Chal­lenge of go­ing global

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Rear View -

SOME grad­u­ates seem to have all the fun. Whether it’s play­ing cha­rades with Ye­meni con­struc­tion work­ers, din­ing with the chief ex­ec­u­tive, or work­ing out which of 86 lo­ca­tions - from Lon­don to Cairns - to work at next, a grad­u­ate en­gi­neer’s ca­reer at in­ter­na­tional de­sign and con­sult­ing firm, Arup, is rarely pre­dictable, of­ten ex­cit­ing and al­ways chal­leng­ing where it counts.

I’ve been able to man­age projects, which many grads wouldn’t be able to do,’’ says civil en­gi­neer­ing grad­u­ate, David Keast, 23, re­flect­ing en­thu­si­as­ti­cally on his first year with Arup.

And for the last six to eight months, I’ve been work­ing full­time on a large shop­ping com­plex de­vel­op­ment in Syd­ney, and that’s a pretty big op­por­tu­nity.’’

Now Mr Keast is busy plot­ting the best pro­fes­sional itin­er­ary be­tween Syd­ney, Bei­jing, Dubai, Abu Dhabi and New York where he will visit Arup of­fices and have an op­por­tu­nity to see some of the ma­jor works in each cen­tre as part of an As­so­ci­a­tion of Con­sult­ing Struc­tural En­gi­neers ( ACSE) schol­ar­ship he re­ceived last year.

Al­though the schol­ar­ship pro­vides for the win­ner to work with a num­ber of dif­fer­ent firms around the world, Mr Keast has cho­sen to join Arup of­fices in each lo­ca­tion be­cause of the sheer size and scope of the com­pany.

The Syd­ney of­fice de­signed the Wa­ter Cube in Bei­jing and the main Olympic sta­dium was de­signed by Arup Lon­don, and they’ve got some other mas­sive projects like the China Cen­tral Television ( CCTV) head­quar­ters which is a huge, crazy look­ing build­ing,’’ he says. Mr Keast is one of the most re­cent re­cruits among the in­creas­ing num­ber of grad­u­ates that the com­pany em­ploys within Aus­tralia each year to join its of­fices in Syd­ney, Melbourne, Perth, Bris­bane, Ade­laide, Cairns and Dar­win.

Founded in the UK by Ove Arup as a con­sul­tant en­gi­neer­ing firm in 1946, to­day Arup’s 86 of­fices in 37 coun­tries are staffed by more than 9000 em­ploy­ees, in­clud­ing de­sign­ers, en­gi­neers, plan­ners and busi­ness con­sul­tants work­ing on up to 10,000 si­mul­ta­ne­ous projects that can be broadly cat­e­gorised as build­ings, in­fra­struc­ture and con­sult­ing. Past no­table achieve­ments in­clude the Syd­ney Opera House, the Pom­pi­dou in Paris and the Chun­nel be­tween Dover and Calais.

While not ev­ery­body gets to en­joy a schol­ar­ship sim­i­lar to Mr Keast, the com­pany does en­cour­age its re­cruits to travel within the com­pany both phys­i­cally and pro­fes­sion­ally as part of its grad­u­ate de­vel­op­ment pro­gram.

Perth- based se­nior as­so­ci­ate, Glynn Thomas, who leads the Aus­tralasian di­vi­sion of the com­pany’s oil and gas busi­ness, says that with de­mand for en­gi­neers so high - par­tic­u­larly in the re­sources field - the pro­gram is part of the com­pany’s ef­fort to at­tract the best can­di­dates and cre­ate the best en­gi­neers.

The only way we can get the best peo­ple is to of­fer ex­cel­lent op­por­tu­ni­ties in terms of train­ing, ca­reer de­vel­op­ment, and the abil­ity to be flexible with the way peo­ple work,’’ Mr Thomas says. They get ex­cel­lent op­por­tu­ni­ties and also good salaries.’’

The two- year de­vel­op­ment pro­gram ini­tially pro­vides each grad­u­ate with a men­tor

buddy’’ to help him or her settle in and an­swer any ques­tions. It also pro­vides for fur­ther ed­u­ca­tion in ev­ery­thing from team build­ing to time man­age­ment and al­lows for reg­u­lar re­views.

‘‘ We lis­ten to their needs on a very reg­u­lar ba­sis and then we give them those op­por­tu­ni­ties,’’ says Mr Thomas. ‘‘ We give them the op­por­tu­nity to go and work in in­ter­na­tional lo­ca­tions, or other of­fices in Aus­tralia, or we make sure that they don’t just work in the oil and gas group, if that’s where they were orig­i­nally as­signed to.

‘‘ They get to move around so that af­ter their three or four years of ini­tial train­ing and grad­u­ate de­vel­op­ment they can get their char­ter­ship from En­gi­neers Aus­tralia and they also have a gen­uinely good di­verse back­ground in what they do.’’

Mr Thomas refers to one grad­u­ate who has re­cently over­come lan­guage dif­fi­cul­ties while work­ing with French part­ners and lo­cal con­struc­tion crew in Ye­men, which have given him a new ap­pre­ci­a­tion of sim­ple lan­guage and cha­rades.

Af­ter that, they can be good tech­ni­cal lead­ers, peo­ple lead­ers or what­ever they want to do in the fu­ture,’’ Mr Thomas says.

Some­times we’ll lose them to other or­gan­i­sa­tions be­cause they want to go else­where, but hope­fully at the end of the day they stay with us and con­tinue to then re­turn with in­ter­est some of that ef­fort that we put in for them.’’ Be­fore any­thing else, the pro­gram be­gins with an an­nual Grad­u­ate Week­end dur­ing which the newly re­cruited grad­u­ates from around the coun­try meet each other and key fig­ures in the or­gan­i­sa­tion.

It was on the sec­ond night of her Arup grad­u­ate week­end in early 2006, that me­chan­i­cal en­gi­neer and acous­tic con­sul­tant Lauren Davis, 26, found to her sur­prise that she was eat­ing with the com­pany’s chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer, Robert Care.

She points to it as man­i­fes­ta­tion of the com­pany’s healthy dis­re­gard for any en­forced hi­er­ar­chy.

‘‘ I was sit­ting there next to the CEO of Arup Aus­trala­sia shar­ing a wine and it wasn’t like sit­ting next to the big boss and be­ing on my best be­hav­iour. I could have a real con­ver­sa­tion,’’ she says. ‘‘ That at­ti­tude goes right through the com­pany. There’s no one that if you have a ques­tion, you can’t go up and ask.’’

Thanks to mod­ern com­mu­ni­ca­tion tools such as the In­ter­net, ask­ing ques­tions of any­body in a global com­pany is not a dif­fi­culty and in work on venues such as the new Melbourne Recital Hall, Ms Davis spends a lot of time con­sult­ing her acous­tic col­leagues based in Bri­tain via an on­line fo­rum.

While she is now based in Melbourne, like Mr Keast, she is pack­ing up for a work­ing ad­ven­ture in May, but for Ms Davis it is do­ing a three- month job swap with one of her Bri­tish fo­rum col­leagues.

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