Archive for February, 2011

First three weeks of the new job


Some observations after three weeks at HP.

That went quickly!

Am the only Brit on my floor and in my team. This is the least British environment I have worked in. That’s not a bad thing, it’s just different. A real mixture of people from everywhere, lots of French people and French speakers – a different atmosphere.

It took a day and a half to put a special offer together for partners. At Sun, the same exercise took me about three months.

I’ve been driving all over Dubai – a nostalgic experience. I have probably driven more for work in the last three weeks than in the last three years.

Work travel starts next week – Oman, a week in Dubai, then Lebanon, then probably Egypt or Kuwait. It’ll be interesting to see how I enjoy only going around the Middle East. Probably quite exciting, given the current events sweeping the region.

I see real opportunity for my product set. Need to stick to my plans to avoid being overwhelmed with projects and losing focus – a nice problem to have.

I’m enabled to get things done in a way that I wasn’t in my role at Oracle.

It’s great to be busy and part of a growing organisation. Also nice to be in a team located in the same country as me.

I am not enjoying having to use Windows 7. Yes, I hated my Mac for the first week I had it. Then I loved it. I have had Windows 7 for three weeks now and am incredulous at how unpleasant the experience still is. I know Macs are expensive, but the way things are engineered makes using a Mac laptop such a pleasure – it amazes me that simply things like a large mouse pad with the same two finger scrolling and other features are still not part of the Windows experience. Suspend and resume are terrible compared to the Mac. I have had apps crash regularly, something that will happen on OSX, but usually only after the laptop’s been running without a reboot for weeks.

I’ve loved working in Dubai, going to the office every day and getting three gym classes in a week. It’s also nice to have colleagues, partners and customers follow the same working week and similar working hours.

I’m enjoying working with other vendors – VMware and Citrix – rather than being focused only on what my employer offers.

Here’s to the next three weeks…

Fossil Rock again


Nice two car trip to Fossil Rock again today.

Lawrence’s Wrangler Unlimited had a transmission overheating ‘hot oil’ warning. I was surprise – he’d been driving it in 4 hi for about an hour and a half. The rest of the trip he did in Lo 4 and drive with no issues.

My next car for the desert will be a manual – I just don’t like driving automatics for our kind of offroading. I can see how they’re better for rocks and other terrain, but for the desert I would prefer to have more control. I know lots of people drive automatics with no issues here, but I will stick to choosing which gear I want to be in.



Optimism pays


Letters of Note is a great blog.

This particular entry is fantastic.

Even though I have never recruited anyone in the UAE myself, I still get spam CVs sent through to me.  It’s sad to see so many people make the same mistakes – the classic is calling the file cv.doc.  How is anyone supposed to look you up with such a useless filename.  The latest cv.doc also always overwrites the previous one.

Pink Rock again


Had a great trip to Pink Rock last Saturday.

Lots of smooth dunes, only four cars, plus a bit more of an adventurous route. Loved it.

It was fun to have three Jeeps in the group.

Pink Rock Feb 2011-9.JPG

The Pajero was more than welcome too, of course.

Pink Rock Feb 2011-13.JPG

Three Jeeps.

Pink Rock Feb 2011-16.JPG

We made it a fair way up the hill near Big Red. Very windy, with some fantastic crests created by the blowing sand. Fun to drive through the sand too, as it skidded along the ground.

At Pink Rock, Robin’s voice came over the walkie talkie – ‘Chris, there’s a big rock in front of me. Not sure how to manage this one’. It was easy to drive past, but there’s a first time for everything. It reminds me of the first time I drove up Pink Rock eight(!) years ago and ended up parked on top of this. This involved having the car jacked up and the rock rolled out.


Robin easily drove over it. Was it the same rock?

A great day out. Looking forward to some more before it gets too hot. Am also tempted to upgrade the Wrangler to the latest model. Robin’s ‘new’ secondhand silver Sahara does look good.

Pink Rock Feb 2011-17.JPG

Still running


I have seen many delipidated cars on the roads of Beirut, but this one has to be one of the worst.


Completely filled with rubbish, it had clearly been involved in big crash that had smashed the front and back of the car to pieces. Somehow, it was still running. Somehow, ‘the authorities’ allowed it to.

Eight left


As I type, Biscuit the cat is happily crawling up the fly screen, enjoying ripping it, slowly but surely, to bits.

Unusually, this fills me with happiness.

On Dec 3, Biscuit managed to fall from our corridor onto the concrete paving below. She fell two floors, probably slipping because her movement was a bit restricted due to the surgical jacket she was wearing to stop her licking the scar from where she had just been neutered.

It was partly ‘my fault’ – normally when Biscuit went onto the landing, she would run back inside fairly quickly. On this occasion she decided to go exploring and fall off.

Mrs Saul was wondering where she had got to, eventually finding her in a pool of blood two floors down, lying quietly on her side and looking ‘odd’. We rushed her to the vet after sliding her onto a baking tray with a towel on it. I whispered words of encouragement to her the whole way there, convinced she would die from internal injuries.

Apparently, cats are always coming into the vet having fallen off things. They tend to injure themselves in certain, predictable patterns. Fortunately, Biscuit hadn’t broken any bones or punctured any organs. She had damaged her spine though. It was clear that she could hardly move one of her rear legs, barely being able to move the other one at all. The blood had come from her nose.

The vet was very honest – it was unlikely that she would recover the use of her legs and it was likely that she would be incontinent and have little quality of life. I was preparing myself to face the thought of having her put down, when she moved across her cage at the vet’s and promptly used the litter tray with no issues at all. Hurrah.

On arriving home after observation at the vet for a couple of days, Biscuit was very subdued and could only move around by shuffling her back legs forward whilst resting on the front two. Her back was very bent and it was hard to pick her up without hurting her. It was also hard for her to sit on us without us being hurt – unable to jump, her modus operandi when wanting a lap to sleep on was to dig her front claws into your thighs and haul herself up that way. Ouch.

Two and a bit months later, you would hardly know she had injured herself. She is running around, jumping about and is super lively. She is able to jump up onto the dining room table and burn her tail on a candle, for example.

She is also now happily jumping up onto the balcony railings… I’m not sure what to do, really. I’m sure she’s going to fall again, but at least the ground below the balcony is covered with grass. We just need to keep an eye on her and not let her go outside alone.

Lucky cat.


Hideous ‘Lamp Pole’ update


Millions of my readers have been in touch, asking me for the latest on the awful lamp post situation.

Well, all the old ones have now been taken down along the Boulevard –


…and replaced, bizarrely, with double the number of lamp posts, small ones at the back, bigger ones on the edge of the road.




Are they really all that bad? I don’t like them, especially now that they have adverts hanging off them. What annoys me is that they must have cost a fortune, replaced something that was much nicer and introduce lots of vacuous advertising and lots of extra light that doesn’t match the rest of the lighting in the development. Pointless.

So, there’s the update.

More housing fee rage


Regional troubles


Following the developments in Tunisia and Egypt has been interesting. Definitely a reminder that I am living in a region where things can suddenly change…

I do see Dubai benefitting, again, from regional unrest. Whilst political change is sure to be welcomed by millions of Egyptians, there is only so long international companies can hold off making decisions about where they build that factory, open that call centre or look to invest in other ways.

New Job!


I thought I had already blogged about this, but it turns out that I hadn’t – a situation rather like my imaginary conversations with Mrs Saul. It often turns out that I have had a conversation in my head, but not actually with her, leading to lots of confusion.

Anyway, at the beginning of Jaunary I resigned from Oracle and accepted a new job at HP. I will be ‘Client Virtualisation Business Development Manager’ for their ‘Rest of Middle East’ region. This basically means I will be responsible for sales of their thin client products in the Levant and Gulf, but not in Saudi. Naturally I am disappointed not to be able to travel to Saudi for a while, but there you go.

Goodbye to some of the mega trips and odd destinations of the past – hello to, I expect, similar amounts of travel, but a chance to focus on a smaller region and have a bit more of a regular home life.

I had been very unhappy with the situation at Oracle for a while. It’s not anyone’s fault in particular, but after four years of dramatic career progression and lots of promises, I found myself wasting two and a bit years getting kicked in the teeth by reorgs and the Oracle acquisition itself. There is a limit to how long you can ‘wait and see’ and I had waited long enough and not seen things going in a direction that suited me, so it was time to go. I wish all my former colleagues the best and would certainly not rule out rejoining the company again, but for me, at this moment in time, it was time to leave and have a fresh start.

Without wishing to blow my own trumped, I should leave more often! I had so many fantastic messages of support and best wishes, as well as quite a few people calling and asking what they could do to make me stay. This cheered me up no end, as I had been getting stuck into a bit of a downward spiral.

Whilst looking for a new job, I was very clear that I wanted to continue to do something in the ‘desktop’ area that I’ve covered for so long. This was not about staying in my comfort zone, but about staying in and developing my area of expertise, whilst trying to grow my skills and career. I am lucky enough to enjoy and get excited about the topic – not many people are fortunate enough to actually be interested in what they do. I wanted to stay with ‘desktop’ and had a few interviews with various vendors. HP’s offer was a good one, with some clear challenges.

My job is to take things from reactive selling to proactive selling of their thin client product set in the region. Instead of responding to requests for quotes, we need to be driving the customer towards buying a solution from us. Navigating my way through a large regional organisation, bringing various teams together, training up the partners, working with VMware, Citrix and Microsoft, etc, etc. Exciting stuff.

Naturally, working at HP means I will be using an HP laptop with Windows 7. Long time readers of my blog will remember the pain I went through when I switched to a Mac two and half years ago, courtesy of Sun. For two weeks I hated it – now I absolutely love it and have kitted out Mrs Saul with a MacBook and the living room with a Mac Mini as our media centre. It goes wtihout saying that HP make the bestest ever corporate laptops and that our partner Microsoft make the bestest ever software, but I am not looking forward to having to use a Windows laptop every day again. The Mac is just fantastic – so easy to use, so nicely put together. I wonder if I can stick an HP badge on the front of one and keep using it that way?

It surprises me that certain Mac features haven’t made it to Windows laptops – the magnetic power cord, larger mousepad, two finger scrolling, etc, etc. These little things make it so easy to use a Mac laptop as a laptop. I can’t see myself surviving with the miniscule trackpad on my new work laptop – I will have to use a mouse again for the first time in years.

Resigning at the beginning of January meant a month’s gardening leave before I started in Feb. It was fantastic to have a whole month off wtih no work travel. I spent time with my sister, who is now working in Muscat. My father was visiting too, which meant we had some nice family time together. I then spent a wonderful week skiing with a friend in Kitzbuehel, Austria. It was great to have an active holiday, totally free from distractions. I also love having a few days lounging around at home with nothing to do.

Taking my father into the unknown for some photography.

Oman Dec 2010 Kitzbuehel 2011-41.JPG

A Peacock in Becca’s garden.

Oman Dec 2010 Kitzbuehel 2011-54.JPG

The joys of fresh air, snow and sunshine.

Oman Dec 2010 Kitzbuehel 2011-90.JPG

Oman Dec 2010 Kitzbuehel 2011-87.JPG

I am really hoping this new job will mean a bit of a fresh start for me.

2010 was an odd year. On the one hand, I had an immense amount of fun – some great holidays and parties and the like, enjoying all the things Dubai has to offer. Much of the fun felt hollow at times, as I was miserable at work and worried and upset for my mother. My mother’s passing away wasn’t unexpected but was still deeply shocking and saddening. I find myself missing her immensely, still.

So, time to get stuck into a new job that will see me busy again, hopefully teach me a lot and earn me some cash, whilst being enjoyable too. I loved my earlier years in Dubai working for Sun – I am hoping I can recapture that mix of really enjoying a job, working hard, learning a great deal and having lots of fun at the same time.

Work is what tends to matter to me – I am not someone who can trudge along at something they don’t enjoy as longs as it allows them time to follow their hobbies or interests during the weekend. I need to be busy and happy at work before I can start to enjoy anything outside of it. Fingers crossed for a 2011 that is better than 2010 and which keeps me occupied and fulfilled!