Off hours: Nokia regional chief wonders what it would be like to be a labourer in Dubai

Nokia's regional director says he has changed his role at Nokia four times so far – once every two-and-a-half years, on average.

In keeping with company policy for freshening things up, Mohamed Bhatti has changed his role four times at Nokia. Courtesy Mohamed Bhatti
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Mohamed Bhatti is Nokia's country director for the UAE, and also their head of contract management for the Middle East and Africa. Mr Bhatti is also a popular social media personality, with 53,000 followers on his anonymous Twitter account. He was born in Kenya, raised in Manchester from the age of 6, and moved to Dubai 15 years ago.

How did you become country director?

When I first moved to Dubai, I was involved in the consulting for designing a new business hotel chain. I helped to come up with the concept and then the business plan to launch it. That work was very different to Nokia, who I joined as a senior consultant in 2005. At Nokia, you rarely stay in the same position for more than a few years as they like to move people around. I’ve actually changed my role four times with Nokia – on average, every two and a half years. Three years ago I was appointed into my current two roles. My head of contract management role is the bigger role, with much wider implications, because from Dubai, we look after so many other countries.

What was the lowest point in your career?

When I was about 25, I was working in sound and lighting design. I’d been headhunted by a major league company that manufactured AV equipment. I’d gone through the interview process, I was offered the job, and the last step was to shake the hand of the CEO. I had to drive halfway across the UK for this, but the CEO took one look at me and said “there’s been a dreadful mistake, please leave the building”. The headhunter afterwards apologised and threatened that company with legal action. It was blatant racism. This experience led to me becoming the person I am today. It resulted in me saying “nobody’s going to stop me achieving what I want to achieve”.

How do you spend your weekend?

I’m an enormous Manchester City fan. My weekends during football season are scheduled around the football timetable.

What’s your go-to gadget?

Apart from my cell phone, it’s actually my watch, which is made by a French company called Withings which Nokia bought in April.

What’s your most indulgent habit?

I have a 26 year-old daughter and a 22 year-old son who are both in the UK studying, which means that I don’t have any indulgences left because I can’t afford any. My daughter just got engaged, so we’re looking at a wedding next year. My biggest indulgence is actually my social media, because it takes up so much of my time.

What advice would you offer to others starting out in your business?

Anyone wanting to start a career in the telecoms industry should be very focused. Be aware of the technology and emerging technologies. Don’t just look at telecommunications as being about making phone calls, it’s about total connectivity on every possible platform, and being aware of how technology affects daily life.

What do you have on your desk at work?

My laptop, my phone charger, a stress ball and a doughnut. That’s one of my social media trademarks.

What can’t you live without?

I know it’s a boring answer but my family. My children are more like my best friends than my children. My son is my footballing partner. When it comes to my online persona, they see me as the embarrassing dad, especially when I write a very negative review. But their friends don’t know who I am on social media.

What car do you drive?

A black Nissan Patrol. It bullies people off the road – otherwise you can’t live in Dubai.

How do you achieve a work-life balance?

With great difficulty. Our weekends don’t match European weekends, our time zones are different, so if you’re in an international role like I am, it’s incredibly difficult to have a work-life balance. I never switch off my phone, but I’ve learnt to prioritise which calls I take out of hours and which emails I read. There’s a fine line with me as to what’s important and what’s not.

If you could swap jobs with anyone, who would it be and why?

A labourer. I’d like to see the other side of life in Dubai. I’d like to see how the people who have built our country, our malls, our villas and apartments live. They always seem to be a little bit happy. We don’t see them argue about getting the latest model car or the latest smart phone, or being seen at the latest fancy buffet restaurant. They have different priorities in life. I would actually like to experience a full day of hard labour.

What is your favourite book?

I very rarely read books because I read the news instead. But my favourite book of all time would be To Kill a Mockingbird.

business@thenational.ae