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Alison Milton, Ambassador of Ireland to the UAE

Alison Milton, Ambassador of Ireland to the UAE, would reverse Vladimir Putin's decision to invade Ukraine if she could Supplied
Alison Milton, Ambassador of Ireland to the UAE, would reverse Vladimir Putin's decision to invade Ukraine if she could

Alison Milton has been the Ambassador of Ireland to the UAE, Qatar and Kuwait since August. Before then she worked as the British-Irish director, in Ireland’s Department of Foreign Affairs.

What does your company do?

I work for the Embassy of Ireland in Abu Dhabi covering the UAE, Kuwait and Qatar. I also have responsibility for Afghanistan.

Team Ireland, as we are known, works with a number of Irish state agencies in the UAE to promote Ireland’s trade and investment objectives, Irish culture, heritage and tradition and to maintain and enhance our links with Irish communities abroad.

The state agencies include Enterprise Ireland, Bord Bia, Tourism Ireland, IDA Ireland and Science Foundation Ireland.

What do you look for when hiring talent?  

It’s all about the attitude. I look for people who are ‘can-do’ and hungry to learn. People who are passionate about their area of expertise with a willingness to learn and eagerness to grow.

It is important for people to show initiative with their work and hold a belief that their ideas can be implemented effectively. Good decision-making skills are also paramount as well as an ability to think on your feet.

What counts for more – luck or hard work?   

I consider myself to be lucky in the opportunities that life has given me, but I have also worked very hard to get to where I am today.

I believe success is a combination of the two things. It is a case of recognising the doors that are open to you and having the instinct to walk through the right ones at the right time.

What was your biggest ‘lucky’ moment?  

Professionally, getting accepted into Ireland’s Department of Foreign Affairs was probably one of my biggest lucky moments. It has provided me with incredible experiences to represent my country abroad and work for a cause that I truly believe in.

On a personal level, marrying my husband who has accompanied me on all the overseas adventures was also a profoundly ‘lucky’ moment. Without him, the successes and experiences in my job I’ve had over the years would not have been possible.

What one thing do you wish you’d done differently?   

I am not someone who spends long looking in retrospect, so professionally I have no regrets. 

On a personal level, if there was one small thing I could have done differently it would be better preparing my family for living life overseas. The life of an expatriate can be challenging in terms of learning new languages and adapting to new cultures.

If you could rule the world for a day, what three things would you change?   

  1. I would use everything in my power to reverse Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, the fallout of which is something the world is only beginning to feel the effects of now. 
  2. The way in which we allocate aid to developing nations, bringing in more of a commercial interest to make the process more efficient.
  3. I would also reinforce the commonalities between countries rather than the differences. Focusing on these commonalities will unite the world as we tackle greater shared issues such as the climate crisis.

What three factors do entrepreneurs misjudge about the Gulf market?

  1. Underestimating the value of face-to-face contact, which is of great importance in this region. 
  2. There are a lot of similarities between this region and others, including a focus on family, transparency and relationships which many do not recognise before they arrive. It is important to focus on similarities when conducting business. 
  3. Understanding and perseverance are needed when beginning a life here. There are some things, including administrative tasks, that have a different process and can take longer than would be expected.

Dream mentor?

On a professional level Ireland’s ambassador to the US, Geraldine Byrne Nason, is an important role model to me. And when looking for good judgment and good advice that would be Ireland’s former ambassador to the UK, Adrian O’Neill.