Working in construction is not easy. There are tight deadlines to meet and adverse weather to combat. Nevertheless, the rewards outweigh the challenges for many people making a career in the industry.
"In general, engineers need to work fairly long hours for most of their assignments," Stephen Porter, regional managing director, East Asia of Hyder Consulting Limited remarks. "But it is an extremely satisfying experience to see the buildings and infrastructure we created."
Mr Porter has made a lifetime career out of his passion for engineering. Born and raised in Australia, he completed a four-year engineering degree in Sydney. He recalls, "Like my brother who is also an engineer, I was interested in mathematics and science subjects in school. Upon graduation, I took up my first job as an engineer in a large petroleum company. It was an exciting experience. Part of my role involved travelling by helicopter to offshore oil platforms where I did mainly project management work."
Mr Porter joined Hyder Consulting 19 years ago. "During the initial years, I was involved in an extensive range of buildings and civil works like hotels, tunnels and roads. After that, I specialised in underground projects for about 10 years. The five years before coming to Hong Kong, I was director in charge of Hyder Consulting's office in Sydney," Mr Porter says.
"Soft skills such as communication help us become more effective in putting our technical knowledge into practice"
Today, Hyder Consulting's size and business portfolio enable Mr Porter to explore different aspects in the industry and gain a wide range of expertise. He says, "As a member of a group with 150 years of experience, I am proud to see that we continue to grow and develop our engineering excellence."
The company, listed on the London Stock Exchange, employs around 4,000 staff globally and provides consultancy services in four main areas: planning, environment, engineering design and management advisory. It has a clientele of private developers and international and national bodies as well as regional and local governments.
During the past two years Mr Porter has been overseeing Hyder Consulting's businesses in the East Asia region including Hong Kong, mainland China and Macau. "I am enjoying the job here. There are some differences in the delivery mechanism for projects if I compare Hong Kong with Australia, but they are the same in terms of engineering standards and good design. On the whole, both Australia and Hong Kong are places with energy, and moving in a fast pace at all times," Mr Porter comments. "From an engineer's point of view, Hong Kong is a mature marketplace with a highly educated industrious workforce and sophisticated clients."
The robust markets in areas such as Macau and Dubai have created fierce competition for talent. The many career options from overseas have also led people to hop from job to job and seek better monetary benefits. Consequently, training and development of employees in this tight market become a top priority.
As such, Hyder Consulting offers a variety of training including an English language programme for engineers on the mainland. Correspondingly, there are Putonghua courses for both Hong Kong Chinese and expatriates who need to work closely with their counterparts in China. Mr Porter, who is studying Putonghua at the moment, recognises the importance of good communication.
"We want to develop our people with a well-rounded approach. That means that we put equal emphasis on both soft and hard skills," he notes. "Soft skills such as communication help us become more effective in putting our technical knowledge into practice. With the various types of roles available in the company, Hyder Consulting's engineers have countless opportunities to learn through hands-on practice."
Mr Porter believes that the prospects for engineers are infinite. Not only is there rapid growth in mainland China, there are also ample opportunities in the Middle East and Eastern Europe. "This translates into a booming construction industry for many years to come," Mr Porter forecasts.