PTI Digital continues its rapid expansion with the appointment of Mario Zambas to the role of General Manager (MENA)
Mario joined PTI in January as Head of Venue Tech (EMEA) but PTI have recognised the growing importance of the MENA region and the need for genuine on the ground experience. Mario brings nine years’ experience in the region, having started at Dubai Sports City as Head of IT before moving to become Director of IT at Yas Marina Circuit (YMC) in Abu Dhabi. The team is bolstered on the ground by Fadi Hassan – who was part of Mario’s team at YMC – who joins as Lead Tech Consultant.
We decided to ask Mario about his time in the Middle East and why he is looking forward to returning.
How did it all start?
I have a great love and affection for the Middle East, having spent a good part of my adult life living and working there.
My first experience was visiting Dubai in the early 2000’s attending the SoccerEx football business conference at the Madinat Conference and Events Centre part of the fabulous Madinat Jumeirah Hotel resort. I knew right then that I wanted to come and work here; the weather, the food and the local people – warm, incredibly tasty and extraordinarily friendly in that order!
After having been interviewed and offered a job under a Holloway Road bus shelter in the pouring rain outside the Emirates stadium after I had addressed a Stadium Revenue Summit on the topic of “Sweating the Asset” in October 2006, and after saying goodbye to my friends and colleagues at Norwich City FC where I had spent 7 great years as Head of IT, my wife and I packed our bags and flew to Dubai where I joined Dubai Sports City as Head of IT in October 2006.
The concept was an amazing one; Ernie Els Golf Course, Butch Harmon Golf Academy, 60k seater cricket stadium, indoor arena, ICC HQ, School, Hotels, Private residences and office accommodation, all on a single site.
During the initial building phase, the 2008 financial crash arrived and badly affected many of the 120 developers who were involved in the project. it was time to move on.
How did you end up at Yas Marina Circuit?
At that point, ADMM (Abu Dhabi Motorsports Management) came calling and so, without having to move from our Dubai apartment, I commuted the 60k up the Sheikh Zayed Road to downtown Delma street Abu Dhabi, our location until we moved to the circuit in June 2009, where the small band of employees were starting to gather for the start of our F1 journey.
Initially as the Director of IT my job was to build an IT team that would help deliver the 2009 Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi F1 Grand Prix.
I was extremely fortunate to work with two extraordinary individuals; HE Khaldoon Al Mubarak and CEO Richard Cregan, whose knowledge around the F1 landscape and the business of the UAE were immense.
Working alongside the FIA, FOM (Formula 1 Management) , Aldar (Main Contractor), KBr (Project Manager), Tilke (Track Designer), Siemens, Cisco, PKE, Etisalat, Telecommunications Regulatory Authority and many other IT suppliers and contractors, we commenced the IT infrastructure build and rollout which included cabling, networks, communication systems, ticketing, access control, special race electronics, LED screens, ERP, Retail, CRM, Venue and Event Management systems.
I also had the role as chief liaison between YMC and FOM and also represented YMC on the HSC (Higher Security Council) activation committee to prepare Abu Dhabi for the first F1 race in 2009, working with all of the stakeholders and agencies including the Crown Princes Court, Executive Affairs Authority, Abu Dhabi Airport, Etihad Airways, Police, Emiri Guard, Army, TRA, ADTA and Flash Entertainment.
It was an amazing experience working with all the people and agencies that would help activate Abu Dhabi and make the F1 Grand Prix happen on November 1st 2009.
My team at YMC was made up of some extraordinary individuals, who worked under difficult physical circumstances (Ramadan was in August/September when the summer was at its fiercest) and extreme time pressure.
The main contractor only handed the circuit over to us a few days before first practice, so it was touch and go until just before the race.
I cannot talk about YMC without mentioning my extraordinary team who contributed so much to the success of the project: –
Fadi Hassan, Sanjeev Krishnan, Zuhdi Alafranji, Alaa Al Haj, Abilash Narikot, Bashar Zaour, Sherif George, Wasim Vajid, Wasim Amer, Amin Akbar , Ruba Abou Fakhr, Thomas Berger, Mohammed Thaupeek , Taqi Zaidi, Graham Innes and the dozens of contractors and support staff that worked alongside us.
The team did a 49-day straight shift leading up to the race which was an extraordinary effort and required very little encouragement from me, often going home on a different day than the one on which they started, sleeping under desks because they were too tired to go home.
And this is what some of us looked like on the Monday morning after the race before….
However, we were extremely privileged and honoured that, after the race we were presented by His Excellency Khaldoon Al Mubarak to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan at the Emirates Palace Hotel, who thanked us for our efforts, an extremely proud moment for us all.
What will your role look like going forward?
As the General Manager for MENA, my goal is reach out to the sports and entertainment organisations in the Middle East to see how PTI Digital can add value.
There are some quite extraordinary projects in progress in the region and PTI Digital have an extremely impressive group of talented professionals who specialise in venue technology and data and digital transformation projects in the global sports and entertainment sector.
From strategy to execution, PTI Digital can deliver an integrated technology, digital and data strategy, managing the procurement of these elements and programme-directing their implementation to create a seamless consumer experience.
PTI Digital is a technology, data and digital-focused business consultancy, providing world-class venue technology expertise and digital-led business transformation journeys for clients.
Key projects already underway include technology rollouts, system implementations, customer persona generation, data warehousing, data, digital and commercial strategy, planning and execution projects, for example.
We opened up our first overseas office – in Australia – in early 2021 and have already landed our first major client there and we are excited about our prospects in MENA.
About PTI Digital
PTI Digital is an integrated consultancy specialising in driving smart, scalable and sustainable revenues for the Sports and Entertainment industry through a holistic digital-led commercial vision. PTI Digital brings expertise in digital-led business transformation and industry-leading venue technology support and delivery.
Our clients include Manchester City FC, Oak View Group, Bristol Sport & Ashton Gate, Norwich City FC, Edgbaston, E1 Series, UK Pro League Tennis, Wasps Rugby and Horse Racing Ireland.