Summer 2014

Under the surface with: Damian Griffiths

Introducing Damian Griffiths, 26, structural engineering manager at Strainstall, Malaysia.

Can you tell us a bit about your job?

I work in Strainstall’s office in Kuala Lumpur as part of a team of 25 people responsible for the business development of structural monitoring applications in South East Asia.

When did you move to Malaysia? 

I’ve been here since September 2013, but I joined Strainstall in 2011, not long after finishing my civil engineering degree. I’ve always been impressed with the diverse markets Strainstall operates in, and I was keen to expand my knowledge and experience of structural analysis and on-site surveying.

How have you adapted to ex-pat life? 

The first few months of hotel living wasn’t easy, but I’ve got my own apartment now, and the social life here is great. I love the fact that the weather is so predictable (it’s a constant 30C and it rains every day between 3 and 4pm). My greatest challenge is the traffic as it’s so erratic. I never know how long it’ll take to get to work – it can be anything from 20 minutes to two hours!

What do you like most about your job?

I work as part of a great team – everyone is really friendly and English is the main language spoken. Back in the UK I worked as an on-site engineer, but here I have more of an all-round role. I’ve had to beef up my knowledge of electrical engineering and I find I now have to look at the work more commercially, from a sales point of view and I’ve learned to see the bigger picture. It’s really satisfying to be involved with the whole project package each time.

What’s your proudest achievement? 

In 2013 we were asked to do a comprehensive load test on an approach ramp for the new Penang Bridge (the longest bridge in South East Asia). It had been big news when the bridge ramp collapsed, burying a car and two motorbikes, so there’s been a massive political reassurance exercise to prove to the public that the bridge is now safe. The place was buzzing with government officials and there were live news teams filming. We set up sensors to collate all the information in real time and display it on graphs, and we monitored the results to ensure any stress or displacement did not exceed the calculated maximums. The whole thing was a great success.

What are the key lessons you’ve learned from your work in Malaysia?

It’s important to be constantly on the ball with all aspects of my work – whether it’s a proposal, a report or general information on a project’s status. I’ve also found that an email will rarely get answered unless you follow it up with phone calls and reminders. But I’ve learned that showing respect and gratitude goes a long way – possibly further than it does back home – when meeting clients in South East Asia.

 

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