Page Updated on October 31, 2022

What follows is a fascinating interview with Camilla Van Der Merwe who is a communications trainer who helps non-native speakers with their interview skills, in addition to offering communication skills training. Camilla has spent several years living in Abu Dhabi, in the United Arab Emirates, in a range of training and consultancy roles. You can read her story below!

Camilla Vander AbuDhabi in the UAE

1. Tell us a little bit about yourself, Camilla

I am a renowned and respected UAE-based personal development and communications trainer and job skills coach, with more than 18 years of experience.

I have taught effective communication to professionals of all educational and corporate levels and my training and coaching methods are hands-on, interactive, engaging, practical, and motivational.

I specialize in a variety of modern-day global corporate communications techniques, helping teams and leaders understand themselves better and deliver outstanding service by helping people develop their own personal communication skills.

As a thoroughbred South African who was raised in the jungles of Johannesburg and who is now living in the deserts of Abu Dhabi, I am the epitome of the “trailing spouse” after giving up my training and coaching career to follow my husband to the UAE.

My degree in Drama and Production has served me well over the years having given me loads of opportunities to diversify into the fields of communication, presenting, coaching, and interview preparation.

With 20 years of experience in communications coaching and training in the government and the private sector in both Africa and the Middle East, I know what organizations are looking for.

I have always dreamed of using my experience to empower others, so combining a background in communications training, and my organizational experience, it became clear that my core belief was that everyone should be equipped with the necessary skills to communicate their value in the professional workplace- regardless of their proficiency in English. 

Working together with everyday people of this world who are looking for a new job or moving on to another, I am the interview coach and trainer and I help you deliver yourself clearly and confidently in your next job interview.

Whether you are an industrial worker, laborer, graduate, or executive, I help you to understand your own value and skill offering, and to then confidently communicate that in your next job interview.

My unique coaching approach and a nifty toolkit work alongside all accents and cultures to help you develop a confident communication method unique to your specific job skills.

I understand what hiring managers are looking for and I teach you the techniques to use to make a lasting impression during the interview.

I also help you:

  • understand the questions you are likely to be asked
  • maximize the first 5 minutes of the interview
  • prepare for the type of interview you will be going into
  • and skills and techniques to answer the salary questions you will get

2. How did you get involved with freelance/corporate training

Arriving in the Middle East in 2013 I quickly noticed that getting a job was going to be challenging.

I was on my husband’s visa and getting this converted to my own was tricky.

After settling my kids into their new life here, I started to really network in my area and my husband’s workplace.

I soon started consulting for a few training companies here in Abu Dhabi where I developed a reputation as an expert communications trainer.

In the first two years, I focused on training non-native employees who were struggling to communicate effectively in the workplace.

I then moved on to large corporate training and centered my training on presentation and public speaking skills.

5 years ago, I began to specialize my training around the interview process. I put out polls on my social media and attended job fairs in the country.

The results of these gave me the direction I needed to be able to fill the gaps in this skillset.

Now I run a successful interview coaching practice where I provide skills to individuals before they attend their important job interviews.

The skills we cover during this training and coaching help them with their communication, their voice tone, pitch, inflection, and accent, as well as a simple formula for answering the questions they will receive in their interview.

I concentrate on non-native speakers predominately and assist them with linking their specific skills and experiences to the job description requirements. Here I also provide a cover letter and resume help and advice.

3. What Subjects do you provide training on?

  • Communications training- voice, non-verbal, body language, business writing, presentations, speaking
  • Leadership and management
  • Workplace skills for new graduates
  • Interviewing skills

4. What are the biggest challenges as a trainer?

One of the biggest challenges I find is being able to find affordable and accessible training materials that are centered around mini subjects within a larger context.

In other words, being able to purchase verbal training course materials and add on a couple of other programs to make up a full day of a communication training program

5. What is your favorite part of being a trainer?

I am a dynamic and extroverted trainer who is accessible to delegates. I love watching the connection process as the days unfold and seeing the transformation occur.

I also love to have the freedom to adjust training materials to suit individuals on the same course.

Furthermore, I love having the confidence to role-play and act out different scenarios in front of my delegates.

6. How do you identify the training needs of the employees or people you train?

I run an intensive assessment process prior to training interview individuals, this involves a one-on-one zoom call, a CV assessment, and a session on their “experience stories.”

The program is then written according to their gaps with a big focus on their strengths.

My sessions are zoom based and there is an emphasis on pre-interview preparation as well as mock/ practice sessions prior to the big interview.

7. Your one tip on how to be a good trainer?

Being a good trainer requires commitment, a solid reputation, and very specific qualities that can impress learners.

Genuine enthusiasm is a highly desirable quality for trainers, and as a trainer, you should find ways to maintain a passion for your training content.

Trainers should also have an in-depth knowledge of the industry and the topic they will be training in.

Awareness of what goes on in the marketplace includes knowledge about the industry concepts and best practices.

This enables a trainer to simplify the content into teachable and relatable chunks that relate to specific business or individual needs.

Trainers must be able to articulate their content and concepts clearly and concisely to a diverse range of learning styles.

Trainers must also be able to be flexible and think creatively.

There is no one size fits all scenario in training, and we must be able to respond to different sets of learners in each program.

7. Second tip on advice for new trainers

Look for training opportunities everywhere and have the confidence to sell your concepts to companies and individuals.

Many people don’t know what they don’t know and relish the opportunity to learn more.

8. How can you monetize a training or coaching business in regions and countries where your target market is without work and therefore unable to commit to paying for training?

I run a community-based training program here in the UAE.

Many of the individuals who come to me for help are unable to part with money for training and are looking for “free” help.

I have wondered if an eBook would work for this market where I cover answers to typical interview questions.

Another consideration is to host large group live programs that are inexpensive to attend.

I would ultimately love to involve large-scale recruitment companies as well as government departments that have a vested interest in job skill development

9. What do you like to do outside of work?

I love the desert.

Every weekend is spent in the deserts of the UAE and Oman.

I love the thrill of the unknown and no matter how many times you visit the dunes, it presents itself differently each time.

Connect with Camilla

If you want to get in touch with Camilla you can find her here:

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Dr Valeria (Lo Iacono) Symonds

Valeria has been involved with education for over 16 years. She has taught in the UK at the University of Bath and Cardiff Metropolitan University (where she got her PhD), in addition to working as a researcher at Exeter University. Valeria additionally has several years of experience of also working with Ofsted and Cardiff University in management roles & is she is the founder of Symonds Training.

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