A week in the life of…

JONATHAN FRENCH

Gulf Business - - FEATURES -

Chair­man, Woods Bagot Mid­dle East

SUN­DAY

I wake early at 5am to check overnight emails and re­view the head­lines on the BBC and Wall Street Jour­nal on­line. At 5.30am I head to the D5 gym at the Cap­i­tal Club in DIFC, where my per­sonal trainer puts me through my paces for an hour, en­er­gis­ing me for the week ahead. I reach our Woods Bagot stu­dio in Busi­ness Bay at 8am and have break­fast at my desk while catch­ing up with work. Ev­ery al­ter­nate week we be­gin Sun­day with an ‘all hands’ briefing at 9am sharp. Around 80 col­leagues in the stu­dio gather to share up­dates on our projects, pipe­line and any other im­por­tant com­mu­ni­ca­tions. Our Mid­dle East pro­ject plan­ning and ex­ec­u­tive meet­ings also hap­pen this morn­ing, help­ing to or­gan­ises the stu­dio for the week ahead.

MON­DAY

I’m first to ar­rive at the stu­dio at around 7am. To­day is a non-gym day, which gives me some quiet time to con­nect with our global col­leagues in Aus­tralia. Over lunch I meet with our lead­er­ship team, al­most a third of which is fe­male – as is more than half of the to­tal stu­dio. We have 20 na­tion­al­i­ties in the stu­dio, and one in five speaks Ara­bic. In the evening I go home via Jume­riah Golf Es­tates to re­move a swarm of Ara­bian hon­ey­bees from a res­i­dent’s gar­den. The Bee­keep­ers As­so­ci­a­tion of­fers to re­home swarms that would other­wise be ex­ter­mi­nated by pest control and we are work­ing with the mu­nic­i­pal­ity to de­velop eth­i­cal swarm re­movals that pre­vent the deaths of lo­cal bees.

TUES­DAY

I chair the global com­mer­cial board ev­ery Tues­day at 9am via video con­fer­ence. We re­view the ma­jor com­mer­cial un­der­tak­ings that the com­pany is con­sid­er­ing, to en­sure that the terms are de-risked as far as pos­si­ble. We are owned by 70 share­hold­ers and as one of the largest prac­tices in the world we are al­ways mind­ful that no one is too big to fail. I have a site visit this af­ter­noon to our CoEx pro­ject, one of the ma­jor com­po­nents of the Expo 2020 site. The com­pleted build­ing will be the largest sin­gle venue on the Expo site.

WED­NES­DAY

As ev­ery Wed­nes­day, this morn­ing is blocked for de­sign re­views. This ‘on the wall’ re­view al­lows for ac­tive di­a­logue and crit­i­cal re­view – one of the rea­sons why Woods Bagot’s de­sign qual­ity is al­ways of the high­est or­der. Tonight, I host a busi­ness din­ner at the Cap­i­tal Club for a client and lead­ers from our sub con­sul­tant team. I get home around 10.30pm, though if I don’t have a busi­ness en­gage­ment I try to get away from the stu­dio around 5.30pm. I don’t want peo­ple to think they have to stay late to be suc­cess­ful.

THURS­DAY

I’m up at 2am this morn­ing to pre­pare for a two and a half hour global ex­ec­u­tive video call. The global ex­ec­u­tive runs the prac­tice day to day – the time is dic­tated by mem­bers in the west coast of the US and east coast of Aus­tralia. We share the pain – this month I have the early slot. There isn’t time to get any more sleep be­fore I have to be up for the gym so I make some tea and spend an hour paint­ing at the easel in my home stu­dio. Paint­ing keeps my cre­ative side nur­tured.

FRI­DAY

To­day starts with a 7am pick up to the air­port, ready for my flight from Dubai to New York. I have sev­eral global roles and I have to lead some com­plex com­mer­cial ne­go­ti­a­tions next week in the Big Ap­ple. My wife, Sarah, tries to ac­com­pany me on busi­ness trips when­ever her sched­ule al­lows: it’s im­por­tant that our partners ex­pe­ri­ence global stu­dio life as much as pos­si­ble and Sarah has ac­com­pa­nied me to Hong Kong, Lon­don and Bei­jing in the past year.

SATUR­DAY

The week­end is a gen­er­ally re­served for my wife, friends and col­leagues. Last night we hosted a din­ner for our Dubai share­hold­ers with their partners at Rock­Fish in the Woods-Bagot-de­signed Jumeirah Al Naseem, so this morn­ing is a lazy start. Ev­ery al­ter­nate Satur­day I teach novice beekeeping at The Sus­tain­able City. It’s a mag­i­cal time; the sights, sounds and smells of an open hive are a coun­ter­point to any­thing else in my life. With­out bees there is no pol­li­na­tion, and with­out pol­li­na­tion no plants.

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