Alumni fly high in the Emirates
David Wedge, Deputy Head of Alumni Relations, paid a flying visit to the United Arab Emirates recently to catch up with some of the University of Wolverhampton's most successful alumni in Dubai.
In this blog, he meets up with some of our graduates who are really flying high, and finds out why their careers are continuing to soar!
It’s my final evening in the United Arab Emirates and as I walk the streets of Dubai, I am consumed by the warm air, the hypnotic sound of the call to prayer, and the sight of sun-kissed tourists marvelling at the dazzling skyscrapers that light up the night sky of this young metropolis. But there is something else on my mind beyond these foreign sights and sounds, and that something is the pride in knowing that we have some incredibly successful and impressive alumni living and working in the UAE, whose careers continue to soar.
How do I know this? Well, during a three-day whistle-stop trip to this nation of opulence, I had the pleasure to meet just a few of them.
Deana Uppal Means Business
On day one, in the surroundings of the Dubai Mall, touted as the largest shopping mall in the world, my first meeting is with a familiar face from on screen conversations, but who I have never met in person, Deana Uppal.
Deana, a Wolverhampton Business School marketing alumna, made the move to settle in Dubai some time ago, after first departing our shores to pursue a career in India. It’s a move she is clearly happy with as she talks to me contently about her life and the country in which she resides.
After many years of globe-trotting, successes, and endeavours, including being crowned Miss India UK and a long career modelling for well-known brands, she now dedicates her time to pursue her passions in filmmaking and philanthropy. Her film credentials are varied, ranging from acting appearances, to directing and producing, and include the documentary India’s Forgotten People, a film she produced and narrated, which aired on Netflix.
Is she daunted by the workload of her entrepreneurial portfolio? The answer is an emphatic no. In fact, she is totally calm and full of enthusiasm as she talks about how she dedicates a considerable amount of her spare time to run the charity she founded, DKU Kindness Diaries Trust. The trust and its team of volunteers work to raise money for underprivileged children and families in Jaipur, Rajasthan, providing toys, opportunities, education, and hope. Earlier this year, she was recognised for her work as the Trust’s founder, by being invited to Downing Street and presented with a Points of Light Award by Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak.
For Deana, the immediate future is in the UAE, and she shows no sign of slowing down; just a week after my visit she attended COP28 in Dubai and then this was quickly followed before the turn of the year by taking time to appear in a marketing campaign photoshoot and interview with ….. us! Deana will feature alongside five other alumni in the University’s marquee marketing campaign in 2024.
Analisa Mediano - Making Connections
It’s been a busy but productive start to my visit and as day two arrives, it’s another warm morning in the Middle East; I walk through the hotel lobby, somewhat distracted by the sight of a Christmas tree being decorated, and then spot my first alumni meeting of the day, promptly waiting for me.
Analisa Mediano studied an MBA at the University’s partner College, Westford School of Management, in India, and acts as our alumni ambassador in the UAE.
Based in Sharjah, approximately a 45-minute drive from Dubai, Analisa works for the Legal Compliance Department of the Government of Sharjah, where she has worked for numerous years and is currently Legal Affairs - Compliance Executive HFZA, Government of Sharjah.
Originally from the Philippines, she has set up home in the UAE and is thoroughly content – other than when we take multiple wrong turns on the way to lunch and are left to brace the chaos of Dubai traffic!
Despite having not studied physically at Wolverhampton, Analisa is incredibly proud of her award from the University, which she portrays so admirably in her roles as an alumni volunteer. As well as her regional ambassador role she is also a volunteer on the University’s Alumni Advisory Board, a group which meets virtually every quarter, providing professional and personal insight on University strategy and activity.
As we sip our coffees amongst the comings and goings of holidaymakers, she tells me of her plan to discover and connect with more alumni in 2024 and, have them share their expertise for the benefit of students and fellow alumni. Her enthusiasm as a volunteer and dedication to the University, a place she never once had a lecture, is both astounding and infectious. I think to myself, where can we find more Analisas!
It's now midday, I’m feeling a little jet-lagged, but it’s time for the day’s next meeting; a lunch arranged by Analisa with two fellow alumni at a restaurant at the stunning Bluewaters Island, a modern entertainment peninsula jutting out into the Arabia Sea, boasting exquisite views of Jumeirah Beach residence and its skyline. The comparison to my regular office view of Wolverhampton’s Civic Centre couldn’t be starker.
The restaurant’s aroma of fresh seafood simmering in the kitchen is a delight and I’m even made to feel even happier when I’m greeted by the warm smiles and hospitable handshakes of Husham Osman and Aswin Sunil.
Husham Osman - Flying High!
Like Analisa, Husham studied a University of Wolverhampton MBA with Westford School of Management in India and graduated in 2016. He is now Technical Director of the private airline company, Royal Jet, in Abu Dhabi, and his aviation experience spans more than two decades within the UK and the UAE, with several reputable airlines. He has been with Royal Jet since January 2006, where he has helped establish the Maintenance and Engineering Department to hold the requisite approvals for the General Civil Aviation Authority of UAE (GCAA) and other approvals that the airline needs to maintain its Air Operator Certificate.
As Husham sits back relaxed, he details the nature of his work, the airline, and its clients, and I find myself consumed by fascination in his business activity, strategic insights, and plans, which include him travelling to America to pursue the acquisition of a new private jet. I’m also staggered as he tells me that the cost of hiring a private yet runs at around £7,000 per hour! But despite his position and success, Husham oozes humility and a desire to constantly better himself, which he recently demonstrated by enrolling on a professional development course at Cambridge University. Husham hasn’t got to where he is by chance; he is well educated, eager to learn, intelligent and a savvy business strategist, much like his fellow alumnus sitting between us, Aswin.
Sunil Edatharam Kunnath - Catering for Growth
Sunil Edatharam Kunnath, originally from India, studied Mechanical Engineering, graduating in 2016, and is now the owner and General Manager of Cedar Tree Hospitality, one of the leading catering providers in Dubai. In addition, he owns and runs a coffee shop downtown near the Burj Khalifa and the Dubai Mall.
Now, if sitting and listing to Husham was like taking a short course in business leadership, then conversation with Sunil was a fast-track in business strategy and entrepreneurship. I can almost see his mind racing as he talks about strategies, innovation, and the opportunities he’s grasped with both hands.
I’m left in no doubt by Sunil that the catering business in UAE is a different animal entirely to that in the UK, with one of the big reasons for this being building development. No matter where you travel around Dubai you’ll see cranes at work, either adding to the array of towers already in an area or aiding the rapid rise of new developments in an otherwise barren landscape. And what makes all this happen? A workforce: often foreign labourers imported onto projects, who are in return housed and importantly for Sunil, watered and fed daily by you guessed it, catering companies.
It’s abundantly obvious as I listen to Sunil that he is not only an astute businessman, but he is a very hands-on owner, rising at the crack of dawn, integrating in every facet of his business, and ensuring that quality isn’t compromised.
Before I allow the three alums to escape to their daily lives, they kindly grant me more time to record a video testimonial of them together, reliving their course memories, talking about their careers, and keenly taking time to find the right words to inspire others to study at the University of Wolverhampton.
After a busy second day I’m left with one more day in Dubai before I jet off to Hong Kong for the eagerly awaited 21-year Hong Kong Alumni Association anniversary celebration, and I have time for a final alumni meeting.
Marwan Nasry - Education Never Stops
It’s Saturday morning and as arranged, I wait at Pier 7 in Dubai Marina, where I’m met by Marwan Nasry, who greets me with a beaming smile and with affection far beyond that expected of that from a person who I have only spoken to before via email and LinkedIn. What a lovely bloke; that’s my first impression of Marwan, and I’m right.
Marwan, originally from Egypt, studied his MBA with us at Westford School of Management as well, graduating in 2016 and is now Senior Global Marketing Manager, BU Lead Vaccines & Immunology, at Pfizer, in Dubai, where he has lived for some time.
We take a short stroll and decide to shelter from the sun, taking a seat at a nearby Carluccio’s restaurant and swiftly ordering an Americano each. I learn that Marwan is a keen athlete, a football fan and that he used to play football professionally in Egypt. Yet again, I soon find that I am being blessed with a free professional education, as he delves into his deep reserves of marketing knowledge, explaining how he applies marketing strategies to his projects and what his leadership style is like. He makes it all sound so simple, but it’s not. It a skillset, honed over many years, coupled with theoretical and practical learning, and a recognition that education never stops.
Now, I couldn’t speak to someone who works for Pfizer without asking him about the COVID-19 pandemic. Marwan recalls how hectic that time was, but also, about the pride in how quickly and effectively the company and the industry responded to the situation and its demands. The response to the onset of the pandemic was only half of the challenge though; the difficultly that companies such as Pfizer have faced thereafter is accurately predicting future vaccine demand and financially forecasting, in an unpredictable climate and with an unprecedented global crisis. The crisis may have eased, but it hasn’t gone, and neither has the work behind the scenes that we don’t see.
As I said my goodbyes to Marwan, that drew a close to my meetings with alumni in Dubai. It was a busy trip to an incredible country, and I leave pleased to have had the opportunity to meet some truly inspiring alumni and discovered more about their careers, lives, and the affection that they hold for the University of Wolverhampton.
Our alumni truly are our greatest ambassadors.
If you have an interesting story about alumni careers or achievements, please contact the alumni team at email@example.com.
After graduation, graduates become members of the Alumni Association and are encouraged to keep in touch, to take advantage of a wide range of benefits and support on offer, including a discount for postgraduate study.
For more information please contact the Corporate Communications Team.