Overseas…..with Amey: Gareth Jefferies on working in Qatar

Civil engineer Gareth Jefferies, 28, moved to Qatar from Amey’s Bedfordshire MAC contract in December 2012 to work on the C4a Highway Network Management Services contract which provides consultancy services to public works authority Ashghal.

Why did you decide to go for a post abroad? 

I felt that obtaining international experience at this stage in my career would be greatly beneficial. Amey strongly encourages and supports staff to move between teams and contracts to promote continual career and personal development. My move to this post was originally a two month placement; then I was offered the opportunity to take on a permanent role. 

How long are you there? 

Until 2017 which is the current duration of Amey’s contract with Ashghal.

What are you doing? 

My responsibilities have been varied but predominantly lie in developing the project management controls, tools and systems for the contract though the role has grown to include establishing a project management office which will have responsibilities for roads contracts worth an estimated value of QAR 1.2bn (£200M). 

What was attractive about the job?

Qatar is experiencing major growth in its infrastructure and the nature of the projects being undertaken by Ashghal, are world-class. The intelligent transport sytems that are being installed and the bridges that are being constructed will put Qatar in the forefront of infrastructure development and I can be involved. 

How has it worked out?

It has been brilliant in all honesty. 

I was excited about the opportunity. There was some apprehension about working within a different business culture however overall I looked forward to the challenge of adapting. What helped for me, was refocusing my attention on how I could use skills previously acquired in the UK to adapt to the new environment and make the most of the experience. 

There have definitely been challenges along the way, however resolving them have been a big part of the satisfaction of the job. The career progression on this type of contract is fast paced and the responsibilities that you undertake are varied and greater than could be expected in the UK at this stage in my career. 

A case in point is the Commercial/Business sectors where I have developed financial reporting systems and have been heavily involved in contract value forecasting and invoicing. This has improved my development in these fields and has provided me with more confidence especially in the lead up to sitting my Chartered Professional Review with the Institution of Civil Engineers in October 2014.

How have you had to adapt your working practices to those locally?

Most of my every day working processes that I had previously taken for granted in the UK are definitely adapted whilst working out here. For instance:

  • •Bureaucracy – greater lengths of time are required to obtain approvals for any activity or document. Adapting to this means planning to a greater extent and obtaining buy-in from senior managers at a much earlier stage. 
  • •Work ethics – Business meetings are not held in the same way as they are in the UK. It is typical practice to interrupt other meetings and wait until you are given the opportunity to discuss a completely separate topic. This practice is common here and it took some time to adapt.
  • •Language barriers – communicating with both professional and non-professional non-native English speakers on a frequent basis. This has led to me making conscious effort to slow down my pace of speech, choosing words carefully and avoiding use of colloquialisms to ensure message clarity.

What attitudes/techniques would you bring back to the UK?

  • •Patience and resilience - At any given point during my working day, there are multiple factors at play which at times can act as a hindrance and cause work frustrations. The key part of being out here is learning to manage these issues with professionalism and a level head as and when they arise.
  • Being able to think outside of the box - There are often different ways to get to the same output and working here sometimes requires devising a bespoke method to gaining solutions.
  • •International standards - Our contract calls for us (Amey) to work to the highest standards of international best practice. Often this involves a mix of difference country’s best practices that could be implemented in the UK.

What wouldn’t you bring?

The Health and Safety standards within the construction industry in Qatar are improving yet still have a way to go. We (Amey) are actively working to improve upon this.

What has been the highlight of your time so far?

Delivering the national launch presentation for the newly established Traffic Diversion Plan department. I was involved in this project from conception and was invited to deliver the opening address at the official launch of the office. It was a high-profile event covered in the national press/media.

Describe the lifestyle locally?

For expats in professional positions, quality of life in Qatar is typically of a high standard. With that being said, it is imperative that you build a strong friendship network out here and experience as much of what the country and culture has to offer. It’s important also to be culturally sensitive to your surroundings and respectful to the law of the land.

Would you recommend others to work abroad and why?

Absolutely. It is a great way of broadening horizons and sharing international best practice. The engineering aspects are from the same scientific approach however the solutions that are obtained are very different and the comparisons are fascinating. I firmly believe that international experience is one good method to enhance your career and I am very glad to have made the move. 

Find out more about Amey's Consulting business and its work in the Middle East, America and Australia at

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