What I learnt from working in magazines in Dubai

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It was the best career move, but did I skip valuable lessons?

When I started working in magazines as a mere intern at ELLE UK, the progress seemed to be incredibly slow. At the time it was normal to intern for a year or more before landing your first role at one of the top publications and then you have to keep at it for several years before finally finding yourself in a senior position that you’ve dreamed of.

Now, I’m not saying that all those years of hard graft are useless if anything they prepare you to be at the top of your game and enrich you with contacts you need along the way, but I also appreciate the frustration of waiting to step up.

On the other hand, you can find yourself in Dubai with 0 contacts and be expected to do a job that you feel completely unqualified for. It wasn’t as dramatic as this, but I definitely felt like I had to learn a lot, and quickly.

As a newbie in the sandpit, I started out at one of the oldest homegrown luxury titles Emirates Woman as a picture editor. I enjoyed the job, had a great albeit a small team (at Harper’s Bazaar in the UK we had over 40 people, here we had eight) but I wasn’t out and about meeting people and was even less sure if picture desk was something I wanted to pursue. Eventually, that decision was made for me when the company decided my role was redundant in the current market so I quickly had to find something else.

 

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Having a blog and previous internship experience at Marie Claire and ELLE in the UK seemed to play in my favour and I managed to quickly step into the role of online editor for a luxury boutique publication aeworld.com. With just four people on the editorial side, I was solely responsible for running a website – fortunately, it was WordPress. With little to no guidance, I had to shape the tone of voice, build up my contact list and develop a certain authority on subjects surrounding the luxury market. It was challenging, demanding and fast-paced but it’s the kick I needed to realise that I want to work in the digital sphere.

Later on, Emirates Woman wanted to hire me back as Digital Style Editor and it felt like the perfect fit. I was covering everything from fashion to jewellery, travelling for fashion week including couture and worked with an inspirational team that had a global vision. The company also focused extensively on analytics and strategy which is just as important as the content.

It was a sad day when I had to say goodbye virtually to the team, but I am thankful for the four years of knowledge, friendship and experience that I’ve gained in the Middle East. I do however wish I had a more hands-on mentor who could help me further improve my writing and understanding of the digital strategy. There’s learning by doing, but there are many lessons to be gained from someone with more experience.

I’m glad that Dubai helped me make a career leap, I feel now more confident than ever to pursue senior roles in the UK but I am also aware that here the bar is set significantly higher and I still have a lot to understand. However, I wouldn’t have it any other way as my fast-track experience has helped me realise that digital is what I want to pursue, whether it’s magazines or e-commerce.

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