Could you have predicted your management consulting career journey to date?
No, it's been a bit of a roller coaster, to be honest.
I’m originally Dutch and grew up in the Netherlands, then pursued higher education in Paris and New York. When I was close to finishing my MBA (Master of Business Administration), everyone was eyeing opportunities in London and Brussels. The typical paths weren’t really fitting for me – and then I got this left field offer to join a boutique start-up advisory firm in Dubai.
In the early 2000s, Dubai wasn't the powerhouse it is today. It was very much the unknown. But I figured, you know what? Adventure’s calling! I went to Dubai thinking I’d do it for two years. Then I landed and loved being part of the city’s evolution. So, two turned into 15 years.
What languages do you speak: Dutch, English and French fluently and German, Italian, Spanish conversationally.
Unique holiday destination: Unconventional skiing trips with my Dubai teammates to Kazakhstan, Lebanon and Iran.
Next city on your holiday list: Tokyo.
Why the move to Australia?
I wanted to start a family and have a change of pace. Living in a 24/7 environment really takes a toll on your work-life balance.
We’d visited Melbourne before and thought it would be a good fit. But our timing could not have been worse. We moved during Covid. And, as it turned out, we ended up on the very last international flight allowed into Melbourne and went straight into hotel quarantine as Melbourne went into rolling lockdowns.
We’d rented this lovely apartment on Flinders Lane in the city but couldn’t go anywhere for months on end.
Then an opportunity came out of left field in Perth. I’d not been to that part of Australia. But we were just sitting in our apartment doing nothing. I had a Dubai flashback and, again, chose adventure! Now I call Perth home.
You’ve spent much of your career in the United Arab Emirates, what types of projects have you worked on?
I’ve worked on big towers, canals, and the Dubai Metro. But what I loved most was working on cities and large-scale 1,000+ hectare urban developments. It was great to bring together the pieces of a huge puzzle that would include energy, sustainability, transport, property, and social infrastructure.
For instance, I worked on the urban renewal vision for the Abu Dhabi Capital District. We had to reinvigorate the city’s vision and master plan to compete on the world stage, to attract investors, employees, and corporates to help diversify the economy away from a reliance on oil.
I was fortunate to be part of the evolution of sustainable thinking for that city and its push to renewable energy and innovation in clean technologies. In the late 2000s, it established Masdar. Its goal was to be the world’s first net zero city and it worked with IRENA (International Renewable Energy Agency) to establish new policies and strategies. That was visionary back then, and still ambitious today.