Trent always knew that he wanted to travel with work since he studied structural engineering at university.
“Given the global nature of WSP, the opportunity to work in different parts of the world was certainly a major drawcard when I joined the company in 2015,” says Trent. “I approached my managers in early 2016 and went through the various processes that enabled the move to the UK to become a reality in January 2018.” Both his managers, Luke Taylor and Adam Read, had experienced similar global secondments early on in their respective careers and were highly encouraging and supportive of him.
In the London office, Trent experienced an upscale in team size – he went from being part of a small 15-member Building Structures team in Brisbane to more than 150 in the UK. To date, he has connected ideas, learnt new practices, established relationships with team members in both countries, joined a diverse and highly skilled team, and participated in networking events, technical committees and global collaborative groups. But that’s not all. He has also utilised his weekends to explore 15 countries so far – the UK, Belgium, Finland, Estonia, Norway, Russia, France, Switzerland, Scotland, Netherlands, Sweden, Austria, Romania, Spain and Italy.
According to Trent, there are some subtle differences in how the Australian and UK Building Structures businesses function. “In Australia, a General Arrangement Plan will show very minimal setting out dimensions, yet in the UK the same plan will include setting out dimensions for almost every structural member. In the UK, structural engineers are commonly responsible for producing detailed fabrication drawings for reinforcement; essentially detailing every steel bar and its position down to the tens of millimetres. This level of accuracy demands a higher consideration for the practical aspects of reinforced concrete construction.”
As part of his work in the UK, Trent has been involved in the design of some large and prestigious projects. For the first few months, he worked on a new residential precinct, where he was responsible for the axial shortening analysis of a 30-storey tower. He explains, “I had not previously been appointed to perform the detailed analysis and calculations required for this aspect of multi-storey buildings and was surprised at the fact that a 30-storey building can shorten in height by a considerable amount over 30 years.”
During the year, he has also been responsible for the finite element modelling of two major stadium redevelopments in London, the Chelsea Football Club’s Stamford Bridge Stadium and Fulham Football Club’s Riverside Stand. He says, “Given the size and complexity of the structures for these stadiums, the analysis modelling was extremely challenging. To complete this, he consulted with many different technical experts within the firm as well as various external consultants. He has also developed his software skills and has been exposed to many new and inventive techniques to improve the speed, accuracy and adaptability of these complex models.
However, it hasn’t been ‘all work and no play’ for Trent so far. He says, “The work-life balance in London is great. This year, I have travelled around Europe, played cricket with the Expats Cricket Club in the Victoria Park Community Cricket League, won the Men’s B Grade Regents Park Premiership in touch footy, and unfortunately dislocated my shoulder on the first day of practice while hurtling down mountains on two wheels in the French Alps for the annual Mega Avalanche race!”
“At work, I was involved in the Sketching Trip – an excursion started by a previous WSP Director who was a big advocate for the benefits of good sketching skills. On the trip, around 30 staff members from the London Building Structures team travel to a different city in Europe for a weekend to experience the culture and sketch the city’s architecture. Past destinations have included Berlin, Valencia, Lisbon and Rome. This year it was Rotterdam. Doing this trip each year gives engineers an opportunity to enhance their sketching skills and socialise with colleagues.”
Image credited to Chris Sheppard
Overall, Trent says that the secondment became a reality because his managers believed in the benefits of working abroad. They have both experienced this and therefore knew firsthand the benefits of a secondment to both the individual, the firm and our clients. “I think it’s important to discuss opportunities such as this with your manager and see how it could benefit everyone involved,” adds Trent. “You need to be adding value to both the team you’ll be seconded to and the team you’ll return to.”
Working for WSP, a global firm with a local reach, opens doors for our professionals and benefits our clients and the communities in which we operate. Trent concludes, “I think it’s good to step out of your comfort zone and challenge yourself – working abroad will certainly do both!”
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