Going to plan

Above the cloudsMy name’s Sam. I’m am 30 years old, and right now I’m working for Qatar Airways. I’m based at the company’s headquarters in Doha, and aside from the fact that it’s about 45-50 degrees Celsius in the shade at the moment, and I’ve not had cold running water for a couple of months, things are going pretty well.

I got here by what probably most would regard as a circuitous path, and it has been an interesting one for me…certainly not one I had in mind when I was in my late teens at school. This is chiefly because I didn’t really have a path in mind at all at the time. This isn’t to say I’ve drifted from one thing to the next; each step along the path has always been thought out and reasonably well prepared for. Nevertheless, it can hardly be described as a grand plan.

When it came to choosing an undergraduate degree, I had no intention of picking something geared towards a particular vocation or career path. This was convenient, as I hadn’t the faintest idea what I wanted to do after university anyway.

Like many people, I chose a subject that I felt I was good at, that I was enjoying at the time, and which I thought would be quite cool to do more of after A-levels. This happened to be English Language and Literature – arguably a strange outcome for someone who didn’t really like reading that much (at least up until that point). Through a combination of luck, careful preparation and graft, I won a place at Oxford University. No-one was more surprised than me.

Oxford was brilliant fun – if rather tough work-wise – and proved an excellent place to study, grow up and learn self-reliance. What it was rubbish at was steering me onto a career path, and by the time I finished finals I remained none the wiser in this regard. I was, however, pretty convinced that I wanted to travel and do something quite unrelated to what I had been doing for the last three years. This proved to be – of all things – studying martial arts in Tokyo, at the Yoshinkan Aikido school. I also taught English like most Westerners in Tokyo… not so unrelated to my degree I admit but far removed from the joys of translating Anglo-Saxon poetry. My two and a half years over there were fantastic: I met some great people, I travelled around Asia, working abroad proved a great experience, and life in Japan broadened my horizons in general. I made sure, however, I set a time limit on my time there, and once I achieved my target goal of black belt in Aikido, I set off for home to find that elusive career.

When I got there, I found that what I perceived to be the typical career paths for an Oxford English Graduate did not quite float my boat. Thus I ruled out lawyer, publishing type, advertising exec, management consultant and teacher in one fell swoop. I decided to take the first decent job that was offered to me and see if that gave me more ideas. This was in a company that produced B2B conferences and managed events, and my role was sales-based. While the job had its pros and cons, I loved being at the company. The moderate salary was offset by a fun working environment, great colleagues, recognition of my efforts, and – crucially – good hours (Japan taught me the value of having time for extra-curricular activities). What it also conveniently did was expose me to lots of different industries, and I got the chance to shop around.

Funnily enough, when I decided which industry I wanted to move into, it ended up being the area in which I had had a passion since I was about two years old: airlines. Also, I found that the senior airline execs I had met on the conference circuit were generally a very nice bunch – a highly important thing for a happy working life in my experience.

Through my conference job, I learned of a Masters degree in Air Transport Management; this seemed a decent way to jump start an airline career and fire up my brain. So that’s what I did. It proved to be a well-spent year, and it paved the way to the next phase in my working life: this phase. I did just over a year in the UK in my first airline job before moving to the desert to work for a company with more opportunities (and to escape the looming recession).

In five years I still hope to be in the airline business, but as to which role I’ll be doing I really have no idea. I actually find that prospect appealing. This is not to say that I’m not fussed about career progression- right now that’s of central importance, especially as I’ve recently got married! However, whilst I hope that this progression generally is forward moving(!), I’ll be making sure it veers to the left and right now and again.

Sam Abuel-Ealeh
Senior Officer Network Sales

Qatar Airways