Australian job swap hailed a success

  • Laing O’Rourke and WSP share similar, innovative company cultures
  • Engineers gain extra knowledge of rail infrastructure design and construction
  • Duo make video of their ‘enjoyable and worthwhile’ experience

When Laing O’Rourke’s Adam Taleb-Bendiab and Tuan Nguyen from WSP were offered the opportunity to exchange roles for a few months, the young engineers enthusiastically grabbed it.

In March, overhead wiring engineer Tuan left his office-based design job in Sydney to install electrical power systems onsite for a rail infrastructure project in Newcastle, 100 miles north.

Adam, a site engineer working on infrastructure construction for the Sydney Metro and Northwest Light Rail network, left the world of onsite engineering behind to experience design at WSP’s Sydney headquarters.

During his secondment, Tuan worked on the Newcastle Interchange station to link the existing ‘heavy rail’ long-distance and regional services to the city’s new light rail system.

A perfect fit

Tuan says: “When the chance to do this came up, I didn’t hesitate. I thought the experience in construction and in a different company would be great for my career.”

At WSP, Tuan had been designing the electrical transmission systems for Newcastle Light Rail, so the secondment, which involved installing masts, poles and other equipment, was a good fit.

“I found Laing O’Rourke’s innovative and ‘can-do’ culture similar to WSPs,” he adds. “It made me realise how a design translates to work in the field, and that the smallest change can generate a lot of extra work on the ground.

“It’s really helped me to think more carefully about how my designs impact construction, and for any young designer that’s invaluable.”

Developing new skills

Working in WSP’s hot-desking office environment, Adam learned about designing overhead line electrical (OHLE) systems for rail. He, like Tuan, felt both organisations operate in highly collaborative, positive environments.

“We tend to do less rail infrastructure design than WSP so it was useful getting access to a range of perspectives on design,” says Adam. “I enjoyed talking with highly experienced designers to understand the decisions they make, and the 3D modelling technology and processes involved.

“It’s reinforced my aim to become a senior project engineer, where I’ll be managing design sub-contractors. I’d say the experience has given me the tools to do my job better and I’d thoroughly recommend a secondment like this to any young construction engineer.”

After returning to their own roles in July, the pair compiled a video of their experiences, which has been uploaded on both companies’ internal communications networks to inspire other employees.

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