Ensuring foundations of a solid design career
Tiago Miguel dos Santos Sacadura, a geotechnical engineer with specialist designers Benaim (China), started his career as a civil engineer in a small design office in Porto, Portugal, after graduation. In 2011 he decided to try working internationally and accepted an internship with a design office in Macau. He tells Wong Yat-hei that he enjoyed his experience in Asia so much that he decided to develop his career here further.
What is your academic background?
In 2009 I graduated from the engineering faculty at the University of Porto with a master’s degree in civil engineering, majoring in geotechnical engineering.
How do you start your day?
After greeting the team I usually start by checking my e-mails for project updates that need action. We then usually hold a progress meeting with other engineering disciplines or a weekly geotechnical team meeting.
The nature of our projects means that our work plans have to be somewhat flexible. A lot of our clients are international contractors and we work closely with their construction and technical teams to co-ordinate our designs with their construction methods. This results in lots of meetings and presentations during the design-development stages.
What does your job entail?
Benaim is involved in many major infrastructure and development projects. It is rather different from the other engineering consultants I know. We talk in terms of value engineering and we like to challenge ourselves to think creatively and design innovative solutions that are easier to build. I like to think this will help deliver projects in Hong Kong and Macau that are safer, better value for money and more sustainable.
I have been in Hong Kong for less than one year but have already designed some challenging foundations and excavation systems for a massive site that needs extensive ground improvement. I am looking forward to seeing my designs built over the next few months.
What are the major challenges you’ve encountered so far?
The main challenge may be the fact that the Hong Kong construction industry is one of the most advanced in the world and this requires civil engineers to keep constantly up to date with best practices and construction techniques. The projects here are large and complex and there is so much to learn from my senior colleagues.
Being an expatriate in Hong Kong can be a challenge. Living in a region so different from everything I knew can sometimes feel overwhelming, but it certainly keeps things new and interesting. This is a personal challenge that makes the whole experience of working overseas rich and worthwhile.
What are your future plans?
I plan to continue my career development as an engineer using some of these great projects in Asia to strengthen and broaden my skills and experience. I am currently working towards becoming a chartered engineer through both the Institution of Civil Engineers and the Portuguese Institution of Engineers. With those qualifications under my belt, I will be looking to take on more responsibility for leading our design services and managing the commercial aspects. Having said that, I do not want to move too far away from geotechnical engineering.
What advice can you give those interested in the industry?
I would advise them to start with strong academic qualifications as the industry is getting more competitive all the time. Engineers are problem-solvers and need to stay curious, think laterally and always be willing to learn. Engineers must also be strong communicators, because we work with people with different skills and backgrounds. Civil engineers constantly need to update their technical knowledge and presentation skills, especially for working in such a dynamic city as Hong Kong.