This year, the MBA class of ’22 experienced a glimpse of life in the “city of the future” during a week-long Discovery Expedition to Dubai.

Exploring an oasis of growth

For our Discovery Expedition,, we were given the choice earlier this year between Dubai and Argentina, and I chose Dubai (although I would have loved to go on both trips!) Each expedition was given an overall theme, and the theme for Dubai was “Managing Growth”, inspired by the city’s  amazing growth story.

We learned more about its history from the knowledgeable Dr Hischam El Agamy, who showed us how Dubai’s rapid success grew from its ambitious mindset. This theme resonated with me because any form of growth – whether business or personal – is never truly a straightforward path but this also makes it all the more interesting, and I was looking forward to see real scenarios of growth dilemmas in our company projects.

The trip cohort was divided into twelve teams and assigned to various projects to work on with companies based in Dubai such as airline Emirates, oil and gas group ENOC and D’nata, one of the world’s largest air service providers, as well as a few start-ups who are leading the frontier of their industries with their technology.

The adventure begins

We arrived at Dubai Airport on a red-eye flight at 6 AM in the morning, just in time for breakfast buffet at the hotel before catching up on some much-needed sleep. Later in the afternoon, some of us made a quick trip to Abu Dhabi to visit famous sites like the Grand Mosque and the Louvre.

Another popular destination was the Dubai Mall, the second largest mall in the world which was only a ten-minute taxi ride from our hotel, the JW Marriott in Business Bay. One could also simply relax and enjoy what the hotel had to offer, which was also a safe haven from the June heat.

After a day of rest and exploration, we were ready to roll-up our sleeves and get started with our projects. We spent our day with Dr. Hischam and Professor Omar Toulan discussing the disruptive role played by external driving forces. Based on the level of impact and uncertainty of these forces, some could provide opportunities to shift the current business model. We continued to brainstorm what this could look like for our projects in our respective groups.

Work hard, play hard

My Discovery Expedition project was with Acacus, a company that provides AI hardware and software telematics solutions, with a focus on vehicle fleet management. Over the next few days, I worked alongside my teammates, Takaharu Anzai (Andy), Maria Barragan and Michael Sou at the Acacus office where we were greeted by chief of staff, Imad Ramadan. The Acacus team ensured we were well taken care of, and we felt very welcomed in their modern and cozy workspace.

We were given a tour of the facility by the CEO, Talal Ben Halim, who showed us how the hardware assembly was done in their warehouse. We also visited the workshop where they installed the finished product into vehicles. This gave us a very practical understanding of how the technology was linked to its business model and customer segments.

The two and a half days flew by  as we spent our time meeting various members of the team and listened to their perspectives on the business while also developing our own. After converging all ideas, we were able to present our findings and final takeaways to our company sponsors. We also saw the other teams come up with impressive presentations for their projects, and celebrated the completion of our hard work with a fancy dinner at the hotel steakhouse with a view over the city.

We spent our free weekend continuing to visit key attractions in Dubai such as the Burj Khalifa, Atlantis Water Park and Jumeirah beach.

It was a unique experience traveling together as a class, and being put in a new learning environment enabled us to think more outside the box.

Ayesha Fariz

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