Interview with Meltem Ozker Gunduz – The latest in our series of living and working in the Gulf.
Meltem Ozker Gunduz is VP and Regional General Counsel at Novo Nordisk, AAMEO Region comprising Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Oceania. She is based in Dubai.
What attracted you to Dubai and when did you first move there?
I moved to Dubai in in July 2017, when I got a new job as general counsel and vice-president for legal, compliance and quality function for the region Africa, Asia, Middle East and Oceania. Before that, I was traveling to Dubai for business meetings, and each and every time, I was in the awe of Dubai, in terms of innovation, diversity and focus on happiness.
Can you describe a typical day for you at Novo Nordisk?
I used to travel a lot, prior to COVID-19 pandemic. I would say I would visit at least two countries per month, meet our legal, compliance and quality teams, management teams and try to have a field visit with our medical representatives. Now, it is a different reality, I am working from home, though I still connect with my colleagues and stakeholders online. My routine includes having a virtual coffee break with my team, working on our new strategy, supporting my colleagues on their critical matters. I try to prioritize harder to ensure we focus on what matters. I support my five-year-old son who is in now virtual learning, and catch up more often with my family in Turkey, to ensure they are all fine.
What challenges are you facing with the current Covid-19 crisis?
The biggest challenge is to keep our supply chain working so that all the patients can access to medicine timely. In my company, my colleagues in supply chain are working tirelessly, and as legal, compliance and quality team, we prioritize anything related to supply chain.
Interaction with stakeholders, especially external stakeholders is another area where there are challenges. Use of digital tools to overcome these challenges is needed.
Last but not least, proper communication – now that we cannot meet face-to-face, we need to be careful on which communication channel is the best for specific needs. Could that video conference be really an email? Do we need a quick call on this? I see my calendar is filled up with more calls nowadays, and we need to be careful that we also have time to focus, concentrate and re-centre ourselves.
How does working in Dubai differ from working in your home country?
Dubai is offering a more diverse working environment, compared to my home city Istanbul. In our office, we have colleagues from different parts of the world, and it amazes me how much we are different and we learn from each other.
Istanbul and Dubai are on par in terms of traveling to meet your stakeholders: they both are regional hubs offering direct flights to the rest of the world.
In Dubai, there is more of a feeling that we are here for a limited period of time, and people keep constantly moving. That makes it difficult to have strong relationships with your colleagues, whereas in Istanbul, people invest in their relationships, there is more camaraderie in the office. And maybe that is because that’s where my heart is.
Why do you like living in Dubai?
I have travelled around the world, and lived in two other countries too, but I have never seen a place that is as expat-friendly as Dubai. Everybody is kind, streets are clean, and they are so open to innovation. Furthermore, they respect different cultures: you can see celebrations of Chinese New Year, Ramadan, Christmas, etc. Dubai made me and my family feel at home, and that’s what I like the most about Dubai.
Where is your favourite place in Dubai and why?
My favourite place in Dubai is City Walk. I enjoy walking there, let my son ride his scooter freely, and try different coffeeshops.
What is your favourite activity in Dubai?
My favourite activity in Dubai is enjoying sunsets. I have seen the most amazing sunsets in Dubai.
Have you found anything particularly challenging in living in Dubai and how have you overcome that challenge?
When I first moved to Dubai, I had my own share of challenges, the very first one was moving to Dubai in July! My family joined me in September, thus, it was also not easy to be away from them.
What advice would you give to a lawyer moving there?
Try to connect with as many people as possible, Dubai offers the opportunity to meet many interesting people. I am also board member of the Middle East Chapter of the Association of Corporate Counsel, therefore, we welcome all corporate counsels to join us!