CEOs Paired with Students in Leadership Development Program

A contingent of business leaders from 16 UAE-based companies – ranging from Alabbar Enterprises, Dubai Airports and Dubai Opera through to The Lego Company and Nestle Middle East – have been paired with some of the country’s brightest young undergraduates. This has been done in a unique development program designed to give the students invaluable insights into the working life of a CEO.

Managed by international executive search consultancy, Odgers Berndtson, the CEOx1Day program, now in its second year, will match third and fourth-year undergraduates from six leading UAE universities with CEOs from a diverse range of sectors. During a full working-day, each student will shadow their designated CEO to learn from today’s corporate leaders.

Carefully chosen from over 200 applicants, the final 16 students were selected following a stringent multi-phased assessment and interview process which included personality profiling, telephone interviews, group work, case studies, and one-on-one interviews with Odgers Berndtson’s consultants.

Mark Houghton, Managing Partner at Odgers Berndtson, Middle East

“Selected students will have the opportunity to shadow leaders from a  range of sectors, all of which have vital roles to play in the UAE’s ongoing industrial and economic development,” said Mark Houghton, Managing Partner at Odgers Berndtson, Middle East. “The finalists shone through the selection process and we have high hopes that this year’s CEOx1Day will be a positive and rewarding experience for what is an accomplished 2019 cohort.”

Currently studying at the American University of Sharjah, Heriot-Watt University Dubai, Middlesex University in Dubai, the University of Wollongong in Dubai, New York University Abu Dhabi and Abu Dhabi University, the 16 finalists have already received guidance from the Odgers Berndtson team on recruitment processes, team building, and presentation skills. During their ‘shadow’ day, the students will gain one-on-one time, learning about their chosen business and the reality behind how a company operates directly from their paired CEO.

Several of the CEOs involved in the scheme have already hailed it as a mutually beneficial experience which empowers business leaders with a better understanding of millennial aspirations and thinking, while also enabling the organisations to demonstrate a solid commitment to the next generation.

“This is reverse mentoring in action,” explained Houghton. “Past students have told us how the scheme has brought the reality of business to life and seeded great respect for the CEOs in some of the tough day-to-day decision-making they have to undertake. Conversely, the CEOs say the students have given them new perspectives on a number of issues which have led to several innovative measures being pursued.”

The CEOx1Day shadowing will run from September through until the end of the year. The full list of companies involved are Alabbar Enterprises, Aster DM Healthcare, Atkins, Averda, Colgate-Palmolive, Dubai Airports, Dubai Opera, Dyson, Ferrero, Jaguar Land Rover MENA, Medcare Hospitals & Clinics GCC, Nestlé Middle East, NMC Health, Refinitiv, Siemens Middle East & Siemens LLC UAE, The LEGO Group and Zurich International Life.

The ‘CEOx1Day’ scheme by Odgers Berndtson, which has offices in 29 countries, has successful annual cohorts throughout Europe, the Americas, Asia, Australia, and South Africa. “We look forward to announcing the results of the scheme later this year and receiving interest from more organisations looking to join a program that is now proving it’s worth the world over,” added Houghton.


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