Having relocated to the Emirates at the end of Q1 2017, it would be fair to describe Paul Doherty as a relative newcomer to the Middle East. As such, his first few months as Faithful+Gould’s UAE country director have been spent getting to know the company’s local employees, clients, and projects. But while Doherty’s residential situation may have changed significantly – swapping the greenery of the United Kingdom’s Midlands region for Dubai’s desert metropolis – he is no stranger to the Emirates, nor indeed to Faithful+Gould.
Doherty joined Faithful+Gould’s parent company, Atkins, 18 years ago. Soon after, he moved over to his current employer, which has since cemented its position as a global specialist in project, programme, and cost management.
Before moving to the Gulf, Doherty headed Faithful+Gould’s business in the Midlands region of the UK – a 280-strong team that operated from offices in Birmingham, Nottingham, and Stoke-on-Trent. He elaborates: “I spent three years in that role. I turned our East Midlands [operations] into a profit-making business; the region went from strength to strength.”
When asked why he chose to leave his native UK, Doherty gives three reasons: fresh challenges and opportunities, an international mindset, and a long-standing affinity with the Emirates.
“I’ve probably visited the UAE 20 times within the last 15 years,” he tells Construction Week. “As you can imagine, I’ve seen the country develop massively over that timeframe. What’s more, I lots of good friends out here, many of whom have relocated from the UK in the last 10 years. I’ve also worked closely with Campbell Gray, [Faithful+Gould’s Middle East managing director,] in the past.
“And although I was based in the UK, Faithful+Gould is a global business. Quite often, I’d be having discussions and delivery meetings with colleagues in other parts of the world so, while I’d never previously worked overseas, I have been heavily involved in the company’s international operations for the past decade.”
Doherty summarises: “I’ve always fancied working abroad and I know the UAE well, albeit from a social perspective. So, when the opportunity arose – and bearing in mind that I’d resurrected [Faithful+Gould’s] Midlands business in the UK – I decided that it was time for a new challenge. And this is certainly a challenge.”
That said, Doherty doesn’t believe that achieving success will be harder in the UAE than in the UK. Instead, he contends that the challenges he’ll face in his latest role are likely to be qualitatively different rather than quantitatively greater.
In terms of sheer numbers, Doherty’s new team is slightly smaller than his previous cohort. In the UAE, he is responsible for 265 people, approximately 70% of whom are site-based. The remainder operate from Faithful+Gould’s offices in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. When asked about the main differences between the company’s British and Emirati operations, he replies: “Naturally, the scale of projects is different. And because of this, you have to consider the size of the teams involved.
“Back in the UK, for example, we would have had two or three project managers on a [typical] scheme. In the UAE, we’re supporting fewer projects overall, but a single development may require 35 [Faithful+Gould] employees. That can’t be [accommodated] overnight.”
Doherty isn’t exaggerating when it comes to the scale of Faithful+Gould’s UAE endeavours. His team is currently providing project, programme, and cost management services for some of the most high-profile developments in the country.
“As part of a four-year contract, Faithful+Gould was appointed project management consultant for Miral’s Yas Bay. Located on the beachfront in the south of Abu Dhabi’s Yas Island, this development will involve the construction of a marina, a 18,000-seat arena, a hotel with approximately 700 keys, site-wide public rail works, and a retail offering.
“And then there’s The Royal Atlantis Resort & Residences, on which Faithful+Gould has been working as the employer’s agent and project management consultant since 2014. As Atlantis, The Palm’s sister resort, The Royal Atlantis is going to feature 791 keys and 231 residences. Upon completion, it’s set to become the largest development on Dubai’s Palm Jumeirah.”