Career profile: Vanessa Hopwood, director of business development GCC, FranklinCovey ME

Written by
Karam Filfilan

01 Sep 2016

01 Sep 2016 • by Karam Filfilan

Basic details

Name: Vanessa Hopwood
Job: Director business development, GCC
Current employer: FranklinCovey Middle East

CV in brief 

  • Director Business Development, Ascent
  • Director Business Development Abami
  • Sales and Marketing Manager, biz-ability / biz-events
  • Head of Business Development, Global Training Centre, Emirates Bank


A day in your life

Tell us about your job and organisation

FranklinCovey Middle East’s mission is to enable greatness in people and organisations in the Middle East. My role is to lead and inspire our business development team in the GCC as they help our clients to succeed. 

Who do you report into? 

Our MD, Musa Al Sadoon.

Tell us about your team.

We are a diverse team of 30 partners based mainly out of our Dubai office. Typically in Dubai, our team are from all over the world, which makes for an exciting mix of talent and experience. 

What is the most rewarding part of your role?

The most exciting part of my role is when a member of the team achieves a goal, we are great at celebrating. An email/call of appreciation for a job well done from a satisfied client, realising how we have really impacted the lives of every participant, whether it’s a small behaviour change or a major life changing experience.

What is the most challenging part of the role? 

Balancing the needs of the team, our clients and my family.

What does a typical day look like for you?

Every day is really different and includes client meetings, team discussions, travel around the region and hopefully the gym.

Why did you choose your current organisation to work for?

I was first connected to FranklinCovey and Dr Stephen R Coveys, 7Habits here in Dubai in 1999, when we set up the office. Coming from a background of corporate branding, I still wanted to help organisations brand but from the inside out. I came back to FranklinCovey Middle East as part of the acquisition of Ascent and have not looked back since. Making a difference is really important to me, FCME affords me the opportunity to do that every day.

Perks and downsides of your role?

Travel. I have been to some exciting, exotic places and you can have too much of a good thing.

What skills are essential for the role you’re in?

Big picture thinking, being able to visualise and articulate the end in mind. Listening first, truly understanding what success looks like for others and helping them achieve it.
I’d also say it’s important to have tenacity, stamina and focus.

Career path

How did you get to where you are now?

Partnership is essential, I could not have achieved the things I have without the complete and utter support and understanding of my husband and children. 

From this base, I believe in good honest hard work, a strong work ethic has seen me achieve great things in all areas of my life. Honesty, integrity coupled with the willingness to extend trust and to be trusted.

What were your best subjects in school?

Maths, French and German. I studied BA (hons) European Finance and Accounting / Diploma Betriebswirtschaft at Leeds Metropolitan University and Hochschule Bremen.

What was your first job? 

My first job was as a marketing executive at Avanova International, Chester. My mum saw the ad and thought it would suit my international aspirations, so I applied. I chose to work there as I loved the city centre location essentially.

Have you followed the career path you set out to?

I have always been interested in travel and living outside the UK and I knew I did not want to be an accountant. I spent most of my twenties traveling around Europe looking after channel partners in the European automotive aftermarket. Moving to Bahrain as a newly married couple my husband and I enjoyed the highlife as I worked at British Airways Regional office in Manama. Spending the past nineteen years in Dubai, I hope that I have helped inform and shape the local learning and development industry, in my own small way.

What challenges have you faced along the way? 

Being an expatriate businesswoman in the Middle East, had its own challenges in the early years, but it also had its advantages. It has been rewarding to witness the transformation of the business world here in the region, from an older male centric environment to the cosmopolitan, diverse business region we are today. Young career professionals now see the Middle East as an essential part of their career development experience. 

How did you overcome them?

Respectfully. It was about evolution and not revolution in those days. But I love the disruptive nature of business today.

What has been the proudest moment of your career so far?

Seeing people I have worked with flourish and succeed ! They know who they are.

Do you have any career regrets? 


What advice would you offer to others who are looking to get to where you are now?

You can achieve anything you set your mind to. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t.

What advice would you give to your 22-year-old self? 

Not everyone will like you. And that’s OK.


Coffee or tea? Coffee
Jam or marmalade? Marmalade for its bittersweet contrast
The Beatles or The Rolling Stones? The Rolling Stones
Mac or PC? PC. My husband is an ex IBMer
The Guardian or The Times? The Times for its balanced viewpoint
M&S or Waitrose? M&S
Morning or night? Night
Rain or snow? Snow
Sweet or savoury? Savoury


App: Uber, great quality and so convenient
TV show: Friends, such fun
Band: Ed Sheeran / Adele / Simple Minds 
Song: Too many to choose
Book: Primary Greatness, Stephen R Covey
Sports team: England rugby team. I grew up with a rugby playing brother so has always been part of our lives
Thing to do on a Friday night: Good food and drinks, relaxing by the pool
Place to eat: “Bills” in Cardiff. Fabulous atmosphere and awesome food
Holiday spot: Thailand or southern France. Chilled out, relaxed approach to life
Piece of advice you’ve been given: You can make it happen, it begins with you.