I’ve had the opportunity to work in different countries, even different continents – the UK, Australia and Portugal. It has been a roller coaster of adaptations but one that has broadened my outlook.
Working in Australia was probably the greatest challenge of my career so far from a cultural point of view. The work culture was different to what I was used to, and it proved difficult to break the mould. I joined an amazing practice that focused on providing employees with the tools they needed to reach their goals and express themselves through structural engineering. The role came with a lot of exposure and a need to have my professional concept clearly defined. This is not something I’d been confronted with before and was quite a daunting experience. My academic path was very technical, and during my graduate years I wanted to work on as many projects as possible to consolidate first principles.
I moved back to Portugal and joined a Portuguese practice for the first time – what a novelty! The company focused mainly on large projects, a big contrast to my domestic/residential world and an experience I thought I should have. Working on those large projects offered a lot of perspective, mainly: the importance of choosing a structural system that allows for the most efficient use of material (there is a lot of it!); there’s beauty in regular structures and standardised solutions; fine tuning for the scale factor; managing bigger budgets; and challenging my technical knowledge of seismic design which plays a huge part in design in Lisbon.
But, I often found myself thinking about my past work and I knew my real passion was for bespoke detailed projects.
Wherever I was, I always kept in touch with SD to share project updates, ideas, and solutions – after all, engineering is to be shared! Around the first lockdown of 2021 I saw that SD were looking for people to join the team. With the shift towards remote working I emailed Mike and Andy to see if we could possibly reignite our previous collaboration. They were extremely open to the idea of me working from Lisbon, as a contract member of SD, and since then I’ve been very happily part of the SD Team again.
My experiences have taught me that structural engineering is so much more than calculations. It’s about, among other things, understanding the goal of the project, contributing to the design with ideas to make the geometry more efficient and easier to build, developing good working relationships, and my personal favourite – ensuring the structure forms part of the narrative.
To finish today, I wanted to touch upon professional relationships and how important it is that both employer and employee put in the effort, investment and commitment to one another which ultimately results in a more enjoyable and creative work environment.
What do you think about working in different parts of the world? Do you have any examples on how that has changed you?