a photo of Ali Al Sowaidi

Employee Profile-Ali Al Sowaidi

I am a graduate trainee working in the Finance Department at Sidra Medical and Research Center, focusing specifically on budgets. I have been working here for just over a year. I joined Sidra after finishing my studies in the UK in Swansea (Wales) where I earned a BS in Business Management with a specialization in finance.

My current role as graduate trainee within the Finance department involves learning from the people I work with – this includes a variety of experts, specialists and teams. The day to day involvement and exposure is all part of a development plan from Sidra to help me build up my career and develop a strong skill set in the finance and budgeting stream.

Another part that I enjoy about working at Sidra is that, as a start-up organization, there is always something new and interesting going on that I can get involved in to expand my skill set. For example, I’ve been working with Sidra’s onboarding team – the folks who help new employees join us here in Qatar – on developing and presenting the Cultural Conversation session during the new employee orientation program. I feel privileged to give this talk because I am happy to welcome employees to Sidra and also to my hometown Doha.

I talk about many things in the presentation from what I wear (Traditional clothes) to what we do during free time and weekends. The purpose of this conversation is to break the ice and make people comfortable about living in Doha, as well as giving them the chance to ask questions freely about anything they want to know from a local guy.

It’s fun to see what’s on peoples minds when they first arrive to Qatar and some of the questions I’ve been asked are:

1. Are all Qataris millionaires?
Definitely not.

2. Do all Qataris drive Land Cruiser?
A lot of Qataris and expats in Doha drive 4X4 vehicles in general but that’s because going off road on desert trips and camping is one of the most fun activities in Qatar.

3. What else do local men wear with their national clothes?
– Light polyester or cotton pants and a light cotton vest underneath our Thobes (the white long garment).
– Our head dress consists of a Gethera which sits on top of a cap called a Gehfiya. The head gear is put in place with a black cord called an Igaal
– In winter, we wear thicker thobes and Getheras as well as jackets and waistcoats. We feel cold too!

4. Do we have oil field under our house?
I wish! They are actually offshore.

5. What are the best places to visit around Doha?
The old market (Souq Waqif), the Islamic Museum of Arts, the cultural village (Katara) and loads of shops and restaurants.

One of the questions that touched me was from a new employee who recently moved to Qatar, who wanted to know how to make friends with locals and explained how hard it was. My answer was that he just made a friend! You can meet locals everywhere and make friends with them just by stepping outside of your comfort zone and exploring Doha. While there are some cultural boundaries to be aware of, locals are welcoming and love making friends with people from other countries.

A few months later, I ran into the person who asked me the question again and he was excited to tell me that he now has a close group of local friends who share the same interests and helped him get to know Doha from a great new perspective.

One of the best things about living in Qatar is that it’s a small country and most of the people here know each other, which makes it a friendly place to live and work. You can enjoy the nice weather in the winter and beach in the summer. There are a lot of things to do and see around Doha and there are a lot of activates happening year round for everyone. For example, we recently celebrated National Day with a great parade and in the evening one of the biggest fireworks shows of the year was put on display for everyone to enjoy.

During my spare time, I volunteer with the Qatar Debate team as a judge and chair debates around Doha for middle and high school students, as well as university competitions. This is something I became interested in while I was at Swansea University after joining the debate team there and serving as a judge. In April 2014, I was selected to be the National Coach for the Arabic Debate team and represented Qatar in the Arabic Debating Championship. I am proud that we went all the way to secure fourth place and plan to reach the finals next year.

Working with Sidra has given me a great advantage of being about to meet people from different parts of the world. If you are joining us, you just might see me in your orientation session and I would be more than happy to answer any questions you might have about Qatar and its people. Looking forward to meeting you at Sidra!