For many, the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic has been devastating, with job losses and pay cuts. For some people, the pandemic has forced a change for the better.
Across the United Arab Emirates, residents have described the unprecedented circumstances of 2020 as forcing them to make a pivot in their career path – and some have said they felt grateful for a push to pursue their passions.
Pre-pandemic, Adrian Wells, a Dubai resident, was working as a facilities, operations and maintenance manager for a prominent company in the UAE.
After losing his job during the COVID-19 crisis and being unable to secure another position in the facilities management industry, Wells decided to focus on bringing in an income by pursuing two of his passions: drawing and tennis.
“COVID-19 has made me change my career as I have been unable to get a job in the FM industry, so I have had to pursue different options which are more in line with my hobbies and passions,” he told Al Arabiya English.
“I am currently coaching tennis part-time within my community, as well as practicing my passion of art (pencil drawing), photography and video editing.”
Wells now coaches tennis enthusiasts in the morning before spending hours intricately sketching drawings for sale. As well as commissions from people wanting him to capture their loved-ones – drawings which can take up to 50 hours per piece - Wells also loves to create sketches of the UAE ruling families, which have drawn him a fan-following on Instagram.
“Change has been very good since leaving the corporate life and finally being able to follow my dreams,” he said. “Stress levels are minimum, my health has improved drastically, and the best is yet to come.”
In the future, Wells is planning on taking his hobbies on the road and buying a motorhome and traveling around Europe with his wife.
Also forced into a career change is Dubai expat Angela Bishara, a former public relations executive who lost her job at the height of the pandemic.
The job loss came after a knee inflammation left her struggling to walk for over a year. She later discovered, after multiple doctor visits, that this was due to severe cases of reactive arthritis and Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, an auto-immune disease, which led to incorporating turmeric into her daily diet.
The double blow left her with an idea to create her own superfood brand to help people live healthier lives.
“After being part of a batch of employees that were let go, I wasn’t sure what’s next for me and as we were on lockdown there was not much to do,” she told Al Arabiya English. “There was lots of room left for thinking and contemplating life and as I was making my own golden latte, the idea came to me.”
Being disappointed by the current offerings in the market pushed her to formulate her own homemade turmeric blend. Sharing it with her inner circle, who went on to share it with their friends and family, led to Angela producing more batches until eventually OhMyGold, or OMG, was born.
The superfood blend features turmeric, black pepper, ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, and cloves and helps reduce inflammation, brighten the complexion, boost immunity, and support muscle and joint health.
“The idea was born under those circumstances and I started building the blend and the brand in August 2020, at the peak of the pandemic,” said Bishara. “The brand went live in September 2020.”
“I am extremely grateful. I am positive that if it wasn’t for lockdown and being let go, I would’ve never considered creating this. Now I get a chance to give back to the community in a way that helped me tremendously when I needed it.”
Exploring new ventures
Quizmaster and events organizer Phil Richardson also found the pandemic was a timely jolt to explore new ventures.
Richardson had 30 years of experience in managing events and providing professional entertainment in the UAE under his company Richardson Events and was a familiar face on Dubai’s quiz scene. However, the onset of COVID-19 meant an instant blow to his business with entertainment acts canceled overnight.
Richardson decided, instead of pondering what he had lost, would focus on a long-held passion – radio.
Having done a stint as an on-air presenter on former Fujairah station Rock Radio UAE eight years prior before the station folded, Richardson felt there was a gap in the market for a dedicated radio program for rock music enthusiasts – and RAK Rock Radio was born.
Richardson said it was “a risk” to start a new project during a pandemic and consequent global recession - but urged others to follow their passion.
“Do something you want to do. . If you are stuck at home - start something, learning something, follow a long-held dream.”