On managing an international team

This is a post from PRISM’s Social Army – regular short briefings on topics aligned to our business or close to our hearts. Today’s entry is from Andrew Woodward, who runs PRISM’s Ford Content Factory Team for the Middle East and Africa


There is a unique set of challenges to being the Managing Editor for the Content Factory MEA (Middle East and Africa). Established early 2015 and based at the Ford MEA Head Office in Dubai, the team grew from one to five in its first year and in November it will expand to seven, including a story-miner based at the Silverton Plant in South Africa.

The MEA has the most countries of any Content Factory region. The MEA region is split into two sections, MENA (Middle East & North Africa) and SSA (Sub-Saharan Africa), and is also unique for the Ford Motor Company in that the head office is not based at a production facility. The only full production facility in the region is at Silverton in South Africa.

Comprising the team here, we have a range of nationalities including Jordanian, Irish and Pakistani. We have two Arabic speakers, but the whole team are considered to be expatriates. The region has three business languages, Arabic, English and French for MENA, English for South Africa and some requirements for Portuguese for SSA.

Another of the challenges for the region is the different time zones, what makes this region unique is that the countries that make up the Middle East (including the head office) work a Sunday-to-Thursday week. This means Sundays are normally focussed on ME business. The Asia-Pacific region is active from the early hours of Monday, while Europe and north and south Africa come online at noon on Monday. As the office is closing on a Monday the first mails from North America start to arrive.

This is the pattern for the rest of the week and the time delay between Dubai and Detroit means that Friday night there is Saturday morning here in Dubai. Then there’s a brief lull in activity before the Dubai office opens again early on Sunday morning.

The challenges are many and varied, often there are global stories with embargoes to put out on a Friday, which is problematic as Wednesday afternoon is normally the MENA cut-off for getting coverage. Also for liaising with North America, there’s only a short window during the working day so many times it means working late to be online at the same time as those back at Ford’s headquarters in the US.

PRISM’s Content Factory Team in Dubai

Working in a Muslim country means taking a different approach to working practices. Traffic in Dubai, the ferocious heat for seven months of the year and a more relaxed approach to time-keeping are just a few of the challenges for Western expats.

There are also religious holidays that need to be respected – the most well-known is Ramadan, when locals fast from sun up to sun down. It’s respectful for non-fasting colleagues not to eat or drink at their desks during the month of Ramadan.

But overall, working with an international team across a vast region such as the MEA is always interesting and a great insight into how other cultures work and live, as well as offering an understanding into diverse personal and professional ethics. Not every industry offers that sort of opportunity.


Andrew Woodward 

October 18, 2017