As the countdown begins for the Greatest Show on Earth to wind down after six months of magic, it is not just the visitors who are feeling wistful, the hundreds and thousands of Expo staff and volunteers, who have played a major part in making it such a smashing success, are also feeling sad that its all coming to an end.
Many are left with a bitter-sweet feeling.
Working side by side with people from different parts of the world — cutting across race, religion, and culture — have left many with moments and memories to cherish for a lifetime.
Most of the staff are young and some are fresh out of college, and say working at the world fair has given them an experience and a global outlook that cannot be learnt in any classroom.
While many employees will be returning to their homeland, armed with new skills and lots of resilience, many plan to stay on in the UAE to make good use of the connections they have made and land a job in the UAE. Another good thing, staff said, is that Expo 2020 Dubai itself has a ‘Beyond Expo programme’ which offers career counselling and advice to all full-time Expo employees.
As we draw to a close, Khaleej Times went around asking employees on how Expo has moulded them professionally and what are their plans post-March 31.
Making UAE second home
Russian expat Olga Bezpyatkina who worked as senior manager, international media at Expo 2020, says she was privileged to have contributed to an event of this scale. “My contract at Expo doesn’t end immediately on March 31, so I will have a bit time to properly reflect on the experiences that I’ve gained here, to recharge, and to start looking for the right opportunity in communications. I really enjoy living in the UAE and my plan is to stay here for my next role,” said the communications expert, who joined the Expo team three years ago.
Olga had worked in external communications for more than 11 years, mostly focused on developing PR campaigns for different countries in EMEA – Russia, Middle East, South Africa, Eastern Europe, and feels the Expo has given her an experience of a lifetime. “I previously worked for Kaspersky in-house, and Google on the agency side, so my expertise is in technology PR. I think Expo was a natural fit for me personally – it’s global, agile, and it never stops.”
Olga said she got to work and learn alongside professionals from around the globe. “It is hard to imagine any organisation that can give you that kind of exposure and opportunity to connect with global media outlets, international organisations, representatives from 192 countries and innovators from across the globe – all at once!
“It was not just a job, it was a job with a purpose, and it truly made me believe that the sky is the limit,” said Olga.
Her biggest takeaways from Expo 2020? “I would say resilience, agility and flexibility. I think they are all important in the post-pandemic world.”
Continuing the road to social cause
Yasmin Baker, grant manager of the Expo live programme has been associated with the mega fair for the last five years and is emotional about the event coming to an end. “In other jobs, you quit for your own reasons. But working at Expo 2020 feels more like an adult graduation. I am very emotional to leave Expo, but I am very privileged to have acquired new skills and accelerated my professional growth,” said Baker.
An environment biologist developing a wildlife and biological programme, Baker hopes to work in a sector that can help shape a sustainable future. “But for now, I am going to take a break to master and sharpen the skills I acquired at Expo 2020,” Baker told Khaleej Times.
Baker said she gained insights into different industries, start-ups and infrastructure. “Expo 2020 gave me a sense of teamwork, flexibility and stability while adapting to new roles which we performed to the best of our abilities to deliver the best for the collective mission.”
Delivering quality of highest standard
Celebrity management executive Mirza Shamey Abbas, who hails from Bengaluru in India, said the highlight of his Expo stint has to be assisting football’s greatest – Lionel Messi. “From managing celebrities back home in India, I got to assist my favourite sportsman Lionel Messi at Expo 2020,” said Abbas, who said it will be a memory of a lifetime for him.
Abbas was deputed to work in August last year to supervise attractions at different pavilions, and he hopes to get a job in the UAE once his contract expires on the last day of Expo 2020. “Post Expo 2020, the area will be converted to District 2020. They will be retaining many employees for operations of the ‘15-minute city’ and I hope I get to be a part of it,” said Abbas.
Abbas said that he has been applying at many places, and his experience at the world fair has given his resume that extra weightage. “I have built strong connections at Expo 2020 with people of different nationalities. The skills what I have acquired to deliver the highest standard of work will play an important role in shaping my future,” he said.
Realising talent and skills
Many employees said Expo 2020 made them realise their potential and true calling in life, as it helped bring their inner talent and skills to the fore. A case in point is Kenyan national Beatrice Karanja who used to work as a sales executive and logistics management in Dubai. When the pandemic hit, she had to look out for another job, “I realised that Expo 2020 Dubai was the place to be,” she said.
Karanja was deputed as a hostess at Mission Possible – Opportunity Pavilion. “I was there to assist people, which made me truly happy.” She said that not only did she acquire many new skills, Expo 2020 made her more confident. “I realised that I became more confident as I continued working at Expo 2020, which also made it possible for me to interact with my idol Steve Harvey,” she said.
Karanja said thanks to Expo, she has decided to take up a job as a customer service executive. “I realised that helping people makes me really happy and that’s the perfect position for me,” she said. “Expo 2020 guided me and moulded me into a professional,” Karanja added.
Many fresh college graduates also cut their teeth in the world of work at Expo 2020. Sumaiyah Sultana, who graduated from Skyline University, Sharjah in November 2021, and who was
hired to work at Expo 2020 in September, said: “It was a great opportunity for me. Interacting with people of various cultures and nations taught me to indulge in conversations with people, which will help me in future,” said Sultana.
The Bangladeshi expat who was born and brought up in the UAE, has been working at Garden in The sky, one of the most visited attractions at Expo since day one – it used to attract over 7,000 visitors each day. “I have built a lot of confidence and my communication skills have improved. I became punctual, patient and persistent, and have also developed a lot of tolerance, which I lacked before I began working at Expo,” said Sultana.
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