Career profile: Yaser Obaid, chief human capital officer, Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi

Written by
Changeboard Team

15 Jun 2017

15 Jun 2017 • by Changeboard Team

CV in brief


2006-2015: Vice president business support; senior vice president human resources, Emirates Integrated Telecommunication Company (du)

2016- : Chief Human Capital Officer, Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi

A day in your life

Tell us about your job and organisation

I am the chief human capital officer for Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi. I develop strategies for human capital to ensure that we are recruiting, retaining, and engaging caregivers, which is what we call all of our employees.

Who do you report into?

I report into our CEO.

Tell us about your team

I oversee nearly 100 caregivers. I have 13 direct reports, who manage all the functions within the department. I’m proud to have an international team made up of individuals of various cultures and ages. The team also have a very diverse background in many sectors from healthcare and telecoms to retail and real estate; this knowledge helps us ensure that we continue to bring local and international best practice to our organisation.  

What is the most rewarding part of your role?

I take pride in seeing caregivers feel very connected with the organisation, and coming to work with a positive attitude. We have built a team environment that feels like a family in each department, and I’m very glad to be part of that. I’m also proud to be able to lead a series of important initiatives and programs that will enhance the working environment for more than 3,000 caregivers and support with their career development.

What is the most challenging part of the role?

Our organisation is built on the culture of Cleveland Clinic in the United States, which brings nearly 100 years of international experience to a local environment. One of the exciting challenges here is to be able to integrate more than 75 nationalities and ensure that all caregivers feel comfortable and productive within their work environment. We do this through rigorous training, development and culture programs that reach out to all caregivers across the organization.

What does a typical day look like for you?

I wake up at 5:30 in the morning to go to the gym. Then I have breakfast, come to work at 7, and spend my day meeting with various members of the team within human capital and other executives to ensure that we are all aligned on business objectives and that we continue to meet our goals and targets as an organization.

Why did you choose your current organisation to work for?

Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi is a world-class organization, with a deep-rooted history in caring for people and advancing healthcare. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of bringing that to Abu Dhabi?

Perks and downsides of your role?

Some perks of the job is the access we have to talented physicians from around the world, as Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi has become a hub for experienced medical professionals. I also enjoy the privilege of being able to work with caregivers of all backgrounds, including some of the world’s top surgeons.

One of the downsides is that I would like to spend more time with the team, but given the size of the organization it’s tough to get as much time as I’d like with each caregiver.

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

Strategic thinking, an ability to inspire and a willingness to listen

Career path

How did you get to where you are now?

I was exposed to various HR departments across many multi-national organizations. It’s built my passion for HR and made me committed to always seeking more ways of developing within the industry.

What were your best subjects in school? What did you study?

My favourite subject at university was marketing. I have an MBA in International Business.

What was your first job? How did you get it and why did you choose to work there?

I started as a Contracts Administration Officer in Zakum Development Company (ZADCO). It is an industry giant in the field of oil and gas, and as a fresh graduate this was ideal for me as they had great development programs for UAE Nationals.

Have you followed the career path you set out to?

I have always had a passion for HR- and wanted to get all the way to the top so I could influence decisions at a senior level, and be able to positively impact the lives of employees. Now, as a chief of human capital, I am proud to say that I have followed the career path I have set out for myself as a fresh graduate.  

What challenges have you faced along the way? How did you overcome them?

Coming up with the right policies for every organization is always an exciting challenge.  I believe that policies in human capital should always have employees at the heart of them. Employees always tend to see policies as rules, but they shouldn’t have to be seen this way - they should be guidelines that will make an organization more cohesive. This takes a lot of strategic planning to ensure that it is done correctly.

What’s the craziest thing you’ve done to land a job?

 I had to do an intensive CIBD study- and I decided to do my thesis on Emirates Airlines. While I was there conducting research, I applied for a job, and was hired.

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

While working at ZADCO, expatriate employees’ families weren’t allowed to move to Abu Dhabi under the existing policy. I was quite passionate about ensuring that everyone working for ZADCO should be able to have their families living with them. After four years of working on the policy with various members of the organization, I convinced leadership to develop a task force for all oil companies and implement this policy. I was very proud of it, as it positively affected many employees by making their lives much easier and provided a better work-life balance.

Do you have any career regrets?

I have learnt a lot of lessons.

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

Don’t be afraid of change. Take everything in as a learning opportunity.

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

Never give up. Work in jobs that you enjoy - focus more on the opportunity and less on the financial compensation. If you start working in a well-established company, the money won’t matter as the exposure and experience will be the basis of your career development. Learn, enjoy working, don’t go for money and go for opportunities. Even if you have to commute for long distances, it’s worth it. 


  • Coffee or tea? Coffee. I need the boost in the morning.  
  • Jam or marmalade? Jam – marmalade is far too bitter.
  • The Beatles or The Rolling Stones?Beatles - they’re more classic.
  • Mac or PC? I find Mac to be more user-friendly and sleeker than PC.
  • The Guardian or The Times? The Times. I enjoy controversial topics.  
  • BBC or ITV? ITV; it’s more entertaining.
  • M&S or Waitrose? I enjoy M&S, it has a great variety of ready to eat quality food.
  • Morning or night? I’m definitely a morning person - I like to start my day early and feel like I’ve accomplished everything on my list before nightfall.
  • Rain on snow? Snow. It’s more fun.
  • Sweet or savoury? I enjoy sweets more, but generally try to eat healthy. 


  • App: Whatsapp – it’s great for keeping in contact internationally
  • TV show: ABC 20/20
  • Band:  Coldplay
  • Song:  Yellow by Coldplay
  • Book:  The Culture Map
  • Sports team:Manchester City
  • Thing to do on a Friday night: I enjoy going around Dubai on weekends - particularly to the newly opened and phenomenal Dubai Opera.  
  • Place to eat: La Petite Maison in Dubai. Amazing food.
  • Holiday spot: Capri in Italy. It’s a piece of heaven.  
  • Piece of advice you’ve been given: My first manager once told me: “Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. They’re fun as you learn from them.”  I carried this with me to every job- and it’s helped me break loose and find new and creative ways to solve problems.