Unforgettable Project Memories: 004

The Fulfillment of Living and Working Overseas

By Joe Briers, Executive Director

In May of 2007, I packed my bags and boarded a flight to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to take up a position as a Senior Quantity Surveyor in Abu Dhabi. I had never visited the country/region, but it was an adventure and the fulfillment of an ambition to live and work overseas.


In the early part of 2007, the project I had been working for almost 2 years was approaching completion. The project, a large retail development, was in the North West of England and I was working as a site-based Quantity Surveyor for the Contractor. I thoroughly enjoyed my time on this project, learned a lot from my peers and worked as a part of a great team.  However, as the project entered its final stage, I started to contemplate as most in our industry do: what would be next? 

Whilst reading for my degree in Quantity Surveying at Liverpool John Moores University, I had learned that the profession was in demand across the globe and opportunities to work overseas existed for those that this appealed to.  This was not something I fully appreciated, nor had I considered when choosing to pursue a career in Quantity Surveying, but it was certainly an exciting prospect when I learned of it.

During this period of contemplation as the project approached completion, I thought back to the demand for the profession internationally and began to investigate options of working overseas, including the UAE, South East Asia, the USA, and Australia… The more I thought about it, the more appealing the challenge of moving overseas became, and so I began to seriously pursue opportunities.

Numerous phone interviews later, I decided on the UAE as my destination.  It ticked the boxes in terms of career progression and working on a prestigious ‘mega-project’, in the form of the Al Raha Beach development on the outskirts of Abu Dhabi.

“I started to contemplate as most in our industry do: what would be next?”

Upon arriving in the UAE, I was blown away by the scale of the developments, both in terms of buildings and infrastructure.  Al Raha Beach itself was to be a US$5 billion development: an 8km long stretch of reclaimed beach converted into a self-contained mini-city and mixed used development, comprising residential, hotels, commercial, arts and leisure buildings,  and associated infrastructure (roads, power, canals, bridges).  This included buildings to be designed by the likes of Sir Norman Foster and Raphael Viñoly Architects, to name but a few.

Landing in an environment that was very different to that which I was used to, living overseas for the first time, and not having any of your friends or family around, suddenly seemed quite daunting. Had I made the right decision?!  It was a challenging environment to adapt to. I moved over as the temperature started to rise to the summer highs of circa 50 degrees (and then some!) and an extremely high degree of humidity, which was totally unexpected as I had expected a dry, arid heat.

“Landing in an environment that was very different to that which I was used to…Had I made the right decision?!”

Luckily, there were many expatriates in the same situation and we all quickly bonded. I formed lasting friendships with many of the people I met there (including a couple of rogues by the name of James Funge and Simon Lowe). Several of my close friends who I completed my QS degree with at LJMU moved across to the UAE in the following months also.  This made the transition much easier and being a part of the ex-pat community looking after each other was invaluable.

I had chosen to work for a British Contracting company in the UAE, and this also assisted with the transition as the working environment was familiar, processes were similar, and we were utilising a standard form of contract from the UK (NEC).  However, as well as the British ex-pats there was a large contingent of professionals from the likes of Australia, South Africa, India, Sri Lanka, and the Philippines.  All these regions recognise Quantity Surveying as a distinct profession in the construction industry, and it was interesting to learn how the commercial aspects of projects were managed in other parts of the world and the differences in approach.

It was not all work, work, work… I also dusted off my rugby boots whilst living in the UAE and played for what was then known as Abu Dhabi Bats, giving me the opportunity to I represent the team in the 2007 Dubai 7’s tournament, which was a very fun experience.

Ultimately, the arrival of the Global Financial Crisis in 2008 impacted the Al Raha beach development, and the Gulf region as a whole, after 2 years it was time to move on.  The initial move overseas gave me the confidence and appetite to cast my net further, and from the UAE I went on to New Zealand and then Australia.

The experience, whilst not without its challenges, was a largely positive one.  I made great friendships, attained valuable knowledge to apply to my career, and formed key relationships. Some of those relationships now form the spine of Aston Consult. 

2021-02-18T03:56:16+00:00 December 3rd, 2020|News, Unforgettable Project Memories|0 Comments