03 February 2020
Hi, I am Amar Bains and I am a Project Architect based in the Atkins, a member of the SNC-Lavalin group, London office and recently spent ten weeks on secondment in Saudi Arabia where I worked on the King Abdullah Financial District project.
Over the past 50 years, we’ve helped shape cutting edge ideas in Saudi Arabia; from large infrastructure projects to mixed-use masterplan developments. King Abdullah Financial District, Riyadh Metro and King Abdulaziz International Airport are among some of the flagship projects where we’ve proudly supported the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 and its economic diversification agenda. Here, Amar tells #InsideAtkins more about his secondment in Saudi Arabia and how it opened the door to new opportunities.
How did your secondment in Saudi Arabia come about?
"A call was put out to architects within the global Atkins business to help mobilise a team in Riyadh in support of a masterplan development called the King Abdullah Financial District. There were several roles available and the project consisted of 88 partially built / derelict skyscrapers, five of which had been awarded to us to fully review. This included reviewing construction drawings and checking what had been built on site, as well as acting as the client advisor on any Requests for Information (RFI’s).
"My job was to take ownership of one of the towers, a 31-storey residential tower with an 11-storey retail podium. It was an engaging and challenging role that involved reviewing over 500 drawings, as well as specifications and reports against local building codes, and compiling all of our results into a single report for our client to best understand how they could complete the building I was working on as well as the other towers. All within the space of ten weeks!"
Why did you put yourself forward for the role?
"I strongly believe that going outside your comfort zone is key to strengthening your career progression. I knew that moving from working in London to working in Saudi Arabia would have its challenges, but I figured the experience would be worth it."
What did your typical day involve?
"The Atkins’ secondment team all stayed in the same hotel, along with a subcontracted mechanical, electrical and public health (MEP) engineering team from Dubai. As many employees had flown over from places such as Dubai, Egypt, India and Jordan to work on the project, a minibus would take us all to site first thing in the morning, and we’d conduct our site visit in the towers whilst it was cooler. Internal temperatures reached a sweltering +40oC, so it was important to carry lots of water with us!
"When I was on site, my time consisted of checking construction package drawings, walking around the towers checking for defects, and attending client / contractor project team meetings to advise on how best to proceed. Some project meetings would have 30 people sat around a board room eagerly awaiting our recommendations – quite a contrast from how things are done back home in London. The evenings were then spent with the team, looking for the most appealing restaurant to eat in! The local shawarma wraps are highly recommended. If you’re not feeling too adventurous then there are a multitude of American chain restaurants to choose from as well."
What did you enjoy about your secondment?
"What I enjoyed the most was the network that I developed, both internally within Atkins as well as with colleagues from our client team and contractors. There were people from all over the world in Riyadh, and you can learn a huge deal from the way they work, how they interact with one another and how they behave within a professional environment."
Would you recommend working on secondment to a colleague?
"Secondments are a great way to broaden your horizons, open new doors, see how other parts of the world work, and then bring that value back with you."
Do you have any lessons learnt from your time in Saudi Arabia and your role out there?
"Throwing yourself at something that might seem daunting can pay off in ways you wouldn’t expect, so always keep your mind open to new opportunities."
Finally, do you have a role model who has inspired you during your career?
"I've been lucky to work around a multitude of senior architects since finishing university. Both within Atkins and in my previous practice, I’ve always endeavoured to reach out to people within the office who are open to offer advice and help, not only on technical queries regarding my job role, but on wider aspects career advice too. I find the most inspiring leaders are ones that can relate to you on an individual basis. Everyone has their own path, and sometimes a good leader can help to unlock your potential by pushing you in the right direction and offering you (or encouraging you to seize) new opportunities."