Back then, the Middle East was characterised by constant change and keeping ahead of the curve was critical in all respects: strategic, operational and technical. It required nimble decision-making, but also the ability to have perspective, take stock, see the long-term picture and act in the best interests of all stakeholders. But then came along a period of upheaval and turmoil, as global financial markets and economies struggled in the aftermath of the collapse of Lehman Brothers in September 2008.

Call it tactical planning, or maybe just fortuitous timing, but I participated in the first AICD International Company Directors Course (ICDC) ever held in the Middle East in November 2008 in Dubai.

As I focused intently during the course, it became abundantly clear that the AICD training was going to be increasingly critical. It would help my interactions with peers, board members, shareholders and external stakeholders, such as regulators and service providers.

As it turned out, the next several years were challenging for all industries, both in the Middle East and elsewhere. This was due to a lack of credit, increased regulatory oversight, negative sentiment and lack of business and consumer confidence.

Navigating these largely unchartered waters was now much more art than science, given the relatively larger number of unknowns.

Through all of this, the fundamentals of governance and directors’ duties that I had been exposed to during the AICD course stood me in good stead to deal with myriad current issues.

I also learned to look forward and see the opportunities that arise out of seismic events, ensuring that directors continue along the path of hope, confidence and achievement.