Nadeem Rifai is an International Business graduate originally from Beirut, Lebanon, who grew up in Dubai. He earned a Bachelor’s degree in audio production at SAE Institute in Dubai before deciding to come to Rome and earn a Bachelor’s degree at John Cabot University. He chose to earn a degree in business with the hopes of someday opening his own company. After graduating in 2016, he did an internship in the Enrollment Marketing office at JCU before returning to Dubai to pursue his original passion in audio engineering.
1. What’s it like working and living in Dubai?
It’s really cool! There’s a lot of discussion right now about what Dubai is and what it isn’t. A lot of people see it as an extravagant metropolis, with insane luxury and stories of riches – all of this conceived in the middle of the desert sometime in the last few years. Yes, that part does exist, but there’s much more to the city than that, just like anywhere else. To me, it’s just home. I grew up over here before the glitz and the glamour, when there were barely three modest buildings in the entire city. The fact that Dubai was able to grow so much in a few years is really amazing. It’s something that is reflected in the mentality here. With all of this growth, a lot of people from various backgrounds have made Dubai their home, in the same way that so many different people from all over the world have come to study at John Cabot. I’m thankful that my years at JCU prepared me for working in such a multicultural environment.
2. Dubai is developing very fast – does this have an effect on your day-to-day work?
Everyone is always pushing so hard to move forward and break all barriers and reach new heights. From the government pushing for a sustainable and ‘smart’ city, all the way down to the corner stores that are trying to find innovative ways to deliver your groceries, and everyone in between. This mentality is really exciting but also very challenging. It pushes you to be the best that you can be, but it is extremely taxing at the same time. We need more hours in the day!
3. What projects are you working on at the moment?
I’m currently preparing a TV commercial for Quaker. The company wanted to reveal new packaging for their brand of pasta (no matter where you go, you can never get away from pasta!). We’re shooting the whole thing in stop motion, which means that we shoot each frame of the video individually as a photo and then put it all together into a video. Lots of precision and preparation, and lots of nerves. So far, it has gone smoothly! We are going through rounds of feedback with the client right now. Aside from that, I’m wrapping up the video edit for the Dubai Corporate Games which is a multi-sport event with over 3,400 participants from companies all over Dubai. My team and I covered the event over two days, and I think that the final product is some of the greatest work I’ve ever produced!
4. What does your current role entail?
I’m an audio engineer at a studio here in Dubai. Our facility is split into two, and we handle both music and corporate work. I work on the corporate side which means that I handle everything from the creation of radio ads to working on sound design for TV commercials, games, or anything else that uses audio. Aside from the technical skills, I also have to be able to communicate very clearly between our clients and our voice-over artists – something that can be trying at times. It’s a fine line of working on the technical side as well as having people skills.
5. Do you have much creative freedom in your current role?
Yes and no. It really depends on the job. Some are pretty standard “plug-and-play” while others are more complex. The Roads and Transport Authority gives us a standard radio ad every month. Others are much more creative, like bigger TV commercials that require mixing sound design, voice-over recording, and music all together as creatively as possible to best push the message that the company is trying to convey.
6. Here at John Cabot, faculty and students alike know you as a photographer extraordinaire – do you have much time for it these days?
Photography has unfortunately taken a little bit of a back seat since I’ve started work in Dubai, but my video work has been flourishing. We have a sister company that is a digital communications company, and I’ve been lucky enough to work with them on quite a few big projects that have given me exposure to some industry tips and tricks (covering tomatoes with hair spray for shine and mixing corn starch with tomato sauce to make it thicker, to name a few). That and some freelance work that comes around from time to time keeps things interesting.