FROM BISHO TO QATAR AND BACK AGAIN
Over the past 20 odd years, I have seen many places. These range from bustling cities, to uninhabited jungles, which I can safely say I may never have set foot in these places if it were not for my background in the construction industry. One thing is for sure, I have seen the world but only because I was not intimidated to take a step into the unknown.
This I never anticipated when being a twenty something year old Quantity Surveyor from Port Elizabeth. After graduation, I was just so happy to take the first damn job I could get! In those days (1996 if I recall correctly), it was for a Quantity Surveyor firm in Bisho and I recall very well my first pay cheque for R3000 after the first month. What excitement! It did not matter that I had to sort out my own accommodation, car, fuel, food, medical (all after a hefty tax deduction). It was great just having some independence even if there was a couple of hundred rand left over after all the expenses.
Although this was all great, I soon realized it was time move on. I was fortunate after two years to have some experience for the CV which allowed me to get my foot in the door with a big Contractor, being LTA Construction. This is where it all became interesting.
For one thing, I never turned down an opportunity. If they asked me to go somewhere, I did it no questions asked. This somehow gave me a reputation of being dependable, at least, and I for one did not want to let the company down.
In this manner, I was soon posted to foreign projects. My first “foreign” posting being a road job in northern Mozambique. What an experience! We stayed in homemade thatch and bamboo chalets, where it was not uncommon to find snakes in your bedroom. Yes – I even killed on myself. The guys were also quite an interesting mix of cowboys, all with the same goal being to do a job in return for a fist full of dollars. There is no doubt there were times it was tough, but I always tried to push through until the bitter end. In this way I worked all over Africa in countries like Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi and Mozambique.
By 2008, my CV had sufficient experience to allow me to take up a position with the respected German contractor Strabag International in Qatar. This again was a unique experience, being a totally different kettle of fish when compared to working on African contracts with LTA. The adjustment was difficult, being the only South African involved in a project with mainly German staff, and the rest a mix of Indians and Arabs. However, as before, through hard work and dedication I gained a reputation of being a dependable asset to the company. It is now 2017, and I am still employed with Strabag after recently completing the five year Dar es Salaam Bus Rapid Transit project, which cost US$ 320 million. I am at present a team member on the new R1,4 billion Mtentu Bridge Project (the new N2 toll road), which is a Strabag/ Grinaker LTA joint venture. So I have effectively come full circle, and am now again working in the Transkei (and also with LTA) – where I started work all those years ago!
Through taking opportunities, and believing in myself, I can safely say it has been an interesting journey. All I can say to the young construction professionals out there is that you need to keep believing in your own abilities. Through hard work and dedication, you will be surprised how many opportunities come your way. And another thing – keep an open mind, you never know where your next job might be, whether it be in the Middle East, or Asia or even London! One things for sure, you will never know what you might be missing until you give it a shot. Good luck and safe travels!
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