Rikke Agerholm Therkildsen
Rikke Agerholm Therkildsen
Cand.mag in Business and Japanese
Work / title:
Business Development Manager, UAE
How long have you been in that company?
Since May 2016
Married to Claus Villekjær, HR Director at Grundfos Gulf Distribution
How long have you been in Dubai?
Who has been your biggest source of inspiration in your professional life?
One could be Richard Branson, love his views on management and entrepreneurship. I love people who see opportunities and possibilities. I hate negativity and pessimism. If you are against something come forward with alternatives, it is too easy just to lean back and say “no”, “no”, “no”. Richard Branson is a “yes” person – like me 🙂
Is there anything in particular that you have repeated from previous jobs?
You always carry your experience with you to the next job. I have tried many different things and have always had jobs where I need to be a multi-tasker. I have been in the graphical industry (prepress equipment), advertisement agency, car industry (chain of 50 car paint shops) and now the furniture industry. My tasks have included, marketing, sales support, technical and sales training, B2B sales, strategy development, organizational development, education planning for workers and managers, IT development (websites, business development tools, online booking system, APPs) and quality management (implementation of ISO 9001, developing procedures and tools).
Before I got my current job, I studied to become an interior designer (out of pure interest), and then this opportunity came where I had to use these skills along with every other skill I have. A chance to work in my area of interest. I think I use my experience and everything I ever learned every single day in some way.
What made you decide to move to Dubai? And what has been the biggest profit you’ve gained from it professionally?
My husband was expatriated with Grundfos. I quit my job and came along with our 2 girls (Emma 12 years and Sarah 11 years). We needed the family and the girls to settle in before we knew whether it was realistic for me to work or not. Then came this opportunity for DubaB8. I was ready for a career change before we left Denmark, so being able to do that has been a great “profit”.
What is your favorite part of your present position? What do you like the least?
Meeting people, giving good service and problem solving. I like the fact that the job has a great variety, is very unpredictable and challenges me constantly.
Canvas sale and sales all together is tough! Being from Scandinavia it is very hard to be a stubborn, pushy sales person – at home people would find you annoying, here it is often necessary. This goes against my nature, so I work hard to balance this and I find it rather difficult. Often it brings me out of my comfort zone, and then I have to remind myself that I am actually trying to add value to the people and companies I meet, not just sell them something.
What is your biggest professional challenge at the moment?
Really getting to know the mechanisms of the market in depth and to get invited in / get the opportunity to tell people what we have to offer.
What do you wish that you had known before you came to Dubai?
We had cultural training before we left and I have always travelled a lot, so I felt fairly prepared and well informed 🙂
What has surprised you the most about working in Dubai?
It may not be a surprise as such – it was somewhat expected – but I still, at times, get frustrated with the difference in culture, communication, understanding and work ethics. There are so many issues (and so much waste of time) due to miscommunication and misunderstandings. Deadlines are not met, promises are not kept, decisions are not made… it feels like lack of respect seen from my cultural point of view, but I know the “sender” may see it completely different. I always strive to do deliver a high quality product and first class service, and that is challenging at times because I am depending on what others deliver too and I have a really hard time accepting that I can’t control the outcome and that I feel that other don’t strive to deliver the best possible. But I know they may feel that they do. There is just a lot of not wanting to take responsibility and blaming others… But then again, this is part of the experience of living abroad and there are many positive sides to this diversity is other situations.
In which direction is your industry headed? And is it the right path?
Compared to Scandinavia there is very little focus on the workplace here. I see a lot of very uninspiring layouts and furniture selections. The office furniture trend is moving towards Activity Based Workplace (ABW) design, where you move around depending on the task at hand (project meeting, focused research etc.) more than you have a set desk, where you sit all day. The workplace is designed in zones based on 4 working conditions: focus, collaboration, learning and socializing. Each zone has a different/specific purpose. There used to be a trend towards “just pure” open space layout to save space, but this has proven not to be all positive (some of the below challenges are actually a consequence of open space without the proper analysis, plan design, sound reduction solutions etc.) – ABW demands a lot from the people in it and management, but when its implemented it is awesome.
Which challenges do you foresee for your customers in the years to come?
- Rent is expensive – you need to get most out of the space you have or even reduce space by optimizing design.
- Recruitment is tough – you want to attract and retain the right people, a modern and inspirational office design can support this.
- Branding – most companies are based on a set of strong values, the office design should support these values and companies more and more want the same design and look world wide – to support their image and brand both internally and externally.
- Efficiency – it is crucial for companies to have an efficient and productive workforce. The office layout and design can support this and makes the ROI fast. Many studies have shown that the office design has a huge impact on the productivity as well as people feeling motivated and innovative.
- Stress – lots of offices struggle with noise, bad lighting, messy cables, inefficient use of space and just too little clean up in general. These things cause stress and reduces work satisfaction significantly. People perform much better in a nice, clean and calm environment – it reduces stress and mental tiredness.
- Ergonomics – in Denmark it is the law that people must be able to change their work position every 2 hours. Thus everyone has an electrical height adjustable table, so they can switch between sitting and standing. Also the quality and flexibility of the task chair has a large influence on the comfort. Better and more ergonomically flexible workplaces has been proven to reduce sick leave (short and long term) and thus be a huge cost saver for companies.
Is there anything holding back your industry from developing further?
Investments. Office furniture is often an investment companies postpone or even drop when things are slow or not going too well. Our job is to show, how this investment could actually support a turn around and thus be a wise investment. Price is a huge issue – as always – companies want high quality at a low price! This puts a huge pressure on the furniture industry, where companies struggle to earn money. Therefore, we look towards long term partnerships with our clients to the benefit of both us and them. We are not selling cheap over-the-counter furniture; we are selling solutions to the above mentioned 6 challenges and we want to develop and evolve WITH our customers over timet.
In which direction is Dubai’s economy headed, in your opinion?
I think Dubai’s economy is under pressure at the moment, but I see a positive future ahead. There is still a lot of companies struggling and closing down, and there probably will be for a while yet. But then it will turn to the better I think (and hope 🙂 )