking commitments with international organisations on education, women empowerment and youth development. I am also an official Volunteer at the Expo 2020 where I have a Participant Team Member role and I will act as an ambassador of the International Organizations and Participants.
"Continuous learning gives you a greater freedom of choice in life, better decision-making skills, wider networking, and self-fulfilment"
Q: You have worked across many countries and different cultures. What are some of the biggest lessons? How has that shaped you as a person?
A: It is a lot about the situational behaviour, situationism. Firstly, understanding that everyone is different and needs a different approach. Secondly, being culturally sensitive and give benefit of doubt. And thirdly, being confident in different kind of environments. This all can be summed up as being kind and tolerant, which in today’s world challenged by the pandemic is more important than ever. If I look back at my overall experience and especially leading teams as a young woman in the Middle East, the few things that kept me going were my confidence, the ability to develop more empathy, and giving the benefit of doubt to people around me.
Q: What is one of the most important qualities to have to build an international career?
A: Grit. I concluded that overall there are two key secrets to success. One is managing tough times and the second is dreaming and planning every day. Continuous learning is part of this everyday planning. It should become an everyday habit of yours and never let your dreams die.
Q: How do you gain confidence to relocate countries to pursue career opportunities?
A: Starting with small steps and take on new opportunities to build up your confidence and resilience. Getting out of one’s comfort zone. Cliché all talk about and very few do it. But to get out of our comfort zone, one needs to be confident in themselves, not afraid. Confidence, in my view, comes from loving oneself. Appreciating and respecting yourself, if I cannot do that, I cannot be confident and I get out of the comfort zone.
If you cannot be comfortable with yourself, how can you expect those around you to be comfortable with you?
Q: Where can one find motivation when it gets challenging?
A: One can simply look around and see so many inspiring women and men, who are building their dreams and careers out there! What separates them from the rest is that they have the guts to go and get things they plan to achieve. Simply put – they have the will and courage. They also understand they need to increase their exposure to luck and know when to seize it. These are the only real thing that separates them from the rest. As well, remembering why and for whom you are doing what you are doing and that you are responsible for those around you – your family, community, partners, customers, etc. If you do not step up and open doors for others, means that by holding back you also hold back people who look up to you.
Q: What are the highlights of your move to the Middle East and Dubai? How is continuous learning related to pursuing a global career?
A: I held positions which allowed me to build and grow businesses for both emerging and developed markets, and worked with other Middle Eastern markets. I have learned how to also build an office from scratch. It was a great challenge to be trusted to set up an office, recruit and nurture a team and wear many “hats” to manage the business representing the top 5 world’s best business schools for the region at the age of 28. I always believed that continuous learning gives you a greater freedom of choice in life, better decision-making skills, wider networking, and self-fulfilment which you need if you aim to pursue career abroad.
Anna B. Schebsdat
Education Advocate - President, Columbia Business School’s UAE Alumni Chapter - Board Member, Columbia Alumni Association UAE
Mrs Anna Schebsdat has an inspiring path in the UAE, the UK, Germany and Russia in the short span of the last 15 years. Ivy-League educated and multilingual, she is a passionate advocate for global education and cross-cultural cooperation, and is involved in, and committed to collaborative non-profit projects and initiatives in these sectors.
Anna relocated from London to Dubai where she resides for the past decade. She is currently working for one of the world's top business schools as part of City, University of London, one of the largest and oldest universities in the UK. She is overseeing recruitment for flagship Executive MBA for the Middle Eastern region.
Anna is holding as post of a President of Columbia Business School’s UAE Alumni Chapter, Board Member on Columbia Alumni Association UAEandshe is also a part of Expo 2020 Official Volunteer family.
She was featured in the Power Issue edition of Emirates Women magazine and Harper’s Bazaar Arabia in 2020. Anna’s expertise lies in international growth strategy, market development, executive education recruitment and business development acquired across emerging and developed markets whilst generating multi-million-dollar revenue for global top brands as well as start-ups. She started her career at multinational conglomerate Philips and further spent 6 years in regional leadership roles in Higher Education sector leading multicultural teams, holding P&L and budget accountability. From embarking on an international career by moving to different countries to being part of challenging projects from scratch and building success stories - one of them was set up of the Middle East’s office - whilst working within executive education industry for the world’s top schools such as MIT, Wharton and Harvard. Whilst managing and growing the office, Anna took on an additional challenge and graduated from the Executive Program in Management at Columbia Business School in New York.