Andy Shaw, Chair of RIBA Gulf

Andy Shaw is a Dubai-based architect and educator, elected to the role of chairperson for RIBA Gulf chapter in January 2020. 

Currently working as a managing partner at AMA on Dubai Harbour Master projects and other cultural government agency projects throughout UAE.

Join us to discuss what it is like to move from the United Kingdom to a new life in the Middle East as well as what it is like to teach while running a business.



Transcription (using

Transcription (Raw Text)

Stephen Drew 0:08
Hello, everyone I am Stephen Drew from the architecture social. And we have a fantastic guests from halfway around the world. So far the outreach committee still photo radar. And this is what’s really interesting. I’ve been, I’ve been locked in, in the COVID. I’ve been I’ve been told to stay at home. So it’s really nice refreshing to hear from someone in the artistic community who is in a different part of the world. So Andy Shaw, who is the chair of rebound Gulf chapter, how are you today, sir?

Andy Shaw 0:40
Very good. Thanks. Thank you.

Stephen Drew 0:42

Andy Shaw 0:42
Nice to meet you.

Stephen Drew 0:44
Yeah, great. And we’ve got it all working. Because the way you notice like we were gonna do a video interview, weren’t we Andy, but you know what it’s like the audio works. So we’ll jump in. So amazing. So glad this is all working. So for anyone that has not met you before, I’m going to do a little brief introduction now. And I’ve got I’ve got my new soundboard which I’m sure you will appreciate as well. So before I have my traditional band but we’ve got we’ve got the full sandbox, we can pretend like we’re in a virtual audience. So Andy, you are an architect and educator and currently you’re based in Dubai, working on various projects in the UAE in the UK and elected as to the role of Chair of rebate Gulf chapter in Jan 2020 Wow, that was must have been a baptism of fire. A perfect time to be the chair. So thank you for coming on. And how is everything at the moment is everything looking better in the Gulf at the moment?

Andy Shaw 1:45
I think overall it is actually yeah depends you want to talk first about COVID situation or building situation

Stephen Drew 1:53
we can do to both sides are trying to

Andy Shaw 1:56
at the moment where I mean don’t rub it in for you guys but yeah, there’s been there’s not been there was a harsh lockdown a year ago about like everywhere else like march april but since then no no lockdown there’s restrictions everywhere like temperature checks not even though the Opera House is running. Most being almost everything’s running well University’s online so we’re teaching online almost fully just a few in person classes. You can go out and about do most things but just with caution everyone wears masks everywhere there’s a that’s quite pleased quite strictly then you’ll be off a few times before you get fined or anything but you know there are people writing your checks every building a bit of reduced capacity here and there. But a pretty normal life otherwise actually helps us get warm and a lot more outdoor activity beaches and things you know open there are a few parks and things in Dubai and golf courses. So there’s not maybe quite as an indoor based lifestyle but there’s still obviously been COVID cases and problems and but a lot of the UK I think a very good vaccine rollout as well it’s amazing don’t ever have a simulation here they be I got vaccinated a few weeks ago the free for all and then it well bit of priority but a free for all and they did it by age and now I think that now they’ve made it again if you sign up and find an appointment or if you walk in and you’re lucky it’s not quite as strict as UK but they managed that I think one of the top three I think Well last time I looked like second for vaccinations UK was third but there’s still you can’t travel here from UK at the moment they did have a lot a lot of UK people came over for Christmas time to enjoy the weather and now it’s now it’s coming up to summer where one thing living in the Gulf that’s what’s like a perfect British summer maybe for you guys when it happens in August or something. It’s like right here November to February March. Kind of warm sunny every day. do nice things outside. But from about now it’s like April May till September. It’s not very nice to be outside it’s too hot.

Stephen Drew 4:07

Andy Shaw 4:09
like being in Canada’s too cold in the winter or replaces here it’s kind of so hot that you’re kind of forced indoors. There is also cinnamon like that’s why you have big malls like in America. There are a few galleries now and there’s not the same kind of concerts and things as UK obviously there’s normally something going on. But yeah, you’re kind of more and more restricted in doors even now evenings of bearable but in a month or two events. I try and leave the country in the summer and I can actually go to Europe for a little bit and work remotely. So that getting better is going to be a big bonus. Because Yeah, the it’s normally very very nice weather here for the winter. The winter half and the summer half is a bit different. You have to adjust.

Stephen Drew 4:55
Amazing, amazing, so well. I tell you why. And the after all this here as soon as the airport so when I think there’s a good chance I’d love to meet you in person. But imagine if we went in back the clocks a little bit because currently you’re a managing partner for ama, which is a, you know, the is a boutique contemporary design firm based in Dubai. But let’s wind the clocks back a bit, because I’m looking here, now. And I’ve just so I can see that used to work at Hopkins before. I’ve worked with the architectural practice in London, which is a great studio. But I mean, their base near was the Paddington Station. So we’re talking, we’re talking like, really, really Baker Street area, and quintessential London. So at one point, you must have made the decision to move to Dubai. And I’m sure that has changed your life. And so what, what kind of made you have that right decision at that time there? Was there a particular time that you moved out to the buyer, you’ve never looked back? As a I’d love to know your journey.

Andy Shaw 6:02

Interesting question if two things happening at once, but important to look back and reflect. now. I’ll just tell you, my age might make more sense. I’m 43. So why that’s important. I graduated in 19.1 99. Oh, and

Stephen Drew 6:24
the microphone sounds like you.

Andy Shaw 6:30
Don’t touch the mic. So

Stephen Drew 6:32
you’re fine. It’s all good.

Andy Shaw 6:34
So yeah, so if I told you the rest would guess anyway, so I graduated 99 in London, grew up in Scotland moved down to London, to study part one and two there, I worked there for 1012 years, and generally really loved it a great time, that period before financial crisis, because some of your listeners may have missed all that was actually a really great time. And that one thing, the concept of losing your job didn’t really exist, there’s like, the worst that could happen is you didn’t you wouldn’t get a pay rise. Quite the amount very positive atmosphere office atmosphere is very good. From what I can see, those salaries haven’t moved that much in the 20 years, 15 years since then, even. So it was very fun, great time financial crisis, quite a big change, actually, and just first atmosphere in the office hours and things got a bit more cautious and creaky. Because he didn’t know what’s gonna happen next, also redundancies all over the place, whole atmosphere changed a bit. And around that time, actually, a few years after that, when it’s kind of kicking in, like the aftermath of the financial crisis, I was starting to think that I wasn’t enjoying London, as much as I used to a bit older, you know, you get all the kind of you feel the lack of space intensity a bit more, and maybe, you know, going out and about less, you’re doing your 20s. So I’d had a great time, but I thought it’s kind of ending, I wasn’t enjoying it so much. I was also sort of thinking, I’d only lived in the UK in two cities, I’d like to, I’d never studied a year abroad or anything that some friends done. So I wanted to really experience another country before it’s too late. And I started looking around and at that time, I Asia is quite possible to go to Asia and work for one of the British firms there be quite feasible. And it turns out, a former sub boss from Hopkins, had taken a senior job in Dubai and asked me to come join. And it took about a year to happen. But after a bit of a very tough time here as well, actually, it was a fallout of the crisis, but eventually it did happen. And so I managed to get a change of scene and a change of country, some of the time I’d met my wife at the same time, and she was also keen for a change. And yeah, that’s a feeling of change. There’s I think the financial is quite a quite a big part. But after going through that, and it didn’t, I kept my job things don’t affect me directly, but it just changed the mood. And I think it’s been up and down a bit since but there’s still a bit of an aftermath of it. So there’s those few things that’s kind of one there’s a bit of the keenness to get a change of scene but also drove coming somewhere new didn’t have a plan to stay for 10 years though bit playing it by ear for it may lead to something else I don’t really know. But as keen for a bit of a change. I think also in my job, it’s quite happy they’ve got a bit I’d been in the one company for over 10 years and wanted a bit of a change doing lots of rendering actually at the time and was keen to do a few other things but I was bit stuck in the rendering Hall just

Stephen Drew 9:41
Are you at you are new into the 3d there’s once you get that sometimes when you get you’re very good at that and you have an eye for it that can be that can be your go to thing, but I can see I mean the Hopkins grow practice and so then you move to Rm j m, as you said, so I mentioned that it’s quite, I mean, my tummy from my around RJ a great company, but they’re quiet. And they’re quite a large company. So it was it wasn’t a big office that you went to when you moved out though, is it more of a smaller satellite office? Or what was the centre back then?

Andy Shaw 10:12
Well, for what they’re from actually my hometown, Edinburgh, and I knew a bit about that why didn’t appreciate was that outside the UK, they were like, you know, the big, very big deal. In Hong Kong and Dubai. They’re one of those companies that multidisciplinary engineering ID acoustics, everything in house, one stop shop, they would have had hundreds and hundreds of people. And they had proper kind of offices in all these countries, rather than, you know, satellite office serving the UK design office, which other ones have, when I joined, they’re still pretty big. But they’re going through a very turbulent period. And eventually, like the engineering department was sold. So that was, and that became just architecture. So that when I joined a few 100 people, it was big place. But then once then engineering was sold a few years later, I was down to more like 6070, but still quite big. But yeah, the quite working in the Gulf is already a bit wild. Some, some funny things happen. It is an emerging market, that has lots of opportunities, and that things happen quickly. Big Ideas get pushed through quickly, but also some crazy things happen.

Stephen Drew 11:24
I love I love it. I think it’s a it just seems like such a different landscape, literally. And as you say, I love the idea of these crazy adventures. And I mean, this Testament, the kind of buildings and the scope of stuff that you see is amazing. I mean, Justin Brown, we will continue on talk about in particular, because you also you do a lot of teaching, which is amazing, as well. But just to touch upon that, and you talked about like these amazing stuff. It is absolutely the projects out there, because I was involved in recruiting for one of the Amala projects as well. We’re talking stuff out of the imagination, creating islands, creating destinations, these buildings, which almost defy gravity, and you have something that you just think you’d never see. It’s absolutely amazing. So the scale and the size and the imagination of the projects are absolutely mind boggling. Have you worked on any one or two, particularly yourself, which is pretty notable or big on?

Andy Shaw 12:35
I’ve been working on recently, but I can’t really talk about it. Our confidential James Bond

Stephen Drew 12:39
here, I don’t want to I don’t want you to get shot or anything. I don’t want to get you in trouble. Exciting, confidential projects.

Unknown Speaker 12:47
I’ve been invited to the British Embassy next week.

Stephen Drew 12:50
I don’t know why. It’s amazing. I mean, again, though.

Andy Shaw 12:56
You said that to

Stephen Drew 12:58
the British Embassy. That’s amazing, though, isn’t it? That’s we call that interesting.

Andy Shaw 13:04
Then after you get it when you’re outside the UK, they’re quite active in helping business along them construction as part of it in the sun. Atkins over a big player across the region. A lot of British company foster has been a huge amount of work around here as well. Yeah. Yes, I have. I’ve been involved in some very, very, very urgent projects. I can’t get into one example one, maybe because it’s kind of shows what you’re saying. And maybe I can explain a bit why the region doesn’t hat is 5060 years ago, just purling. And they’re taking pearls out the water. And before that fishing. There’s all these pictures, you’ll find these desert, a few one or two towers and some very different lifestyle. oil has changed everything developing very quickly. But so it does have its culture and things it’s proud of, but it doesn’t have real the depth and the age. It doesn’t have an old institution like Cambridge University, or MIT, or rebar and it’s just it’s very low population. So it means more focused on the future. And they like making a whilst they are proud of the heritage and past they might look in the future and trying to make a mark on the future. Things like the Mars probe, the UAE had a problem on Mars recently. And they make this big splash project. And that’s what Saudi is doing now. And it’s not you know, they don’t just want a resort. They want a super sustainable resort using new materials and new new experiences this there is an aspiration or ambition to do new things that make a mark and sometimes they do hit the mark nearly sometimes not quite that there’s many times there is an interesting aspiration and one project involved in they wanted to they brought in these experts, California, Australia here all over the place. And it’s Scotland how we haven’t got a MIT Cambridge institution. I think how we make one if we can’t make one. How do we make a new thing how rethink education, what it means that the locals for adults are everything? How if we’re starting to scratch how we do it, and you know, we’re happy to support it, that kind of thinking is not, you know, it’s quite inspiring to be around to really kind of look ahead and think how can we do things better differently. And it happens quite quickly because of government’s quite directly involved and pushy, there’s not not much bureaucracy, or layers or other things that come into into fear, when there is a kind of vision they couldn’t normally happen quite quickly. At the same time, I’ve worked on lots of projects that went nowhere to go somewhere. Luckily, a few have been built, but it’s probably only like 20% or something. I’m sure we’re gonna work in the UK, more than half got built. But quite a few here, worked on them and then just got stuck didn’t happen.

Stephen Drew 15:48
Well, when you were talking about that, it seems quite liberating. Because I, when we worked in practice, I worked for a few years, I worked at a company called EPR architects and we were predominantly working on London based projects. And when you were saying about building stuff for the future, I almost giggle in my head because I get flashbacks of dealing with Westminster Council and you know, the kind of fitting in within London standards, which is, which is great, and I love London. But it is a there is so much of an impetus on making sure that your building filled fit fits with the existing context. However,

it what you’re on about there’s now a big element of it sounds like placemaking, isn’t it because you make any destination. So the future, which one is super kind of refreshing? Because you Okay, I’ve got no one to argue about what goes where, because you always have like at your, at your blank canvas and some of these places to make this project. So my sons sounds fun and exciting. And don’t worry, I don’t think we give anything away. And I’m not interested in upcoming projects. But it’s just more for the listeners here to imagine this that it is his destination places. And as you as you said, Dubai is a really good example Isn’t that where you’ve got all that you’ve got the fantastic, I forget the exact name of it, but you’ve got the the island with the palm beach islands and you know, creating stuff

Andy Shaw 17:10
where there is symbolism. And again, this is classic pictures from the marina palm area. I came with Hopkins for a month 15 years ago, I remember driving there and it was really sand and some cranes. And then now it’s like this kind of mini Toronto, I think I’m shuffling.

Stephen Drew 17:36
so far as to say we were saying we couldn’t do the video because it’d be a right Keiko. So

Andy Shaw 17:43
the palm is what I call it that didn’t exist 20 years ago just came from nothing to see that frame. It’s quite crazy. It’s mostly developed. Now let’s talk about numbers. And there’s always a bit more work being done around the coast. Anybody that doesn’t know go look at Google Earth and just think that’s a bit crazy. Like photoshopping the coastline

Stephen Drew 18:04
on now. I know it is is amazing. It is amazing. And I think it’s fantastic and lucky. I mean if anyone was watching this they’re in the room I can see you beaming from year to year so you take great pride in what you’re doing and I can see why you’re a great representative to be the chair of Rebbe golf just before we got that because as we touched upon lately, so used to do 3d visualisations before you’re an architect you you know you’ve got this amazing I guess breadth of a career. Let’s talk about this because it is interesting. So you you’ve been a professor and to universities or anything else you don’t do this got on your LinkedIn

Andy Shaw 18:45
and that was all there.

Stephen Drew 18:47
It’s all that okay, well, that’s amazing. Teaching

Andy Shaw 18:52
Yes. I mean, that’s another interesting story where after working here for several years and then eventually again but ground down by big practice and machinery had a friend that was kind of freelancing and working more on his own contract because here you have your visa is linked to your job and your job it’s just not quite as easy as UK but your your right to live in the country is basically linked to a job so you have your own visa and then you have a freelancer and you can plug into other companies so it’s getting tempted by doing this and I started doing that and I had a some medium and long term gains so kind of like being the same but without I found it quite refreshing not plugged into politics and structure of an office you’re just you know, you’re there for nine months or three months a few weeks then you’re off. I also I started having a stroke my child first child was on the way anyway. And I could see it’s there is quite a sadly here but culture long hours because you get crazy deadlines, right? We try and relax when it’s not crazy deadlines to bounce out but there’s often you just you got to work late at work we can And I can see that people have children at home, it was a bit unfair and tough on them. So I realised I wanted to control my time. And once I’d stepped out of office, I’d been asked before about teaching at a software election, but often this tendency, you know, if we want you to focus in on what you’re doing, they probably also would like doing a rebar role because it’s voluntary and it distracts you. So as soon as I kind of broke away from being an office, I had that freedom. whilst also if you’re starting up with intentional start up a company, which sort of evolved into as well. The once you have that freedom of time, and no longer someone’s saying what you can and can’t do can kind of take up these things. And so the option to teach came up again, and actually the Canadian university through a friend and I did that. And then that led to meeting the people at Heriot watt here. And I’ve been teaching there and I think it’s four years, I’ve taught, yeah, four years, they’re on the road to being Riba accredited, so you to get a rip apart one, if there’s already one other university ibid at the university does that. And a lot, so a lot of the students there are quite keen to go to UK for part two, actually, after an already summer doing that. So yeah, that kind of freedom, independence, being away from a company, billions wanting to control my time, allow me to teach. And as you know, I found that I’d love to say it because I love helping with children and stuff, but it’s the students, the kids, a bit older than kids, you know, the 1819, the first year. I do like helping them but it’s also helped me quite a lot. I found it helped me reset my design thinking you’re getting back to playing force me to go look at what’s going on in the architectural worlds, I became much more afraid I was getting a bit bogged down in management that I found it quite refreshing to just talk about architecture quite purely with young people help them and then I was I started learning about education is also another thing to know about. And when you have a family, it’s quite, you know, you have to start thinking how to educate them. So I found that quite useful, too. And I’ve kept doing it because it’s sort of, I found it something to do in the background. Just Yeah, helpful for me, and also helps kind of when at the same time, we’re starting up a company with a partner have here and allowed, you know, it’s quite common in the UK, if you’re starting you have a teaching job or something to give you a part time income. So yeah, as it started doing it, enjoy it, keep doing it. First year, I taught fourth year, for one year, it was a bit different. And then I’ve taught, I’m teaching professional practice this semester, like a baby Part Three introduction, we’ve got a bit of a climate change class as well and all online that was thinking the UK, Edinburgh, Malaysia. And I yeah, I’ve got to see that I’m not a faculty member. So I don’t get all involved that admissions and who does what and the problem students are that kind of stuff is also quite nice. It’s just the best of both. Yeah, sure. I’m talking and then do my do my best to help people and go Yeah.

Stephen Drew 23:03
It’s kind of reminds me of maybe the uncle, you know, I can enjoy with my nieces. My go home, and he made my sister’s there. But I think it’s a great analogy. And what I like there is you write so well, you Yes, the teaching is important. It’s I think it’s great as a tutor, as you mentioned, and it’s kind of a bit what I enjoy in the architecture, social love. When I’m involved in CV and portfolio review is yes, you want out but it keeps me on my toes as well. And I’m constantly learning new thinking or something. And as you said, through being with students, your perception sometimes gets challenged. And that’s what it’s all about having that dialogue. So that’s amazing. And you touched upon your reboot, you’re, you know, you’re the you’re the chair of the reboot Gulf chapter now as you because you’re a gentleman, but uh, you touched on it briefly. I mean, this slide, teaching and, you know, being involved as a managing partner of a practice, and being Riba chaired was take up an awful lot of your time. And you’re also as you mentioned, your your your family, man. So hats off to you for juggling so much. But what kind of why did you feel the need to kind of go into to be a Riba chair, especially when you have so much in your play? I’d love to know what drew you to kind of want to do it.

Andy Shaw 24:29
Well, the thing is an election you put your name forward, you don’t

Stephen Drew 24:33
you put your name in the hat, you like it, you know, it becomes very wealthy. Yeah, I will say as long as they’re really good people and you won. So

Andy Shaw 24:43
I think the big networking benefit, obviously, I’d been filming the need to go a bit beyond just when you’re in a company. You’re working on a project within a site plot in a company and you’re working at any company, you know, there’s this kind of small Saturday, I was getting more interested in politics and things, maybe one thing, maybe all stuff going on the UK and America, politics becoming more visible, okay moreso than that kind of thing. And as kids kind of see something beyond architecture, practice and buildings and things. And so it rebo does give a slightly bigger picture. And he started talking about, you know, pushing sustainability agenda housing. So I find that kind of opening up to go beyond the company to bring together lots of companies, lots of professionals talk about the bigger picture quite a lot of the Muslims inside HR, actually. So it’s been quite good fun, just a very good way to meet people. I mean, it goes quite a pure level, I should be doing it more commercially. But I just like the way to get to meet people that they’re in the industry, I didn’t really get a chance to meet them. And now you know, the reason to get together and we arrange, obviously, after COVID, we’ve gone online this year, didn’t anticipate coming, it’s actually helped to reach out to a lot more people. So arranging webinars, bringing people on the committee arranging events, it’s been an people just contact me and say, Oh, I’d like to go to rebar and have a chat with them online. So as a way to kind of meet people for Yeah, general interest. And, you know, eventually, it probably is networking, it’s been very helpful. I think the main thing I like opening up the conversation to talk about sustainability on a kind of big picture countrywide level, industry wide level. And I put on my election statement. See, maybe I was just too bold, I thought they’re gonna really tackle sustainability, innovation and get more people engaged, I felt like not quite the same as London here, it’s bit harder to get people together. So I said, I was gonna really push for engagement with each other. And it seems to have worked. And now I’m trying to fill my election pledge. It’s one that one thing so your rebirth is elections, nominee elections in the Middle East. And rebirth. As you know, the President in the UK, there’s a council that there are elections for some rules. Chapter is all volunteers. So just people in practice come together and or education come together to do things. But you’re kind of when you get elected, even though it’s probably one item that has dozens or hundreds or whatever. But some people voted, leave that, oh, I better now deliver what I set out to do and what they want to do. And if they want to talk to me, I’ll talk to them and see. So I have been trying to feel that he has a democratic pressure to to do what people expect and would like to see. I know last night I get emails from again, but I didn’t know that he might say, Oh, yes, I voted for you. Because you mentioned sustainability. And so I hope we can do something and end up setting up a we had a webinar series last week with two webinars on like, really regional sustainability. That kind of stuff, though. Very interesting and fun as well.

Stephen Drew 27:48
Yeah, I love it. I think that’s great. And I think, Joe, it’s really interesting that you’re talking about that, because I got in, I’m involved with a charity, called the architects benevolent society in the UK, and it’s in this grave, they kind of went into it, because I feel like I meet a lot of people in terms of what I do, and the charity, it will be fun. And hopefully I can How about but and I do that. And they’re an amazing charity, and part of it spreading awareness. What we do, as part of the Arctic’s benevolent society is we’ll meet up once or twice a year. And they have the same thing that you said, I really enjoy it. And the best thing out there is that I’ve met some amazing other ambassadors in the charity. And it’s great to spread awareness. And so when you’re talking about the rebar and getting involved, and I think you’re right is deeply rewarding. I’m sure as well though, as you said, we’ve rebirth now you got to do your sustainability thing, I’m sure though I’m sure it’s all been sustainable. I’m sure you’re making it all sustainable, which is, which is great. So we’ve got your teacher, it’s all kind of, you know, the Rebbe charm. And we’ll talk about that a little bit more. Because I’m quite interested to know a little bit about your current company as well, even because you touched upon it briefly that you were when you were teaching, it was part time to set up your practice, which is in there is actually an ingenious way to the bills are getting paid while you’re setting up a meeting. I’m guessing, right. So, yeah, so so it’s not quite like because I’ve set up a business in the past and I wasn’t teaching and there’s, there’s an element of you go into a weight room where which is empty and you put a desk and you put a computer and you’ve got your phone and you think, man, Okay, here we go. You know, there’s that moment, but it would have been smart enough to teach. So tell me about. You’re out there. You mentioned you were part of a big company and you and there must have been that moment when I didn’t know you were friends or you were like, Alright, I’ve got to do my own thing.

Andy Shaw 29:55
Just I’ve been teaching professional practice. covered all this sentiment practice how ways you can do it. There’s a few routes that worked for many people. And I showed them your, your podcast on the CVS By the way, and CBS makes because I’ve got more come in, guys, they asked a lot about actually, they really need help. Yes, the centre set we covered setting up as well. And have someone said similar story to me. When you’re here, I’ve seen it’s the same in the UK, you know, people run projects and accompany whatever. But sometimes the clients kind of saying, you know, what I want to work with, you know, support your company, because maybe they have some other issues with the company, but thinking that we want to kind of work with you directly. Why did you

Stephen Drew 30:45
feel like, you’re on the fence you like, yeah, maybe

Unknown Speaker 30:49
it’s racist

Andy Shaw 30:50
stuff, actually. But it was this, you know, houses work ethically, and things sometimes just happens, you know, kind of like with the blessing of the employer, I’ve been, I know that this happened Hopkins once or twice, and I’m sure in those practices where, you know, they’re quite happy to see one of the directors, whatever go off and starting on thing, they’ll even help them doing smaller projects and not seen as a big competitor. So that can happen. And but yeah, eventually, you get the feeling that clients would like to work directly. So there’s a potential to do work for more control, not an obviously, but more financial reward. Bit of maintenance into the freedom that that was kind of happening. But I’d always felt at some point, I wanted to try doing my own thing. You know, that work on at least try it. And it seemed like quite a good time to do it, in terms of didn’t quite have a family yet. There was opportunity out there, the market was quite good. And yeah, the the, the way I did, I was kind of freelancing on a project basis. So I had some income. Splitting across a year, I was managing to get little chunks of work teaching came along to take up a day or so. And then I had to set up a company just to freelance here. That’s just the way it works kind of as a corporate entity, financial entity. And I’ve been trying to grow and started talking to old clients and engineers and things and some positive things happening. So the first thing I pitched or taught at one, but then I never quite happened before. Then I started working with an old colleague who’s a bit younger than me and grew up here that we worked on on GM. And he’d been doing his own thing a few years, helping but at the start, and we’ve started working together and effectively merged. And after about six months of quite a lot of hustling and doing this and that and a Canford and a competition got paid a little bit, a few months of nothing, though, eventually we landed a big project. And that kind of set us up to become a more proper office. And we went from working in bedrooms and hotel lobbies, to having an office and a proper team and things. So yeah, that because I can’t imagine this is why I told my students, if you are going to start your own company, I’m sure a lot of people want to try and have some work lined up, wherever, wherever it’s a side gig or a pretty solid client competition when whatever. Because it’s very hard, you need to build up momentum. If you start from nothing. It’s pretty risky, really. You might find that takes a long time to get a client or you might be lucky, it comes quick. But I feel like you do need some cake. It’s not just the us a bit of work to start things moving. And then you do a good job, you’ve got your portfolio, something in your portfolio to show. Maybe they recommend you for another one. Yeah, I recommend not a standing start either have some kind of part time job, a teaching job site, job, whatever, or have a solid when in the bag. I cannot stand if somebody was in a big company, they enter the competition of friends and they want it No, that’s very good time to set up a company. And then if that job falls through, at least you tried.

Stephen Drew 33:53
Yeah, I think that’s really sound advice. I think that you have to be, as you said, there’s a balance between having your dreams, which are achievable, but you have to be a bit practical and commercial, especially in the first step because what you don’t want to do is set something up and run out. But I really appreciate your comments there with the article social. I mean, and I’ve actually, I mean, we can talk about it now. I what I love is doing those videos. And that came from me last year when I was on furlough, because the architecture industry kind of went down a little bit. And it seemed that the time the best way to make content because I was doing almost one on ones but it felt like a very time poor way of instilling my thoughts and feedback because then I would almost do the same thing to another person or person and then after I’ve done about four or five I run out of time whereas you know, with with communication technology where it is and you know with the architecture social community, so the only Main forum part of them, you can put a bit of content which can reach a lot of people. And so that really is the goal. And I think one of the great things even about as chatting today is, there are nuances about how to attract an employer in London compared to America compared to the Gulf. And then I think that would be really good to start dissecting the regional nuances as well, because I think you’ve got some core principles, especially when I say no, a student is applying for a job or an architect where a good CV is a good site, you know, there’s some core things which you’ll see in CVS again, and again, which we do really well in portfolios. But there is always that regional, and local cow sparks and finances and things that really resonate internationally. So that would be really good to cover at some point. And I’d love to hear your thoughts on that. And the as well. But speaking specifically with opportunities. So because there’s a lot of people that listen to the podcast, who could be students, but as well, we’ve got a lot of architects in the architecture, social community. And so if someone was currently in the UK right now, I mean, let’s let’s be hypothetical, that the the airports open up, or maybe there’s someone in a month or two with discovers this podcast episode, because they’re interested in working in the Gulf and want to be involved in rebound. Is there any little first steps or advice you’d have for someone in that position?

Andy Shaw 36:37
Yeah, suit. Now, it used to be when this came out, I would advise just to come here and go meet people, and be on the ground ready to start if you can do it. Not quite possible. Now, if we’re talking a few months ahead, it may still be and if you do have any contact here, even though you’re like one, I think dropping on the line, seeing what’s going on. It’s not a very big community industry. There’s only a handful of the big companies, the ones who heard all the woods Baggett, PDP they all have offices here. This is quite a relatively small community. And you might find what’s going on often, they weren’t a big, big job, and they have to hire and it’s all a bit random and unpredictable. That Yeah, that’s kind of where it goes, things happen quick. And there’s big projects that start and stop. And so they’re they’re kind of hiring away within here and there and sometimes just right see the random landing at the right time. mean from there, you also can research what’s going on so well. The UAE itself, I’ve had quite a tough year last year was already suffering of oil price. And then COVID hitting its tourism industry. But it seems the start of this year, a lot of people I speak to very busy. I think the kind of bouncing back there may well be busy that would work in Saudi, which I mentioned earlier. And then over here in Saudi is in the middle of a transformation in the middle of a cultural and physical transformation. I went there just before a lockdown for some BD business meetings. And it’s just kind of funny that UK wasn’t a bit that’s kind of Brexit will be won’t be rat bit down about things. They were very excited because they got the cinema all of a sudden, and they can get like live music was allowed in public. Very quickly, the laws that were quite restrictive, are changing. And they’re kind of they’re excited about seeing what looks like normal life and other countries coming to them. And so that was the kind of cultural transformation that goes alongside the physical transformation. You’ve probably seen the main ones and published into Xen, what was actually more the high profile ones, the Red Sea resort Amala neon that the lion City Museum is going to be a huge thing a whole new city built from scratch in the middle of masterplanning it now there’s another one. And then yeah, they’ve more cultural historical side as well. There’s huge developments. There’s also lots of housing turn lots of parks for Riyadh, they’re trying to really transform the country with construction. And I think we’re probably at the start of a wave of that going into real work like master planning infrastructures, finishing the work housing, and then it’s going to be a lot of big projects coming. Some of that will be done for a while some have already been done in London and things but some of those will be done from Dubai equals lots of consultants and designers here and some in region. So I think there will be opportunities to certainly to go or sign up to go and be client side in Saudi. I know they’re very, they’re going to lead a lot of design managers, project managers. And I think anybody in the UK that’s worked on a kind of a big project and entertainment or cultural project, something mean nothing like an Olympic type, big infrastructure thing or even just big housing, the big quite interested and just the kind of the management skill of delivering a project. Kind of smaller scale UK stuff might be too different, but at the big stuff will be quite interesting to them, I think. And then divide is actually quite a bit of a drop in population, not people left last year of COVID and your job, but there is I think Maybe a little bit of a lift again. And it’s probably the easiest device easiest city, you easiest country to kind of integrate into. It’s the most international it’s apart from the weather, it could easily be one of the other international cities, it’s pretty similar. And you see all the same shops and even British universities and institutions here things I’ve got, I’ve got a friend

Stephen Drew 40:23
who’s a teacher went to Dubai, and she’s never come back. She loves it. So I get it. It’s now meet her, I met her in the wedding. And I’m like, are you ever going to come back to Wales? Because Because we’ve grown Welsh, and she’s like, No chance. Every time I see her on Facebook and start, she lived in life. You know, in the sun. I had that moment where I’m just like, oh, man, this seems amazing.

Andy Shaw 40:48
Now, we want to try and get across in our meeting on Wednesday through Reba is that there are there the beaches and hotels and things but a lot of people here, especially if they’re kind of over 30, or living at a pretty normal kind of house with a garden and a dog. Taking the kids to school. It’s quite a lot. I mean, maybe a bit close to American lifestyle. But there’s a quite quite a normal side is happened to see all the if it becomes up on Instagram of friends. Pictures. Yeah, it’s gonna be like the beaches and

Stephen Drew 41:19
shrines. The trendy bet

Andy Shaw 41:22
knows it because it is such a tourist dependent place. They’re always looking for new activity to do whether it’s skydive or some restaurant in the air or whatever. But there are a lot of people cycling community here is very nice. 150k Desert cycletrack. Good. Golf and football and a lot of sporty stuff. So it’s quite an it’s probably more normal lifestyle. And people might think, yeah, yeah, just maybe more American, you have to drive everywhere and a bit of Truman shore type, suburbia. But yeah, probably, especially UAE. But I think I think all of them are kind of developing that way. But

Stephen Drew 42:05
I think it’s really interesting because it was really hard for me to visualise what it would be like whether if you go out there, you’re like a bachelor in a small room, but you know, or bow, but the fact that you’re talking about that you can have a nice, as you say, the Truman kind of idyllic suburbia with your kids. And that’s really interesting. I mean, and I’m not looking for the specifics. Yeah. And you tell me from right or wrong, but the idea I have when the idea of go work in international is that you’ve almost got to be so first of all, if you are going from London, the UK, you’ve got to be okay with actually relocating. So whenever I work on roles, which require an international aspect of relocation, the first thing I always say to someone that’s like, right, are you serious about a move right now? Because it’s not a holiday, per se? Is it we talked about, there’s nice parts of it, but you’re leaving, and you have to be okay with leaving. And as you joked about at the start, you know, you’re like, yeah, I’ll pop out for a bit. And you’ve, you’ve been, you know, in the guard for 10 years. So I think that and you touched upon it really nicely there as well, where you said, employers, there’s opportunities out there, but I’ve noticed that it can work for people who want to currently work in the UK or vice versa. But employers I always think will gravitate towards people who were there on the ground, because it shows a level of seriousness with conviction in the search. But now, that’s really more content and what you’re saying, but what I was going to say is my idea of working in the Gulf is that there’s a there’s a trade off because you move you’re not so especially if you’re relocating, you’re no longer going to be in the UK, you’ve got the pros and the cons, depending how you look at it, the new lifestyle, the new change, and too many, it’s going to be a plus. But you know, if for instance, maybe you’re precious about as you’re saying you’re being too hot outside in the summer, maybe it’s not the place for you, obviously you got air conditioning stuff, but compared to a traditional UK, the the idea I had is that you sometimes work six days isn’t the seven days and the salary and the tax benefits are better than the UK. But the trade off is that you’re not working in the UK and we don’t need to go into the specifics. But that generally is my perception on what it’s like

Andy Shaw 44:33
you don’t necessarily work six days I mean site tends to be six days. Yeah, some isn’t quite intense workplaces, but some are more normal. It is probably quite a hectic fast work. And I don’t know if the hours are worse in London though, UI. I think salaries are a lot higher still than UK and the pound has got weaker and your basic pack the dollar in the Gulf countries and you don’t pay tax. There’s There’s no income tax, there’s no national insurance. Alongside that, so your salary could double quite easily your net salary. But you’re then outside the system. So you’ve left the pension system. And you have to think about that. Your health you do you have health care, or your employer has to give you health care, you have to check you’re getting good health care, and that they give it to your family as well. Education like there’s no the you have to pay for school, there’s not cheap if you have lots of kids, but then a big client may give you a public given education allowance, but a small company public can’t afford to pay for the the bigger negative is that it is more volatile. And that you may be lucky may have managed to stay in a job for 1020 years, you may find that you know your company, all the work stops whatever reason out there, control them, they have to let everybody go, you’d have to be more able to jump between jobs, or know that it is a bit more more volatile, as companies can let you go more easily more quickly. I think that’s probably the the biggest risk. And so you’re leaving, you have to be quite frankly, leaving the country a bit different if you’re, somebody asked you just for one summer to do you know, help on something. But if you come in, I remember selling all my stuff online and seeing my 10 years worth of London stuff vanished down to one or two bags. And then you get this. And it’s from this empty flat and then appear here and grew up again. So yeah, I think, as you said, it does help to be on the ground to show the serious, saying that, if you’d worked in the UK on on any project in the Gulf quite possible. If you’re in a big company, that would be seen as a positive. If you had just if you had really good experience, they might just at some point, people come here. Once you’ve done any work here, it’s easier to get another job. When you’ve done none. It’s harder. So if you’ve done something in the UK, that’s good. If you really had something very properly experienced, like you worked in a stadium that building a stadium, it might be enough to get you to come and say yeah, that’s that’s good enough. But I think overall, they’ll appreciate in the UK education and any work experience you had those solid and fairer. So you still got a pretty good shot, but you probably got a target tailor that the right the right company the right information.


I got the doorbell ringing

the doorbell.

Done, I’m sorry,

Stephen Drew 47:39
may take your time. I had, I had a live stream the other day in the Amazon man cave. So it is totally the norm. But I think that look, that’s great. That’s a really well rounded picture of it. And that like everything in life, you got to weigh up what works for you and your personal situation and what you are okay with. I think that’s amazing. So what so we’re coming up to like the 45 minute mark. And so I think we’ve got a bit of an overview. And I think what’s great is, I I love the fact that we’ve got in your journey, because it is really relatable. And I love the fact that we’re talking now about what you what you’re up to currently or sustainable. And then the week three touched upon you. And now you know you’re the rebirth of the golf chair back to back from his baptism of fire, you know, in the thick of that. But what’s the next agenda for you right now? And is there anything in particular that you’d like to share? on the podcast with the audience?

Andy Shaw 48:43

It’s all good if you want to come here.

Yeah, of anybody wanting to know more, I’m always happy to talk and get yourselves on. Anybody that comes to you on a follow up, always happy to answer any questions on lifestyle or more specific things. For me, it depends on what comes in the door. I’m hoping we get we’ve had some very interesting work last year, as feasibility work that we’re hoping becomes real, real work this year. teachings about to wind down for the terms maybe think of it for next year. I find what’s going on in 3d printed construction, very interesting. And there’s a government push here to get that into more buildings in the next decade. keen to get more involved with that. I don’t have a big planet

Stephen Drew 49:35
that comes out You sound like me every day as it goes isn’t there and be like I really appreciate you reaching out. It has been a really great chat. And I think for anyone that’s thinking especially to relocate to the Middle East. I think this is a fantastic intro and so I will put all your contact details now for everyone to get in contact now. And just before we go, I really appreciate Are you saying that you enjoyed the CB reveal? I’m more than happy to do any of that if you want me to out. But the architecture social community, I’m not too sure if I’ve, if I’ve invited you get because we’ve been speaking on LinkedIn. But right now, I think just so you know, and we can it’s like a little update online. So anyway, we’re about 4000 members already. Yeah. So it’s all there. And it’s super, super cool, because there’s a lady called Tara Carl, who I have the pleasure of meeting and she talks about, she’s got her own group within the architecture social, where she talks about speaking English as a second language. So that’s really cool. Right now. There’s a lot of really exciting stuff for students so and the as a professor, I would love to get your thoughts, I think you need to create me of what we can and can’t do on the social and maybe we can get maybe we can get you a total of guests and P students. So amazing. I’m using my soundboard yet so I’ll have to give you a big clap. Thank you very much, Andy, you’ve been an absolute legend. And the absolute pleasure Andy Shaw, will have all the contact details there you are on LinkedIn, you are the managing partner of ama Riba Gulf chapter chair and a visiting professor and Dubai future research contributor as well. And I Gosh, I’m not going to say this correctly. It’s going to test my Welsh accent. The jokes Professor

Andy Shaw 51:31
address, oh, adjunct professor I know, became one. It just means you’re not you’re not faculty. You’re not permanent. It’s the best of both worlds.

Stephen Drew 51:40
It’s the whole this 5050 of university. It’s the it’s the founder. Thank you so much. And it’s been an absolute pleasure. And I will end the podcast to help us stay on the line. Thank you, everybody.

Andy Shaw 51:50
Thank you. Thank you.


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