From Bulgaria to Dubai - with will, discipline and an innate desire to explore new worlds
Elena is an IP Manager in our Dubai office’s Dispute Resolution Team. She is engaged in patent filing and prosecution and the enforcement of a wide range of IP rights.
Elena was in her last year of high school in Bulgaria when, after 40 years of a socialist regime, the country began its transition to a parliamentary democracy. Her school days under the old system had been enormously competitive with very limited opportunity: to get anywhere at all you had to be among the very top achievers. Obviously it was essential to do well academically, but it was just as important to have determination, discipline, self-reliance and the ability to focus and work effectively. Elena had all that – in part at least thanks to her parents who had encouraged her to develop these qualities. She has always been grateful to them for that. They also provided a loving, stable and supportive environment, which ensured that her adventurous spirit and desire to explore new worlds was never under threat. She’s grateful to them for that too.
Looking back, she sometimes sees her route to IP law, and ultimately to Dubai, as serendipitous; sometimes as if it was just meant to be. At High School, she loved analysing and debating and developed a passion for the Law. But initially there was absolutely no chance of pursuing that particular dream. There were only two reputable universities in the whole country, each with an annual intake of 30 students in any given field. Having focused on sciences in High School, she knew she would have no hope of getting into a Law School so, when the time came, she shelved the idea of Law and opted to study Chemistry.
She had grown up in the city of Pazardjik, on the banks of the Maritza river in southern Bulgaria, about 140 km south-east of the capital, Sofia. Her father held a senior position in the Military and her mother was a nurse, so in many ways her childhood was privileged. Certainly it was very happy. While her parents were obviously ambitious for her, her mother often expressing the hope that she might be a doctor, they didn’t subject her to any pressure and left her free to choose her own path. In particular, her father encouraged her to become a strong and independent person so that she could pursue and achieve whatever might be in her heart. They were, however, enormously proud when she was awarded a coveted place at the University of Plovdiv to study Chemistry. Plovdiv is the second largest city in Bulgaria, the country’s cultural capital, and home to one of the world’s best-preserved ancient Roman theatres. Elena made the most of her student days there, doing well academically and, just as importantly, taking advantage of everything that University life and the city of Plovdiv had to offer.
By the time she graduated, she felt, with some justification, that the world was her oyster. But very soon things would change dramatically. Her father, who had been such an important part of her life, and that of the whole community, died suddenly of a heart attack when she was just 22 years old and her younger brother still at school. All of a sudden life became serious, and Elena took a job as a chemist in the Quality Control Department of a pharmaceutical factory, ‘Biovet’, in the nearby city of Peshtera. She was the only chemist in the department and, although newly qualified, given enormous responsibility. It was definitely a sink or swim situation, but before too long Elena was swimming - and with confidence.
It was here, and seemingly by chance, that she took her first steps on the path that would ultimately lead to both IP law and Dubai. A contractor engaged to help with the company’s patenting activity saw her potential and suggested she should consider a future in IP. At that point, she scarcely knew what IP was, but thought it sounded interesting; soon she was able to move to a position with a pharmaceutical company in Sofia. She immediately fell in love with patents and realised that here, quite unexpectedly, was the opportunity to fulfil her schoolgirl dream of working with the Law. She joined a team that was setting up an IP department from scratch, and that proved to be a valuable learning experience. She enjoyed it enormously and loved every minute of the challenges that presented themselves almost daily. In the process, she was obliged to improve her English, as much of the literature was in English, and she had the opportunity to obtain a post-graduate patent degree from the University of National and World Economy in Sofia and later on, a Masters in IP Law from the University of Liverpool in the United Kingdom.
It was a wonderful few years in every way: she was very comfortable and happy there. Perhaps inevitably, however, after some time she began to feel the lure of the world beyond Bulgaria and the need for new challenges. At the time her best friend from University was living in Abu Dhabi and telling her what an ‘amazing’ city it was, and that she ‘absolutely must come’. So she did, and she really was amazed - it was something she could never have imagined. She decided she wanted to stay and when an opportunity to join Rouse in Dubai presented itself, she jumped at it, even though, initially, the position involved only IP investigation work. It didn’t take long for her potential to be realised and the suggestion to be made that she move from IP investigation work to IP legal work.
She has now been in the Middle East for 18 years, so in many ways it has become home, or at least a home away from home. It’s certainly home for Elena’s son, Hamdan, who was born there in 2008. But Elena has never lost touch with Bulgaria, or with her family there. Before the pandemic, her mother would visit her in Dubai once a year – so would her younger brother, now a lawyer heading up the investigation department of the Pazardjik Police - and she and Hamdan would travel to Bulgaria twice a year. Much as she has come to love Dubai, she still yearns for Bulgaria’s rivers, mountains and open countryside.